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Center for Action and Contemplation

A Promise for All Creation

Friday, April 22, 2022

Earth Day

For Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson, the resurrection of Jesus is a promise of new life for all creation:

As the first fruit of an abundant harvest, the risen Jesus Christ pledges a future for all the dead, not only the dead of the human species but of all species. In Jesus crucified and risen, God who graciously gives life to the dead and brings into being the things that do not exist will redeem the whole cosmos. As Ambrose of Milan [d. 397] in the fourth century preached, “In Christ’s resurrection the earth itself arose.” [1]

The reasoning runs like this. This person, Jesus of Nazareth, Wisdom incarnate, was composed of star stuff and earth stuff; his life formed a genuine part of the historical and biological community of Earth; his body existed in a network of relationships drawing from and extending to the whole physical universe. As a child of the earth he died, and the earth claimed him back in a grave. In his resurrection his flesh was called to life again in transformed glory. Risen from the dead, Jesus has been reborn as a child of the earth, radiantly transfigured. . . . The evolving world of life, all of matter in its endless permutations, will not be left behind but will be transfigured by the resurrecting action of the Creator God. [2]

Writing at the beginning of the pandemic, Franciscan theologian Ilia Delio reminds us that we can celebrate the risen Christ in our lives and in the natural world:

Where is this risen Christ? Everywhere and all around us—in you, your neighbor, the dogwood tree outside, the budding grape vine, the ants popping up through the cracks. The whole world is filled with God, who is shining through even the darkest places of our lives. To “go to church” is to awaken to this divine presence in our midst and respond in love with a yes: Your life, O God, is my life and the life of the planet. . . .

We have an invitation to go to church in a new way, by praying before the new leaves budding through dormant trees or the wobbly flowers by the side of the road pushing through the solid earth. . .  [With Francis of Assisi], we too can sing with the air we breathe, the sun that shines upon us, the rain that pours down to water the earth. And we can cry with those who are mourning, with the forgotten, with those who are suffering from disease or illness, with the weak, with the imprisoned. We can mourn in the solidarity of compassion but we must live in the hope of new life. For we are Easter people, and we are called to celebrate the whole earth as the body of Christ. Every act done in love gives glory to God: a pause of thanksgiving, a laugh, a gaze at the sun, or just raising a toast to your friends at your virtual gathering. The good news? “He is not here!” Christ is everywhere, and love will make us whole. [3]

[1] Ambrose, On the Death of Satyrus, book 2, paragraph 102.

[2] Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 190, 191.

[3] Ilia Delio, The Hours of the Universe: Reflections on God, Science, and the Human Journey (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2021), 195–196.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Suzanne Szasz, Window Box at 69th Street (detail), 1973, photograph, New York, public domain, National Archives. Jenna Keiper, Icon at the Center for Action and Contemplation (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Suzanne Szasz, At High Rock Park on Staten Island (detail), 1973, photograph, New York, public domain, National Archives. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We are invited to fully experience resurrection wherever we are. Can you sense it? See it? Smell it? Touch it? It’s all around.

Story from Our Community:

the strength of the human spirit / bears witness to the Holy Spirit, / assuring us that, yes, / death happens – / it will happen to all of us / in the end – / and there will be / smaller and greater deaths / along the way – / but because Christ is risen / his (and our) suffering / is not the end, but only / ‘the end of the beginning.’ / And what a new beginning / we shall see! Alleluia!
—Joanna T.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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