Mother Earth

Happy Mothers Day, Papatūānuku!

As we join the world-wide Mothers Day Celebrations and honour the many women in our lives who in a myriad of ways offer us the gift of mothering, there is one who has held this role since the beginning of time, Papatūānuku - Mother Earth who is need of mention, and attention.

She is in the news a lot these days and rightly so! From the voice of our young 16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to our wise kaumātua and kaitiaki David Attenborough, (and the many voices in between), we are being made aware of her plight and demise. In the opening verses of our biblical story God announced the goodness of creation and charged humans with her care, yet for millennia we have led the way in using her for our own ends, rather than caring for her and honouring her as a mother who provides for and nurtures us.

Pope Francis, referring to the earth as our ‘common home’ quotes Francis of Assisi who personalizes her in the following words,1

‘…our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.

Young Greta Thunberg suggests that we stop ‘hoping and start panicking’ when it comes to the reality of the crisis that looms. These are strong words, ones that need to be heeded especially coming from someone so young who speaks on behalf of the next generation. And David Attenborough, who has been giving the same warning for many years continues to present the earth as ‘Our Planet’ showing us her beauty and her pain co-existing. His voice is so soothing that it’s almost impossible to consider the gravity of his message.

So perhaps panic, even though a strong emotion can be included in our hope as two sides of the same coin. There is always hope, it is after all our ‘anchor’, something that we hold onto and have faith in. And ignorance is bliss, until such a time that knowledge becomes power. So hope does not exclude us from action, and if the words of Genesis are to be believed that we as humans are the actual caretakers/kaitiaki of this planet then we can’t wait around for someone else (or some other-worldly event) to do something about it. 

What we believe about God has a direct bearing on how we practice life. If God is good and calls our planet good, then we have responsibility to care. If God is a judge who will eventually set fire to this planet (and start a new one), then we can easily trash her, give God a hand and speed up the process.

Eco-Theologian Sally McFague, describes the world as the “Sacrament of God, the visible, physical, bodily presence of God…” and suggests that “nature is the new poor.”

I would never suggest that we stop caring for the poor, the marginalised, the suffering and disenfranchised of our world, but I would like to include our planet in the mix, and encourage each of us to consider how we might be part of the healing and transformation of our earth. We can do this, one small act at a time. 

How we do one thing, is how we do everything.2

Linda Burson Swift

1 excerpt from Laudato si'  the second encyclical of Pope Francis, 2016

2 Richard Rohr