We are all sisters and brothers

produced by the Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries for the first Sunday of Lent

Today's first reading takes place after the destructive waters of the flood have subsided. We hear God saying this to those who found salvation on the ark: “I am now establishing my covenant with you [Noah] and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you” (Genesis 9: 9-10). God establishes many covenants throughout scripture and all of them have two things in common: God makes a promise, and brings those within the covenant closer to God. In today's reading, we see God’s desire to be closer to Noah and his descendants (which are all of us) and to all creation.

Sometimes we forget that humans are not alone on this planet. We share it with hundreds of millions of other plants and animals, each of them created by God. Scripture speaks often of God’s love for creation. The Psalms remind us that God “know[s] every bird in the heights” (Psalm 50: 11) and that God “is good to all, compassionate toward all [God’s] works” (Psalm 145: 9).

God wants to be close to all creation, and as made clear by the covenant with Noah, God wants humans to be close to all creation too. In today's Gospel, we see Jesus doing just that: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him” (Mark 1: 13). As Jesus begins preparing for his Earthly ministry, the Gospel tells us that he wasn’t alone. God’s creatures accompanied him.  Even as Jesus was being tempted by the Devil, God’s creatures stayed by his side.

Extractives industries take a huge toll on creation’s wellbeing, leading to contamination and hurting ecosystems and the creatures that live there. As one example, the BP oil spill of 2010, and the chemicals used in the cleanup process, caused severe animal mutation. Scientists and fishermen (who depend on their catch for their livelihood) discovered shrimp born without eyes or eye sockets, fish with lesions and oozing sores, and crabs born without claws. Those chemicals also killed marine plant-life and accelerated beach erosion.[1]

The Catechism teaches us that “each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own ways a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. [Humankind] must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things.”[2]

Like Jesus in the desert, St. Francis of Assisi understood that he was related to all creatures. His “response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection.”[3]

As we reflect on today's readings and our own lives, how might we better honor the covenant made between God, humans, and the whole of creation?

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Each Monday during Lent, the Columban Center will feature the weekly reflections written by the Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries for their 2018 Lenten Creation Care Calendar. This calendar is an invitation to use the season of Lent to grow closer to creation and to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable communities impacted by extractive industries.

The Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries is a Washington, DC based coalition of faith, human rights, and environmental organizations concerned about the negative impacts of extractive industries on creation, which includes both the human and natural world. Columban communities around the world, from the Philippines to Myanmar in Asia to Chile and Peru in the Americas, are impacted by the damaging consequences of extractive industries.