HOMILY TO CELEBRATE THE WINNING OF THE
ECO-CONGREGATION AWARD FOR TUAM
Cathedral of the Assumption, 26 May 2019
I welcome you all as we celebrate a very significant award which is the result of a great team effort by a number of people, including students, their teachers, parents, religious and the community. From the beginning of his Pontificate Pope Francis has placed a special emphasis on the poor. In keeping with that emphasis he highlights the way in which the poor of the world are exploited. He blames human greed and selfishness for the way in which our planet is being damaged and exploited and he calls on everyone to take responsibility. Bearing in mind that there is always enough in the world for the needy, and never enough for the greedy, the Holy Father throws down a challenge on the richer nations to make changes in their lifestyle and energy consumption in order to avert unprecedented destruction of the universe.
From what we see on television and read about it is becoming more obvious that climate change impinges on us all but it affects more deeply the poorest of the world. We may have been inclined to regard climate change as a scientific issue to be addressed by scientists and universities, today however and largely due to the powerful influence of Pope Francis, we recognise that climate change is also a moral and ethical issue which calls for responsibility on the part of all of us. This responsibility weighs more heavily on the developed world and is something which we owe to the developing world. Recent coverage of the way in which our world is being ravaged by global warming insists that it is the poor who suffer most in these contexts.
Pope Francis speaks regularly of the wide indifference to our common home with so many tragic needs that affect our brothers and sisters. He speaks of a loss of a sense of responsibility that is really the foundation of every civil society. He calls on us to change our styles of life, our rhythms of consumption and our culture of waste. This is something which can be taught to the youngest children from an early age. The challenge facing all of us needs to be met with three qualities: respect, responsibility and relationship. As men and women who are baptised we are drawn into God’s family by water, which is derived from our planet, and the Holy Spirit. As people who celebrate the Eucharist regularly we see the way in which bread and wine, the produce of the land become the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. This ought to highlight for us the sacredness of our planet which is our home while we live on this earth.
Today, we are very conscious of the fact that human beings need not only a healthy, natural environment, but even more so a normal healthy human environment where we can grow and develop our potential in relationships with others and with God.
The family is the principle reality at the service of true human ecology. The defiling of nature, I believe, is a consequence of the disintegration in human society. Technical measures sometimes applied to nature to avoid ecological disasters are often unconnected with the family and are therefore deficient.
Environmental ecology depends on human ecology, and human ecology depends on our relationship with God. Sometimes that interconnection in our relationship with our world, with each other and with God is overlooked. We have something to learn in this respect because just as nature has its laws, there is a natural law which is inscribed on our human hearts. Pope Francis underlines the fact that “each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, soil, water, mountains, everything is as it were a caress of God” (Laudato Si, paragraph 54).
On this occasion I want to congratulate all who have taken the initiative and responded to the challenge created by the destruction which is taking place in our world. Our congratulations to those who have made us more aware of the need to take responsibility and do our part to ensure that our planet is treated with respect and is something which we will be able to hand on to those who come after us so that it will serve them as God intended.
In congratulating Michael Waldron, who is the Chairperson of Tuam Tidy Towns, I heartedly congratulate all those who have worked towards this common goal – individuals and groups, too many to mention, the schools with the Principals and staff, a special mention to “Youth Outreach”, those who looked after landscaping and open places, the River Nany and the event in September where the class of “71 with their teacher, Dr. Tony Claffey and the Award which they won on that occasion, so many have been involved in litter picking, waste management and heritage trail. David Burke of the Tuam Herald has been hugely supportive in his encouragement and his coverage of all of this. May we as a community continue to cherish, protect and develop the environment which has been entrusted to us.