Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (October 2, 2008)

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published October 2, 2008

Like most of you, for the past couple of weeks I have kept one eye on my fuel gauge and the other eye on the incredibly long lines waiting at the sporadic stations that were lucky enough to have gasoline to sell.

Life has changed for all of us. Last year it was the drought that produced the water shortage—now the gasoline shortage. Many things that we once imagined were all but boundless are increasingly in short supply. And it is not always simply a matter of the free market at work. It should cause all of us to pause and to reflect upon the creation narrative in the Book of Genesis anew.

God’s creation is a sign of his love for us and his trust in us. We are to be his stewards of creation, and we might not have been all that successful at the task if the past couple of years’ shortages are any indication.

We have all been introduced to the term “green.” It’s loosely translated as conservation of and frugality of the world’s resources. Even the Vatican is going green with new energy-efficient solar panels being installed on the rooftops of the world’s smallest nation. Pope Benedict XVI has made frequent references to the responsibility that we all share in caring for the earth and its treasures.

This is a sobering message, especially for those of us living in such a blessed nation as we possess. We have an abundance of the goods of the earth. We are accustomed to having an enormous share of the world’s commodities. We have the wherewithal to summon products from the farthest shores of our globe to place on our tables or at our disposal. We can drive the largest automobiles and turn night into day in the great cities of our country. We have been blessed with the genius of our industry and the hard work of our people. But lately we have all paused to wonder if our blessings are indeed limitless. We do so because so many other people are using more and more of the world’s resources—and there may not be enough to go around, if we continue to utilize them at the level to which we have grown accustomed. And our excesses have left a residue that threatens the globe’s well-being.

We are not bad people! We work hard and are willing to pay top dollar for the things that we require or desire and that top dollar has also been increasing in price. But even if we can afford to buy the goods of the earth, does Genesis not require that we share them with others and preserve them for future generations? That is a big “green” question: How much does the earth exist as a common legacy and treasure for all people and generations? And going green is not satisfied with just being able to pay with greenbacks for a disproportionate share of the goods of the world. I am not suggesting that we abandon the free market, move to a commune, trade in our automobiles for bicycles, or embrace a radical or foreign way of living. I am merely suggesting that as you and I wait in the next line to fill up, we might consider what we can do personally to preserve the resources that we once thought were limitless. We may have some time to think about such questions as we wait. We might also re-read a line from the creation account in Genesis: “The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.”