On Friday the world celebrated Earth Day. The original idea for Earth Day came from an environmental conference held in 1968. After two years of planning and a federal proclamation from U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970.
Nelson chose April 22 for the Earth Day celebration as he wanted to maximize participation from college students and April 22 did not conflict with Spring Break, end of year exams, or any religious or federal holidays. It was also late enough in the year to have decent spring-like weather (in most places).
Students from two thousand colleges and universities, about ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities in the US celebrated the first Earth Day. From that beginning Earth Day is now observed every year on April 22 in 192 countries.
Earth Day is a great way for us to sing the praises of the beautiful planet we inhabit and to concentrate on ways we can care for it.
However, I think God instituted the first Earth Day way back in the beginning of time. In the book of Genesis 1:26-30 we hear the story of creation when God created Adam and Eve and gave them dominion over the earth and all that is in it:
Then God said: “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.” God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.” God also said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened.
In Genesis, the Bible makes it clear that The Lord himself created everything. And because God created everything, God owns everything.
Psalm 24:1 is very clear about what God owns: “The earth is the LORD’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it.” The same thought is reiterated in 1 Corinthians 10:26, which says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
God even declares himself as the owner of specific things. In Leviticus 25:23 he says: “the land is mine.” In Haggai he tells us, “the silver is mine and the gold is mine” And in Psalm 50 he says “For every animal of the forest is mine, beasts by the thousands on my mountains. I know every bird in the heights; whatever moves in the wild is mine.”
And here’s what we need to understand . . . God never transferred the ownership of his creation to us. We are simply stewards of what God owns. We must care for all that God has entrusted to us and allowed us to use.
Our responsibility is summed up in this verse from 1 Corinthians 4:2 “Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” In order to be trustworthy we must make our decisions based on an eternal perspective. What we do during our time on earth will impact all of eternity.
Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home is the second encyclical issued by Pope Francis. It challenges our throw away culture, which harms the environment and hardens our hearts as we apply that throw away mindset to people. It encourages each of us to examine our hearts and discern where we need to change and what we can do for the greater good.
“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents” (Francis 1, Encyclical Letter. Laudato SI, Care For Our Common Home, 14)
So while Earth Day may have been officially celebrated on Friday, make every day Earth Day in your life. One way to start is to focus in prayer. The prayer that follows is a beautiful daily meditation. When you pray this prayer, ask the Lord to help you recognize his ownership of all the things he has given to you, his steward.
When you do it changes everything.
“A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.”
(Francis 1, Laudato SI, Care For Our Common Home, 246)