[Homily. First Friday. In the Season of Creation. September 2, 2022.]
We celebrate our First-Friday Mass today within the Season of Creation, that special time of the year set aside by Pope Francis from Sept 1, yesterday, to October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. In this Season we recall the blessings of the Father’s gift of Creation to all his creatures in love, but also our personal and collective responsibility for Creation, our “common home.” Sometimes living in gated subdivisions or working in air-conditioned offices keeps us apart from creation. We can no longer smell the flowers, nor miss the green Negros fruit dove or the yellow Isabela oriole.
Appreciate the Miracle of Creation
Yet, why is there something and not nothing? Why is there being rather than non-being? Genesis invites us in the words of the Priestly author to appreciate the miracle of Creation “from the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,” the light against the darkness, the sky opposite the dry land, the dry land separated from the sea, the plants, the blossoms, the shrubs, the trees that beautify the land, the stars to decorate the sky, the sun to govern the day, the moon to light the night. Then God created the living creatures that fill the land, the lakes, the rivers and the seas. Finally, the human being created “in the divine image,” male and female he created them, self-conscious and free he created them, conscientious and creative he created them. He found that all he had created “was very good”. On the seventh day, he rested. (cf. Gen 1:1-2:4).
As we are invited every sabbath, now Sunday, to rest, to recall the gifts of the Father’s creation and the fruits of our creative works in his image during the week and to give thanks, so too in this Season of Creation we are invited to do the same. Possibly because when we witness a powerful sunrise vanquishing the night or gaze into stars twinkling against the endless darkness, we only see curiosities of nature or complex questions of science and nothing of the grandeur of God.
A Deepened Appreciation
Indeed, St. John invites us to a deepened appreciation of Creation as further revealed by God. Creation was not only the work of the Father. It involves the collaboration of the Son bringing life and light, life to oppose the deadening truncation of life, and light to oppose the darkness. Genesis’ Priestly creation account began with the words, “In the beginning….” So too the words of St John’s Prologue:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him.
And without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and the life was the light of the human race;
The light shines in the darkness.
And the darkness has not overcome it. (Jn. 1:1-5).
From the beginning when God created heaven and earth,
Jesus, his Word, was one with him, was God with him.
All things came to be through him
and without him was made nothing that has been made.
From the beginning, the Word. God creates with his Word of Love.
From the beginning all are created, esp. man and woman wrought in his image,
with a Word of generous self-sharing, a Word of nurturing kindness, a Word of guidance and warning,
a Word of compassion and forgiveness, a Word of redemption.
Creation is re-created in redemption, ours and the world’s, through Jesus’ suffering, death on a Cross, and rising to divine glory. The glory belongs to the Father, the Son and the Spirit, “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.”
His Redeeming Love for Creation
On this First Friday, we are invited to appreciate in the obedience unto death of the Crucified Son not only an image of the Father’s redeeming love for us all but also of his redeeming love for all his creation. For man had implicated Creation in his sin against the Father; he alienated Creation from the Father’s purpose in love through his violence and sin. Instead of Creation being a world of grace for all, it became a world for selfishness, sin and suffering.
In the Cross not only is man redeemed but creation with him. But in earth, air, fire and water – as we see more and more frequently in our daily news – this redemption is a work in progress. It is a cry of the earth for reversal, a cry for conversion, a cry for metanoia. It is a cry not only to God but to me and you.
Earth, Air, Fire and Water
Earth. From the dust of the earth man was formed, from the side of man his companion, woman, was formed. From the earth he was formed like clay in the Father’s hands to plant his crops and tend his sheep. But man disobeyed the command of God; that which was forbidden he violated. Thereafter, the earth which was paradise became a world of struggle, hardship, estrangement from God and sin, where a brother out of envy killed his brother. And brothers warred on brothers, drenching the earth with blood of deadened fraternity. Meanwhile, the earth which is given to all for their sustenance and shared enjoyment is abused. Especially today when its majestic trees are felled and the earth disgorged of its precious minerals to bring profit to the few and misery to the many.
Air. The air is for everyone’s breathing. Air is life. So everyone has a right to clean air. Around our planet the air is for everyone’s protection, shielding the planet from overheat. But man in his mindless consumerism pollutes the air not only with the toxic fumes from his industries but with greenhouse gasses from his relentless burning of fossil fuels. As from our cars, cattle and coal-fired power plants in Mindanao. The gasses lock the sun’s heat on earth causing the globe to overheat. The result: today’s disastrous climate change.
Fire. Fire is for warmth. And for cooking. But also an expression for energy, fervor, and the Spirit. In the dark, fire is light. In loneliness, fire is love. But in a world where climate change has already constituted a climate emergency, forcing temperatures in once temperate zones to beyond 40 degrees Centigrade, fire is the wildfire of the burning forests of Spain, France, Italy, the United States, and Australia. Fire is the temperature that burns you up and kills.
Water. Water is for everyone’s drinking. Water too is life. So everyone has the right to clean water. Water cleans and purifies. But with global warming, water is the most threatened of life’s essentials. With old forests destroyed, great lakes and mighty rivers are drying up. Yet people are in denial. They waste water as if the supply of water were endless. But all of a sudden, there is no water. Draught. Faucets and wells run dry. People go violent to secure their water. But even with violence, new fresh water is not produced. Without water, death. On the other hand, in other parts of the globe, glaciers melt and sea levels rise. Coastal settlements are inundated. Meanwhile, waters made violent by climate change are overwhelming, falling much too quickly on parched soil that cannot absorb it, causing killer floods in Pakistan, Sudan, the United States and Indonesia. With these waters, death. We must ask: What have we done to our common home?
The Cry of the Lord from the Cross
The “cry of creation” on this First Friday is like the cry of the Lord from his Cross. “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” Or: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Do we hear it? Do we comprehend it? Do we know the evil that we do? Yet beneath this cry is still the whispered Word of love from the Cross, the love in the Father’s face shining on us in Jesus, and the Word, which became flesh and dwelt among us on our Earth, impelling us in the Spirit to respond to love in love.
“Come Holy Spirit to us in this Season of Creation. Fill the hearts of your faithful servants. Kindle in them the fire of your divine love. Send for your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.”