Today, Good Shepherd Sunday is also Earth Day 2018. The two are closely related. The theme for Earth Day this year is: “End Plastic Pollution.” The call to all is to rise up, sign up and join up and take action because plastic pollution is poisoning our oceans and land, injuring marine life and affecting human health.
In the Sunday Gospel (John 10:11-18) Jesus sees Himself as The Good Shepherd. He talks about other sheep he has who are not of this fold and his desire to bring them in and create one fold in the care of one shepherd. When Jesus prayed on the night before he died: “That they all may be one”, is it possible that he was referring to all of life and not just the human part of it? According to ancient wisdom there was an understanding that the earth does not belong to us but we belong to the earth. Jesus came from that background of earth wisdom, otherwise He would never have used images such as shepherd and sheep, vine and branches and bread of life to describe who he was.
In the Catholic church, today is also Vocations Sunday. It is a day to focus on vocations to a consecrated, religious way of life. That means good shepherds are needed to care for people and lead them by their wise teaching and good example. The vocation to life however is the first call heard by everyone and everything. Life itself is the ground of the sacred and it is there that the vocation to holiness, beauty, goodness and truth is lived out. Our call is to be respectful guests and diligent guardians of the great treasure that is the earth. Our highest call is to be co-creators with our creator God.
The second reading today from (1 John 3:1-2) expresses wonder at the call to life. “Think of the love the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children and that is what we are” The reading ends by reminding us that what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed. All the signs around us at this time of year are saying that God must be really beautiful.
A visit to Kilmacurragh Gardens in Wicklow is a lovely way to celebrate Earth Day. Inside the gate, rhododendon bushes in full bloom offer a warm welcome. They are an invitation to visit their cousins from many different parts of the world that grow on either side of the rhododendron walk at the heart of the garden. There are many other wonders of nature to be seen throughout this garden all the year round but especially in springtime.
Brendan Kennelly finishes his poem. “A Prayer for April” with the following lines:
The year is taking shape.
So am I.
I think I’ll go for a stroll with hope
As I walk through April light
I see a gentle twig is more durable
Than a stubborn tree