Good Friday is Earth Day
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
The Lenten Season started with Palm Sunday last April 17. Many Catholic devotees are spending Holy Week in prayers, reflecting the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, due to the long break during this period, a good number of people is also maximizing the week for outdoor vacations, usually in beaches, mountains, and other natural sites. During the Holy Week, most popular tourist destinations in the country are full and where prayerful mood is hardly felt. Whatever anyone will do and wherever it will be, let us be reminded that the forth coming Good Friday is also the world’s Earth Day commemoration. Several years ago, the United Nations declared April 22 as Earth Day to highlight the importance of the only known planet thus far that is habitable to human beings. In the Philippines, both government and non-government organizations are launching numerous activities to highlight environmental messages. Some groups are observing Earth Day by implementing protest actions against projects and policies they viewed as detrimental to the environment, while certain institutions are showcasing their conservation initiatives.
A Catholic bishop was quoted in national news urging the postponement of Earth Day celebration since many people are busy reflecting and doing sacrifices on Good Friday. On the contrary, I find the coincidence of Earth Day and Good Friday as a meaningful turn of event, because just like the sufferings of Jesus Christ, our Earth, which for the faithful is God’s truly creation, is agonizing from severe devastation inflicted by its supposed stewards. Probably, the suggestion of the said bishop is on the notion that Earth Day celebration is a festive one and inappropriate during the Good Friday. However, commemoration can also be done solemnly after all we have really nothing to celebrate about the Earth because of its deteriorating state. It is therefore timely that during this Good Friday we shall also reflect on what’s happening with God’s creations in this Planet Earth.
In the 80’s, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines came out with a pastoral letter about what’s happening to our natural environment, which described numerous issues from the forest, water, land, air, marine, and other natural resources. If my memory serves me right, the title of that pastoral letter was “Living Lightly over the Earth”, and it was a very good reading material on the biblical context of nature and the role of people as stewards of God’s majestic creations. It said something like “one need not to be an expert to see what is happening to our once beautiful land” and this message still holds true today.
One glaring manifestation of the Earth’s continuing deterioration is the climate change phenomenon, primarily due to the destruction of the ozone layer and other ecological problems. The changing climatic conditions have adversely affected the global climate, including the increasing temperature and rising sea water level. The weather is getting unpredictable and is now affecting the seasonal cropping and fishing patterns not only of the Philippines but also of other nations. There seems to be a never-ending list of environmental issues we are facing today. Air, water and land pollution, deforested mountains, damaged coral reefs, enormous solid waste, presence of toxic chemicals, and unregulated and over exploitation of natural resources are among of the serious ecological challenges confronting us today. Most if not all of these are anthropogenic in nature and probably it is important for us to reflect during this Lenten Season on what we as an individual, as a community, and as a nation can do to make our Earth a “better place to live”, as one line of a song goes. If Jesus Christ died to redeem the sins of the world, it is only worthy that each of us, Christians, will also do something in protecting and conserving what have been created for us, supposedly to be used wisely and sustainably and not by exploiting them beyond repairs.
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