The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, delivered a strongly environmentalist message in his Christmas homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh this year.
The Derry man leant heavily on Pope Francis’ ‘Laudato si’’ encyclical of 2015 to urge Catholics to try to take greater “care for our common home”.
Archbishop Martin began by declaring recent developments in space exploration a manifestation of the “miracle of God’s creation”.
“Two weeks ago NASA scientists announced that the Voyager II spacecraft has left our solar system and is hurtling on into interstellar space towards the next star.
“Since its launch in 1977 the spacecraft has travelled 11 billion miles - and counting but don’t wait up. It won’t reach the next star for another 40,000 years. Voyager’s fascinating journey into the heavens leaves me speechless at the vastness of the universe and the miracle of God’s creation,” he marvelled.
He went on to reflect on how difficult it was to grasp the immensity of space and said this was akin to our difficulty in understanding God’s omniscience.
“Just as it is not easy to imagine the vast galaxies of stars that make up the universe, so it can be difficult for us to comprehend that God loves each one of us uniquely and personally. God understands our weaknesses and mistakes, but still calls out of each of us the very best of what we are capable.
“The Christmas story reminds us that, although we are small and frail, with the grace of God, and our ‘yes’, like Mary’s, to God’s will in our lives, we can (as the second reading says): ‘give up everything that does not lead to God’. We can be transformed and in turn we can help to change the world for the better,” he declared.
The Derry churchman continued by asking people to heed the message of Pope Francis’ ‘Laudato Si’ and try to limit their consumerism and to take greater care of the environment.
“On this Christmas night, as we marvel at the wonder of the universe, let us pledge to care for Planet Earth, our common home, by being less wasteful, and more conscious of the damage that we can do to our environment by selfish living.
“As we reflect on the Christ’s birth in the poverty of the stable, may we always be thankful for the food we have to eat, for our health, and for the warmth and security of a home; may we be more conscious of those less fortunate - the poor and the hungry, the sick, the lonely.
“As we contemplate this Christmas the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let us pray for our family members at home or away, and spare a thought for families who are wounded or separated by war and violence, distrust or relationship breakdown.
“And, as we gaze in wonder and awe at God’s presence in the newborn infant Jesus, let us bring to mind children who bring so much joy and happiness into our lives.
“We pray that all children - born and unborn - will be protected from violence, trafficking, abuse, abortion, neglect or exploitation.”