By: Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J.
It is a privilege for me to congratulate all the newly trained EcoWarriors of DACS! I thank all from the DACS’ leadership, administration and active advocates for the environment who in these past days have trained you. But most of all today I thank you for your readiness to be trained. I thank you for your willingness to gain insight into how gravely our environment today is imperiled through our human ignorance of, insensitivity to, and sins against the rights of Creation. I thank you for your manifest willingness to war against those who would continue to sin against Creation, God’s gift to us all. For if we are Catholic educators in Davao, but more fundamentally recipients of the common home that God has given to all his creatures in Davao, we have the duty to care for it. To those who would dare to threaten it mortally, to deal it its death blow, we have the duty to fight for it – in our teaching, in our organized advocacy, in our willingness to put our lives on the line – in order to be God’s EcoWarriors.
Let us not think that as part of the human family we do not have the ability wound the environment mortally. We are Mindanawons, we are Filipinos, we are members of a yet struggling nation to survive on this planet, a struggle that has become ten times more difficult recently due to the COVID pandemic that the human family has apparently itself called forth by its abuse of Mother Earth. We have only to turn on our TV or radio or pay attention to postings in Twitter and FB about how strongly Mother Earth is protesting today against the abuses humanity has brought against her: [Mother Earth is protesting] through typhoons and hurricanes and tornadoes of unprecedented violence such as Hurricane Ida that just in the past two days ravaged the so-called most powerful nation in the world from Louisiana to mighty New York with punishing winds and floods, turning streets into rivers and subways into subterranean graves. Wind and water on the one side, but on the other side: heat and raging fires that consume ancient forests and vast wildlife habitats and human dwellings, respecting no human ownership, no pompous paper documents that they have absolute ownership of the land and absolute ownership of the house, while their dreams and their memories are burned in smoldering ruins. Nor are these raging fires confined to the north western United States. Just in the past months, the have hit the forests of Greece, of Italy, of France, and even of Morroco.
Our Pope Francis has warned against this. Scientists have warned against this. If we continue to put greenhouse gasses in the air – coming from our consumption of the fossil fuels in our cars, in our machinery, in our factories, in our coal-fired power plants the planet will get warmer and warmer causing the glaciers to melt, the sea levels to rise, the storms to become more violent, the forests to burn, not just occasionally but seasonally. If we continue to destroy our forests, our natural habitats for bio-diversity, our lowlands will flood, crops would be destroyed, houses would be inundagted. And if we allow a project like SMI Tampakan to be realized, our rivers systems in Mindanao will be poisoned, and with that our rich sources of food imperiled.
Your training as Ecowarriors takes place just as we are beginning this year’s observance of the Season of Creation. This is a Season when Christian communities throughout the globe come together to more deeply appreciate, celebrate, and undertake action in favor of protecting the Environment. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) envisions us “journeying together this Season of Creation 2021 towards renewing the oikos of God.” Renewing the common home of God involving action, not just contemplation. Opposition, not just resignation. War, not just the timid acceptance of the evil and harm brought on our common home by some people in self interest.
The Season’s organizers are keen on using the Greek word oikos. In its original Greek usage, oikos referred to the home wrought from three essential elements: the house, the family, and the family property.
In scripture, in the first Creation account of Genesis, God creates a home for all creatures by creating a dome separating the waters of the heavens from the fertile earth, creating the domus, the domicile, the home for the human family and all other creatures, who share the earth on which they all live. This is the oikos of God, the created home, the family of creatures, the world, given by God as a gift for all.
In this Season of Creation we are invited to gain deep insight into how this home that God has lovingly given to all his creatures to tend and share, is alienated from his original intention. How easy, and legal, and accepted it has become for us to say this is my home and not yours, my land and not yours, my water and not yours,my South Philippine Sea and not yours, and should you not accept that, there is warrant to persecute you, punish you, to kill you, to war against you. How easy it has become for humankind to say, this earth is given to it to dominate and subject to its own ends, even if in its domination it kills the species of flora and fauna that God so providently placed on this earth. How easy it is to say, let my plantation flourish, let my highways be built, let my mines operate even if the Philippine eagle, the tamaraw, the tarsier, and the sea turtles all go extinct. For they are of no monetary value to me anyway.
Thank you for your commitment to be EcoWarriors in this situation. Thank you for being ready to fight that all may with St. Francis of Assisi come again into deep communion with God through communion with his creatures. That all may join him in his Canticle of Creation, Laudato Si’! – a song of praise. “Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures!” He praises God for Sir Brother Sun, for Sister Moon and the Stars, for Brother Wind, for Sister Water, for Brother Fire, for Sister Mother Earth, even for Sister Bodily Death.
Thank you for your commitment as EcoWarriors to journey with fellow Chrisitians throughout the globe to a triple restoration of the oikos, the home the Father gave us in love through Jesus Christ:
To restore the dome of our domicile which we have broken through our carbon emissions, thereby causing our planet to overheat and to react in violence;
To restore the earth which we have ravaged through our unbridled consumption, turning rainforests into monocrop farms, turning biodiverse mountains into gaping mines, turning rushing rivers into parched riverbeds, turning habitats for wildlife into cemented-over settlements for human consumption.
To restore the fraternity not only of human beings but of all creatures: Where we can speak of Brother Afghans and Sister Ugandans, Mother Malaysia and Sister China, Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
In your work may you find Jesus at your side, walking with you, yet carrying his Cross, through the created world. As we heard in yesterday’s Mass, as the world, implicated in our sin, groans for redemption, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth …. All things were created through him and for him. … For in him all the fullness [of grace, of love, of divinity] was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for himself, making peace by the blood of his Cross…” (cf. Col. 1:15-20). Walking with Jesus, DACS EcoWarriors, may you fight the good fight to reconcile this alienated common home with the Creator’s provident will in creating a home for all through Christ Jesus, our Lord.