The Laudato Si Action Platform calls for us to Adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle — reducing our use of resources, recycling non-biodegradable materials and reusing items rather than just throwing them away. So, who would look at the miracle of the loaves and fishes as a sustainability lesson? Franciscan Associate Kevin Elphick, that’s who.
An Environmentalism: “So That Nothing Will Be Lost”
By Kevin Elphick, Franciscan Associate
Most of us are familiar with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Sermons on this Gospel passage often emphasize the foresight and generosity of the young boy who brought along the fish and five barley loaves. Jesus blesses the boy’s gift by giving thanks and distributing it, multiplying the loaves and fishes so that there is “as much as they wanted.” What catches my attention, however, is what Jesus directs after all have eaten their fill: “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” [John 6:12] The miracle’s abundance was so great that it “filled twelve baskets.” Even so, Jesus was concerned about the leftovers and that “nothing will be lost.”
Given that Christ could create new bread and fish from nothing, it is surprising that he is so concerned about leftovers. It speaks to Christ’s universal attentiveness. Elsewhere, Jesus reminded his listeners, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” [Luke 12:7] These quotes show divine attentiveness that nothing will be lost. God is concerned that nothing be wasted.
Directing his disciples to gather up the fragments, Jesus is like an environmentalist. His directive underscores our ecological and environmental resolve. It fits with the environmental refrain to “reduce, recycle, repurpose and reuse.” It also adds a spiritual dimension to our ecological vision. We want to leave our children and grandchildren a clean and sustainable world. This alone is motivation enough. But if we see all creation as sojourning with us toward the pleroma, the totality of or fullness of the Godhead which dwells in Christ, we then hear of “a plan to bring everything together in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” [Ephesians 1:10] All matter, all fellow creatures then take on a sacred character in our joint pilgrimage.
So, listen again to the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus speaks his exhortation “that nothing will be lost” to us today. Endangered and vanishing species and melting ice glaciers must be preserved and treasured. Our environmentalism should protect people living in poverty because “the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.” [Laudato Sí] Like Jesus’ disciples on that mountainside, we are charged to gather the fragments so that nothing is lost to us or future generations.
What are we being called to gather up in the baskets of our lives so that nothing will be lost? Are we being called to recycle more conscientiously what otherwise might clog landfills? Are you thinking about composting your parings and vegetable waste? Will you grow milkweed plants so that Monarch butterflies have sustenance and habitat to prevent their disappearance as a species? Or might you donate to environmental and conservation efforts? As a 21st-century disciple of Christ, what are you gathering up in your basket so that nothing will be lost?
How to be sustainable without leaving home
There are actions everyone can take to have a more sustainable lifestyle, even when you live in an apartment or a senior living center. Try these five easy-to-do recommendations:
- Don’t like the way your water tastes? Don’t buy bottled water — get a water filter for a pitcher instead.
- Get off the junk mail lists! Try these resources for eliminating catalogs, credit card offers, and other junk mail.
- When you leave your room, apartment or house, turn off all the lights and power down your computer.
- Don’t use a plastic shower curtain; opt for organic shower curtains that can be washed instead.
- Flushing toilets use lots of water. If you put an upright glass jar in your toilet tank, you’ll save up to a quart of water with every flush.
Our thanks to Steve Brown Apartments for the tips! stevebrownapts.com