Do some of you remember the first day back to school in September, when you had to stand in front of the class and give a little speech called “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”? Well, today’s homily is one of those little speeches—and in light of the heat, the emphasis is on “little.”
I just got back from a week in majestic Haida Gwaii, the archipelago formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Whether on the water or in the woods, I spent a lot of time thinking about what Pope Francis calls “the Gospel of Creation” in his encyclical Laudato Si', “On Care for Our Common Home.”
Today’s Gospel, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, usually leads me to preach on the Eucharist, which is prefigured by this miracle. But it also brings to mind the broader subject of the abundance of all God’s generous gifts.
In his plan for creation, God did not give humanity just what it needed to survive; he gave us what we needed, many times over, if only we would exercise wise stewardship.
St. John Paul said that God has written a precious book, using for characters “the multitude of created things present in the universe”. And the Canadian bishops have reminded us that nature continuously reveals the divine. In 2003, they wrote “From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe.”
This is hardly new theology. The Scriptures tells us many times that creation shows forth God’s glory, and St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that all the diversity and variety of nature show his goodness, since it could not be represented fittingly by any one creature. (cf. Laudato Si', 85 and 86)
And the Catechism teaches: “God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.” (n. 340)
My holiday made all this easier to understand.
But is also made me realize what Pope Francis means when he writes about the kind of environmental exploitation that exhausts the resources local communities have relied on and “undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community.”
The Pope says that the disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal.
He calls us to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions, which happily seems to be what is happening in Haida Gwaii, where archaeological evidence suggests the Haida people have lived for some 13,000 years.
The abundance of these islands—in timber, fish, wildlife—is truly a Gospel of Creation, a story of God’s abundant provision for his children. But much of its history is also a history of what Pope Francis calls “the sin of indifference.”
And that is a sin we can commit in many ways, whether by the thoughtless exploitation of the gifts of creation, by a lack of gratitude for their abundance, or by taking for granted the Bread of Life, the most generous gift of all.