While visiting my brother in upstate New York last month, after the deluge wrought by Hurricane Irene, as the sky began to clear its dark clouds, we saw a brilliant double rainbow spread across the sky in an arch from horizon to horizon. It was truly breath-taking, a “praise God” moment! A reminder that God is always there for us as He has promised. And then as we watched the news coverage on local TV, we saw the terrible damage and destruction wrought by Irene’s torrential rains.
I was reminded of the time many years ago when Jun and I went to mass at St. Anthony’s Church in Singalong. As we parked our car in the church yard, that doubles as a school yard, a larger-than- life painting showed a blue sky, with a multi-colored rainbow embracing green mountains and valleys. On a large table platform in front of the mural was a village with real miniature houses, farms, and villages. Towering in majesty above all this rose the Risen Christ superimposed over a large white cross.
In bold letters was the message: “God created the heavens and the earth. He looked at everything he had made and he found it very good.” We entered the church feeling good, too, as we thought about the many miracles of nature that God has given us to enjoy.
As I knelt in the pew to pray, my feeling good came to an abrupt halt. For the message emblazoned across the front of the church was: “And then, man destroyed what God had made.” At the side of the main altar was an old table flanked by two dead trees. On the table were remains of God’s created environment that had been polluted, destroyed and killed by man. On the table was a single vigil candle, its feeble flame flickering and casting shadows on the piles of rubbish.
God created the earth and said, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. … God saw how good it was.” (Gen. 1:11-12) And then, man cut down the trees first for firewood, then for illegal purposes causing erosion of the topsoil, flash floods, destruction of the water table, and climatic changes.
God created the seas and said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures. … God saw how good it was and blessed them.” (Gen. 1:20-22) And then, man began to catch the fish for food, then dynamite fishing followed, and mass destruction of the whales and other sea creatures.
God created our country and blessed it with many natural resources. And now, after many years, we are experiencing droughts, red tides, floods, unseasonal weather, super typhoons, polluted air and garbage-clogged water ways. Farm land that once was fertile has become sterile. Fields of grass and stately trees have been replaced with towering concrete fortresses of progress. When such disasters happen, I often wonder why we call them “natural” disasters, because aren’t they more like ‘unnatural’ happenings caused by our own complacency and mistreatment of God’s natural environment?
God created the heavens and the earth. “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Gen 2:15) The key words here, CULTIVATE and CARE FOR IT, remind us of our responsibility for His creation, for the environment, for life in all its myriad forms.
As we enter the long pre-Advent/Christmas season and wait in joyful anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, should we not reflect on the state of the world that Jesus will find when He comes? Have we been good custodians and stewards of the land He has given us? How well have we cultivated and cared for the earth and all that is in it?
Let us not point fingers at others. Ask yourself: Have I cared for my own little part of the world as He would want me to care for it? Will I be proud and happy to show my world to Jesus when He comes this Christmas? Hmmmmm…..