Rev. Fr. Ric Valencia, minister of the Ministry on Environment and Disaster Response, other concelebrating priests, reverend deacons, the ecology ministers of the different parishes and communities in the Archdiocese of Manila, brothers and sisters especially those joining this online Mass. With the celebration of this Mass, we begin in the Archdiocese of Manila, this year’s celebration of the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is a time when we are called to thank God for the gift of creation. When we are made aware of caring environmental problems and concerns and when we are summoned to become responsible stewards of God’s creation.
The Season of Creation is an initiative of some Protestants and Orthodox churches. In 2003, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) seeing the value of this observance called for its introduction to the Philippine church.
In the Archdiocese of Manila, the Season of Creation was first celebrated in 2013. The Season of Creation opens on September 1, which Pope Francis declared as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in solidarity with other Christian churches worldwide that observe this day as creation day. It ends on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, whose life manifested pure love for all of God’s creation.
When we celebrate the Season of Creation every year, what is unique about this year is that, we observe it within our celebration of the fifth centenary of Christianity in the Philippines. The focus of this Jubilee Year is mission which is inspired by the words of Jesus in the gospel of St. Matthew, “What you received as a gift, give as a gift.” The Christian faith that we received as a gift, we are now asked to share with others as a gift.
This theme of the 500 Years of Christianity in our land, gives an … on how we could celebrate the Season of Creation this year. Let this whole month of the Season of Creation be a time to acknowledge the gift we have received from God.
In our first reading today, St. Paul gives thanks to God for the gift of faith that the Christians in Collosae received. Let the same spirit of gratitude permeate our season of creation. Let us be grateful for the gift of creation.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, all God’s creation is gifts given to us by God and because they are gifts, they are given to us free. There, all its natural resources – air, water, land, sun, rain, all creatures, all of these are given by God for free. We do not need to buy or earn them. God gives them to us as gifts. Have you realized that? And have we thank God for these gifts?
Let me, therefore, invite you that beginning today until October 4, let us thank God each day for the gift of creation. Everyday, choose one gift to thank God for. Today, for example, I thank God for the gift of the sun. Tomorrow, I will thank God for the gift of air. One gift to thank God each day. This way, we will become more appreciative of the gift of creation.
But acknowledging and being grateful for the gift is not enough – what we receive as a gift, we must give as a gift. Here, the missionary dimension of our Season of Creation comes in. This is the call to each of us to be responsible stewards of creation.
Does God’s creation remain as a gift? If water is a gift, why do we have to spend just to drink clean water? ____ natural resources are gifts, why are there people who profit excessively from them? If land is a gift, why are there people who have no land of their own, while others have more than than they need?
The theme of this year’s Season of Creation is “A Home for All, Renewing the Oikos” or the House of God. If the world is a home given by God to all, why are there people like our indigenous brothers and sisters who have to fight for their lands and their homes? When we do not recognize the gifts that we receive, we fail to become responsible stewards, and once we fail to be responsible stewards and start acting as if they were our possessions, we will never share them with others as gifts. We may even use the gifts to take advantage of others.
In our gospel today, we are given a preview of the healing ministry of Jesus. When the people tried to prevent him from leaving them, Jesus said, “To the other tongues also, I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God because for this purpose, I have been sent.” Jesus teaches us that gifts must not be monopolized only by the few. Gifts must flow. Gifts must be shared. Gifts must benefit all.
My dear friends, let us join Pope Francis in his prayer intention for this month of September that we all will make courageous choices for a simple and environmentally sustainable lifestyle. And with the inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi, let us embark on the season of Creation with gratitude for the gifts we received and with the firm resolve to share, and be responsible stewards of God’s gifts. Amen.