The Church and Environment teachings
In the recent days, each one is concerned on how best we can treat mother earth. We begin this spiritual and awesome exercise as we ask ourselves how God planned environment to be and how environment is part of salvation history right from the creation story to the flood. Then how God revealed himself and his glory using the environment. This plan of God is also reflected in the New Testament within the Gospels and the other letters and books. Thus, a series of our articles will also look at how the Catholic Church has responded to environmental issues and how it plays the prophetic role when facing these serious issues. We shall employ other teachings too from African perspective and religions. Religions such as, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism. As we try to find out what is their understanding of environment? And what is their attitude and response towards environmental conservation.
Environment in the Holy Scriptures
There are several texts in the Bible that shows the importance of the environment and its place in the economy of salvation history. From the time of creation there has existed relationship between God and environment and between human beings and environment. Scripture is the source and reference point of our faith. It lays the basis for the Catholic Church teaching. For our articles to be simple and provide concrete information that anyone can understand, we shall look at the environment from the Old and New Testaments.
Compiled from S. McDonough, MM, (1990)
Christmas Story: "Chacha Visits the Christmas Crib"
by Rev, Joe Healey, MMM
Once upon a time there were two Tanzanian children named Chacha and Bhoke. They belonged to the Wangoreme Ethnic Group and lived in the Mara Region of western Tanzania. Chacha was the first born boy in his family. He was 13 years old and in the fifth grade of the local Iramba Primary School. Bhoke was the first born girl. She was 11 years old and in the third grade. When not in school Chacha and Bhoke were busy helping their parents. Sometimes, they were shepherds herding their family's cows, sheep and goats. Sometimes they cultivated cassava and maize on the family farm. Other times they helped around the house.
Chacha and Bhoke followed the African traditional religion of their parents and grandparents. But they had many Christian friends in school. From their home on the north side of Nyagasense village they would often pass the Iramba Catholic Church on their way to the marketplace. While in school they would often hear singing coming from the big church.
One Sunday morning their mother sent Chacha and Bhoke to the market to buy cow meat, onions and tomatoes for their midday meal. It was about 9 a.m. As the two Tanzanian children followed the narrow road that passed by the church they heard beautiful singing coming from inside. Walking past the front of the church they took a quick look inside without stopping. African children and adults filled the church. The Swahili singing was very melodious. The drums beat joyfully. Chacha and Bhoke were happy to hear the nice music. The two children arranged to pass by the big Catholic church every Sunday morning to hear the beautiful singing. One Saturday afternoon they heard Swahili singing coming from inside the church but only a few voices. Each time they were afraid to stop in front of the church and look through the open doors. So they just walked past slowly.
One day in the middle of the week Chacha and Bhoke passed by the front of the church about 2 p.m. It was very hot. The tropical African sun beat down mercilessly. Everything was quiet. Not a single person was on the road. Chacha said to his sister, "No one's around. Let's look inside the church." So timidly they approached the open church. Colorful posters decorated the doors. Quietly they stepped inside. It was dark and cool. As their eyes became accustomed to the light they glanced around the big church: the long rows of benches; the big table and chairs at the front; the beautiful multicolored African clothes hanging on the front wall.
From that day on Chacha and Bhoke regularly visited the big Catholic Church as long as it was empty and no one was on the road to see them. How much they liked the cool interior. After walking barefoot on the hot sand and the rough pebbles outside, the cold cement floor cooled their burning feet. They became used to the wooden carvings on the wall, the tall candles on the table in front and the little rooms with curtains along the side walls.
One day in mid-December Chacha and Bhoke attended the final day of classes in their village school. The Christian children talked about a big celebration to take place on 25 December something about the birthday of Jesus Christ. Whenever the brother and sister passed the church a lot of activity was going on inside. The two children longed to look inside but were afraid. Someone was always around. Early on the morning of 24 December Chacha and Bhoke finally got their chance. Not a single person was around. Everyone had gone to the fields. As they stepped inside the church their hearts beat faster. Their eyes popped with excitement. Every part of the church was colorfully decorated. Bright red and green and yellow African cloths hung from the ceiling. Long cords held up rows of pictures and cards. A beautiful African hut with miniature people and animals occupied the front part of the church. The two children crept closer, their eyes widening in delight. Then they stood silently in front of the African hut.
Suddenly a woman's voice came from the side of the church. "Children, how do you like the Christmas crib?" Chacha and Bhoke heard the voice, but saw no one. Frightened, the two Tanzanian children turned quickly and ran down the aisle towards the open door. The sacristan Paulina stood up between the benches she was cleaning and called out, "Children, don't be afraid. It's only me Paulina." The two children stopped and turned around breathlessly. Paulina continued, "You don't have to run away. Come back. Everyone is welcome to look at the Christmas crib. Come. Don't be afraid." So Chacha and Bhoke cautiously returned to the crib.
God told man and woman they could eat any fruit but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. One day the woman and the man stood near the forbidden tree.Now the serpent was smarter and more cunning than any other animal. He asked the woman if God really told them they were not to eat any fruit in the garden. The woman answered that they could eat any fruit except the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden because if they did then they would die. The serpent made the woman believe that God had said this because He did not want them to be like God, knowing good and evil. The woman looked at the tree again and saw that its fruit looked good to eat and pleasant to the eye and that it would give her wisdom so that she would be like God. She took some fruit and ate it then she gave some to the man who was standing beside her. The man also ate. After they ate the forbidden fruit, they realized that they were naked and took some fig leaves and sewed them together to cover themselves. When the day started to get cool they heard God walking in the garden and being afraid they hid themselves. God called the man, “Where are you?” The man answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Then God wanted to know who told them they were naked. God asked if they had eaten from the forbidden tree. The man blamed the woman. The woman blamed the serpent. The serpent had no one to blame but himself. God punished them for disobeying his command and wanting to become like Him.
The serpent would no longer walk but crawl on its belly eating dust. It would be cursed above all other creatures. There would be hatred or enmity between the serpent and the woman and their descendants.The woman or Eve [mother of the living] would have pain in childbearing and in giving birth. She would desire her husband but he would rule over her. Therefore, woman lost her equality with man.
The man or Adam [of the earth or humanity] would now cultivate in painful toil or in hard work. The earth would be cursed because of him producing thorns and thistles for man. Man would have to work hard to eat the plants of the field.
Both man and woman would die. Through their sin of disobedience sickness, suffering, inequality and death entered God‘s creation. Adam called his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all the living. Then God made clothes for them from animal skins and drove them out of the Garden of Eden because they might eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. God placed a cherubim [an angel] with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life.
The Second Creation Story
In this creation story we learn about how sin and the results of sin came into God's perfect creation that was very good. God made man out of the dust of the earth. Then he made the rain to fall so that the earth would produce grass and trees and all kinds of plants. Then God wanted to make a helpmate for the man. He created all the animals, birds and fish. God called the man and told him to name all the animals.
So the man named the animals. He named the lions, tigers, cheetahs and even the small hummingbird. But from all the animals the man could not find a helpmate. So God put man to sleep and from his rib created a helpmate. When the man awaoke and saw whom God had created, he called his helpmate woman because she had been made from his rib. God placed the man and the woman in the garden He had made for them. He told them they could eat from every tree of the garden except from the tree in the center of the garden called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The man and the woman were very happy and each evening they walked with God in the garden he had made for them.
The Story of Creation
(There are two creation stories. In the first story, we are the crown of creation – the most important of God’s creation. In the second story we discover why people get sick and even die. We discover that when we do things that God does not want us to do we hurt ourselves and others. Today we will listen to The first Creation story)
The first Creation story
Long before the universe and all creation came to into being, God was. God had a dream, a beautiful dream so God looked out over the formless waste and darkness and said, “Let there be light” and light came into being. God separated light from darkness. God called the light day and he called the darkness night. And God was happy this first day
The next day God created the sky and the rain. And God was happy that second day.
Then God created the oceans, the seas, lakes and rivers as he separated the waters on earth from the land. God made all the trees, shrubs, flowers and grass to grow on the land. And God was happy when he saw all he had created this third day.
Then God created the sun to rule the day and the moon and stars to rule the night and God was happy this fourth day.
On the fifth day God created all life that lives in the water. He created all kinds of fish. He created the huge whales and the fun loving dolphins. And God was pleased with his work.
God’s dream was almost ready to come true. But first God created all the animals and the birds. He made the great eagle as well as the tiny humming bird.
He created the elephant and even the mouse.
Now God was ready to complete his dream. God made man and woman. He made them in His image and likeness. He told them to increase and multiply. He gave them the responsibility to care for and look after all His creation. And God was very, very happy because His creation was very good.
On the seventh day God rested. He blessed the seventh day because His dream had come true. He made the seventh day holy.