Easter Eco Effect: From Broken Hearts to Burning Hearts

Fr Ricopar Royan

April 20, 2022

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ emotional speech during COP26 highlights the urgency of the climate situation. “Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: Either we stop it — or it stops us. It is time to say enough! Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature as a toilet. Enough of burning, drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves. Our planet is changing before our eyes — from the ocean depths to mountain tops… we are still careening towards climate catastrophe.” This plundering seems to be never-ending. The wound, a systematic assault on the Earth, breaks down the balance of the planet. The bleeding wounds on Mother Earth creates a sense of brokenness in us. Leave out the greedy, the humans, in general, feel a state of hopelessness and helplessness with regard to the deterioration of the health of the planet. The worship of mammon now seems to have engulfed the entire planet. The struggle for power and control has reached new heights in our time. We, humans, keep looking with hope for the reversal of what had happened to the natural world.

Look at the First Holy Week. The experiences of the people who were around Jesus from the time of his entry into Jerusalem to his burial were the same – brokenness, helplessness and hopelessness. The person who taught them, listened to them, ate with them, healed them and spoke for them; is not with them now. He gave so much hope to the broken when he was alive. However, after everything shattered on the cross, they concluded. Those dejected people were not aware of the effect of Resurrection, which they themselves would experience. Jesus rose and the rest is the radical witnessing of the early Christians.

The Easter effect is life-changing. Broken and frightened hearts were transformed into burning and courageous hearts. We could see this effect in Peter, Paul, Stephen, Mary Magdalene and the early Christians who broke bread, shared property and shed blood for Christ. Today, on the whole, we don’t take Jesus seriously. Some Christians even think that they can take Jesus seriously without taking notice of what is happening in the world around them. However, Jesus’ discipleship, especially after his resurrection, is completely contextual. No excuses whatsoever.

As Easter people our perspectives and approaches on the ecological crisis should be different and should have Easter effect, like:

The Emmaus disciples who after recognising the Risen Lord can’t keep the fire to themselves and their household but walked back almost seven miles to share the truth and their regained energy. “Were not our hearts burning within us” (Lk 24: 32)

The Saul, the persecutor, becomes Paul, the pillar of Christ’s Church, after encountering the Risen Lord. “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” (Phil 3:10)

The early Christians as ‘fellowship of believers,’: “all believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2: 44,45)

The Easter stories gives us lessons on having the right perspectives, the choices that we need to make to bring forth life in the world and realising the power within us to spread the truth. We apply these lessons in favour of protecting our common home.

Kinship with all creatures

We go to St. Francis of Assisi for inspiration. He, instead of a familiar image of stewardship to describe our relationship with nature, speaks of kinship: all the creatures are our brothers and sisters, where creation becomes more than something to merely master since it enunciates the masterly artistry of God. St. Francis’ ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ is truly remarkable. The canticle is justly admired because God is praised not just as the Creator of all things but through the created things themselves. For Francis, all of nature, even the rocks, were alive and each in its own way beautiful, mirroring the beauty of God. This is the attitude of the burning heart which experienced the Risen Lord. The communal living was rooted in the well-being of the sacred land which upholds all created beings, animate and inanimate. This realm of loving relationships extends to the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air, to the rocky places and to green grass. Everything is a part of God’s Holy Earth. Resurrection is the conquest of death. The kinship with our own fellow creatures will bring forth life back to the planet because a human being is the highest expression of Earth’s creation by virtue of our capacity to feel, think and worship.

Joyful simplicity of life and love for the poor

Choosing a simpler life is sharing one of the choices of God’s son and entering into Jesus’ own lovely world. Voluntary simplicity is a stunning countersign a world based on the pursuit of wealth and its comforts. Wealth and greediness can put its owners in a spiritually precarious position, imparting in them a false sense of independence. Here, Mother Earth is no longer viewed as alive and purposeful but as a commodity that can be used and thrown. Human freedom is equated with the freedom to exploit nature and accumulate wealth. But today we realise that finite Earth cannot support endless growth that overshoots the Earth’s biophysical limits and threatens long-term human survival and Mother Earth’s bounty. The lesson is very clear. Nature rebels when it is not taken care of. The joyful simplicity of life care for the common home.

The cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor are interconnected, we know. For many, poverty is not a choice but rather their fate in life, especially for those in destitution. Easter people are called, like the early Christian community, to share with them the gifts of life and alleviate their sufferings. We know from the scriptures that wealth is an entrustment and not an entitlement. To whom much has been given, much is expected. From each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her need. The concept of ‘giving back’ has been a very powerful motivating factor for people who experienced Risen Lord. Remember everyone in every state of life has something to give.

Walking an extra mile to save the planet

Now most people in the world are aware of the ecological crisis, especially the effect of global warming. This ecological awareness when not motivated adequately and translate into actions, then it remains a pious wish. Pope Francis insists, “There is nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions… environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings.” As per the statement of the UN Secretary-General, we are addicted to fossil fuels which are pushing the entire planet to the brink. We need to stop this by making conscious choices in the reduction of usage of fossil fuels, by changing habits so that it reduces global warming, and by campaigning for a definite ‘No’ to plastics. These choices are not convenient for us but we need to walk back those extra miles, like Emmaus disciples, to spread the truth and bring back life.

This year, World Earth Day (22nd April) falls in the Easter octave. May this Easter, turn our broken hearts into burning hearts, which would compassionately care for the common home.