This year, spring ushers in Earth Day 2016 on April 22. This year’s theme is “Trees for the Earth” and we’re all encouraged to plant a tree.
But environmental stewardship goes way beyond our ability to plant a tree. There are so many ways to honor Earth Day. As Christian stewards, we know that our commitment to stewardship of the earth is growing increasingly important. Pope Francis has led the way with his encyclical, On Care of Our Common Home (Laudato Si), and he makes it very clear that stewardship of the environment is front and center for Christians in this time of environmental degradation. Here’s paragraph 217 of his 184-page encyclical: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” Words like “essential” and “not an option” underscore the necessity for stewards to step up our commitment to the earth.
The year 2015 was our hottest in recorded history. We’ve all heard the frightening stories of sea levels rising, threatening islands and even some of our coastal cities. “Hundred year storms” are becoming increasingly common. Pope Francis, in the paragraph cited above, also says our ecological crisis is “a summons to profound interior conversion.” All of this can seem overwhelming, but small steps can make a difference, and they must start with prayer and a change of heart. Keep canvas bags in your car so you always have them available at the grocery. Forego plastic. Commit to a few degrees of difference in your heating and air conditioning settings. Wash clothes in cold water and hang clothes to dry. Restrict lawn watering and time your showers. Always recycle. Commit to buying less “stuff” and living more simply. Turn off power strips when not in use. Be a vocal advocate with your political leaders about climate change. Encourage your parish to promote Laudato Si in its formation and education programs. Be an example to your children. Keep in mind: stewardship of the earth is “essential to a life of virtue.”