Perhaps you are among one of the many people who suffered the disruptions caused by the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ protests in Oxford Circus last month. They have certainly managed to upset more than one, but they have also helped to raise people’s awareness of the frailty of our world and its ecosystems.
"Are we the last generation?” their banners asked. It is a question that encapsulates the dramatic times in which we are living and the urgency of this issue, as the latest research has found we may not have much time left before the impact of human activity causes a massive extinction of wildlife. But what should be our take on this issue as Catholics?
The second reading today sheds some light on this question. The new earth and the new heaven John sees in his vision are not replacements of the old, but a transformation brought about by God. And why would God transform this ageing and broken world instead of replacing it for a completely brand new one? The answer is simple: because God created this world well; He loves it; and He wants it to remain.
And so, we too, as Catholics, need to do our best to maintain what God has created and entrusted to us. However, our take on this issue differs radically from other people’s, especially those who would be ready to sacrifice the human race for the sake of the planet. “Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne," our second reading today says, "you see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them, they shall be his people, and he will be their God." This means that creation makes no sense without humans. It was created for us to find joy in it, and above all, as a sacred space for us to meet God.
Consequently, the care for this world must go hand in hand with our defence of human life. We know, though, that humanity will sooner or later run its course, so the question “are we the last generation?” is an inevitable one. But we know that even then, it will not be the end. God will raise us up from the dead and will restore our bodies and with them the whole of creation. So that together with us it may sing the praises of God for eternity.