23rd Sunday OT B Sept 5, 2021


Restoring the Earth & God’s Handprints



Sins against Mother Earth

We live on a magnificent planet that provides us with air, water, food and energy.

All that is needed for life to flourish. Yet, vast areas of the planet’s land surface are being deforested or degraded.

Meanwhile, we struggle to reduce our impact on the climate. With the man made  erosion, pollution, and the diminishment of natural resources  by most unnatural means,  we are slowly waking up to the reality of the injustice we  have been doing to the world. We are reaping what we have sown. The garden we were given to live  in as a people, we have failed to tend.  The solemn commitment we made as  a species to steward the fruits of the  earth, we have failed to honor.

Earth Listens: We Reap what we Sow

And yes, the earth listens. She has been listening all her life till she has nothing more to give. Yet, we continue to take her for granted, even while she is  being plundered right in front  of our eyes. And now, many people are in desperate need of food,  water and decent productive livelihoods.

Our Foolish Solution: Depopulation?

But instead of correcting our ways, who do we now blame?  The population? We are poor because the earth cannot sustain us anymore, and because we are so many. Now, instead of re-education, we tend to resort to self-elimination. Instead of choosing restoration, we tend to opt for further destruction, in the hope that our errors may be hidden in the rubbles.

The consequences of our uneducated choices only bring us more devastation. Wendell Berry, a farmer, claims that  “our destruction of nature is not just  bad stewardship, or stupid economics,  or a betrayal of family responsibility;  it is the most horrid blasphemy.”

Restoration of Human Dignity is Restoration of the Earth

√ 1st Reading. Restoration is the theme of the first reading from Isaiah 35, where the promise of restoration  includes the promise of human redemption and healing  that encompasses the whole of  the natural world restored to its original colours.

√ Letter of James. The way to this restoration is hinted by James in the second reading. We need to work for genuine solutions  to the environmental crisis out of love  for the poor. And these solutions do not include any evil depopulation programs. The call to love our  neighbour, indeed, has an environmental dimension.

√ Gospel of Healing Deafness. One key to the way of restoration  is found in the gospel where we hear of Jesus restoring hearing  and speech, by leaving his handprints as it were, on the ears of a deaf man.

√ The key is listening. Yes, the earth listens and cries out in pain through the many people who suffer from the greed of those who call themselves wise. Yes, indeed, the earth listens. But do we listen?

Let us first ask God to touch our hearts and leave his handprints there. Only then can we restore and retrieve the lost beauty of this earth.



√ Dapat-mentality (Biases)

Many times misunderstandings arise from the different views of what each considers as truth, what is proper, more important, and what “must” be: “Yung dapat.” Letting go of our biases before we enter into dialogue is the first step to Empathic listening.

√ Ego-frame of mind (“I”-biography)

Empathic listening entails listening to another‘s life story or biography not our own. Often, a parent would  say to a son/ daughter: “Pinag-daanan ko rin yan ah. Makinig ka na lang sa akin. I don’t want you to go through what I’ve gone through!” Well-meaning words but not a good welcome to start the listening process! Let go of the “I” and be absorbed by what the “You” has to share.

√ Asar-ka-talaga feeling (Negative feelings)

It’s obviously difficult to listen when you are irritated, angry, or simply in a bad mood. Give your-self  some time. Pa-hupain ang negative feelings. Don’t deny them. Admit them, then let go. In dialogue, they might come back; so, check on them.

Final-na-‘to attitude (Generalizations & Indifference)

Never use threats even if you are in authority. Subtle forms come in generalizations like:“Lagi kang ganyan..”, “You always…”,“You never…”Judgments like these only start the other thinking of a way to defend oneself. Better still, shut up, listen first, then be understood, without judgments. Leave room for imperfections! Avoid when you can ultimatums like “last time na ‘to ha!” Threats and generalizations are subtle forms of indifference: kawalan ng paki-alam sa kabutihan (innate goodness) at kahinaan (weakness) ng iba. Even if you are a parent or a spouse who truly knows the “other”, you still have a “blind” spot. The “other” definitely has a “mystery” spot only God and the “other” know so well. Respect this sacred space if you want to listen.

Don’t even be concerned about listening to the earth when you cannot even listen  to the most important earth-dweller: Human Beings.

Remember, where a human person is, there God is, also. Because human beings are but the environment of God here on earth.


Who are You?

√ Let us check Freddy Footprints’ Garden.  Freddy works with his feet. Feet are clumsy. The flowers are trodden…the trees are bare and the branches are broken. The air is dirty and the pond is full of rubbish.

Now let us check Harry Handprints’ Garden. Seeds had been sown, trees planted…oxygen pumped in for water.

We know about reducing our negative carbon footprint. Do you know the power you hold in your positive handprint?

Sow some seeds, plant a tree, turn a patio into a flower bed…better still, get involved in an eco-restoration project…or start your own!

Give the earth a chance! And watch her grow!  Freddy Footprint or Harry Handprint: WHO ARE YOU? Your clue is this:  Remember, it is your task to restore God’s handprint in His Creation, in your heart and in the world you live in. God bless you!