As we begin the first of these three sessions exploring climate science and Catholic teaching on stewardship of the earth and God’s people, let’s take a few minutes to reflect on the story of Noah and the flood. Let me say up front that we have not tried to change the gender-specific language in the biblical text or the quotes from Church documents. If you find this somewhat exclusionary, it is not intended to be. As with any reading of Sacred Scripture, different interpretations and dimensions can emerge for different readers. Consider how this story and the reflections on it speak to you at this time of listening and learning. Chapter 6- Warning of the Flood FROM GENESIS: “When the LORD saw how great was man's wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved” (6:5-6).
FROM THE US BISHOPS: “Humanity's arrogance and acquisitiveness, however, led time and again to our growing alienation from nature. In the Bible's account of Noah, the world's new beginning was marked by the estrangement of humans from nature. The sins of humankind laid waste the land” (Renewing the Earth, 1991).
FROM POPE JOHN PAUL II: “Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose… Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are." (Encyclical Letter, Centesimus Annus, No. 37).
FROM GENESIS: “So the Lord said, “I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created. . . But Noah found favor with the Lord. . . [he was] a good man and blameless in that age, for he walked with God” (6:7-10).
Through God’s justice, Noah’s blamelessness spares him from destruction. He “walked with God,” meaning he was mindful of God’s presence in his life and compassionate toward all. Yet while Justice protects Noah from undeserved suffering, such is not the case for the poor in light of climate change: FROM THE US BISHOPS AND CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: People living in poverty—both at home and abroad—contribute least to climate change but they are likely to suffer its worst consequences with few resources to adapt and respond.” (Catholics Confront Global Poverty, 2010).
FROM THE GERMAN BISHOPS: “This great inequality between polluters and victims makes anthropogenic climate change into a fundamental problem of global justice” (Climate Change: A Focal Point of Global, Intergenerational and Ecological Justice- An Expert Report on the Challenge of Global Climate Change, updated 2007).
Chapter 8 FROM GENESIS: “He waited seven days more and again sent the dove out from the ark. In the evening the dove came back to him, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! So Noah knew that the waters had lessened on the earth” (8:10-11).
The dove is sent out into the world, and brings to Noah a sign of hope that Creation is healing and becoming restored to the way in which God intended it.
We are all called to bring a sign of hope to the world by sharing the Church’s message on climate change and care for Creation.
FROM THE US BISHOPS: "The Catholic Church brings a distinct perspective to the debate about climate change by lifting up the moral dimensions of this issue and the needs of the most vulnerable among us." (USCCB & CRS, Catholics Confront Global Poverty, 2010).
FROM POPE BENEDICT XVI: “At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love” (Pope Benedict XVI, 2009 Urbi et Orbi Message- Easter 2009).
Chapter 9- Covenant with Noah FROM GENESIS: “God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you. . . I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth’” (9:9-11).
FROM JESUIT FR. FELIX JUST: “Covenants often promise specific benefits, rewards, or blessings for people who keep the terms of the covenant; but they also threaten sanctions, punishments, or curses for people who break the terms of the covenant.” (Felix Just, S.J., PhD, http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Covenants.htm).
Throughout the story of Salvation History, God enters into covenants with humanity: solemn obligations that express promises and also demand responsible action from both parties. The Catholic Climate Covenant as expressed through the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor is not intended to be a one-time action but rather a solemn obligation conceived in prayer and practiced faithfully by individuals and groups from now on. It offers a concrete expression for Catholics to faithfully live out our responsibility to care for God’s Creation.
Hold on to your thoughts about this obligation and our responsibilities toward God and God’s good gift of the Earth and all of Creation as we begin our time this morning.