The voice of nature. That is my topic for today: The voice of nature. Why? Because Jesus had such a high regard for the lessons that he found in the natural world…His sermons included the lilies of the field, the mustard seed, the grain of wheat, the pearl of great price, the lost sheep, the weeds growing in the wheat field, the vine and the branches and many more images from nature.
Over the centuries the church has also had a high regard for God’s creation. The Catholic Church has designated three saints as patron saints of ecology: Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Therese of the Little Flower, and Blessed Kateri Tekawitha. (Saint Kateri is a Native American saint and she was canonized by Pope Benedict in 2012.) They are part of a long line of people who found spiritual lessons in the natural world.
Saint Francis lived 800 years ago. His attitude toward nature was simple and direct: Francis saw God in every thing and he loved God and praised God in all of creation.
The second patron saint of the environment is Saint Therese of the Little Flower. The Little Flower lived in the nineteenth century and she said: “I don’t look through books for beautiful prayers. Instead, I look to the flowers, and they remind me of God’s love and providence, and they help me to pray.” She also said, “Jesus set us before the book of nature for our inspiration.” Saint Therese often used the imagery of nature to explain how God is everywhere and how God is holding everything and every person in his loving arms.
Our third patron saint of ecology is Kateri Tekawitha. She lived in the 17th century in the regions that would later become New York state and Canada. She often went to the woods -alone - to speak to God and to listen to God in the voice of nature. The bishop of Ogdensburg, New York recently said, “Saint Kateri was a child of nature, and her sainthood inspires the minds and hearts of those who love nature and work for ecology.”
Moving forward to modern times, we have this quote from Saint John Paul II: “Nature must be protected because nature is a Gospel that speaks to us of God.” Pope Benedict the Sixteenth said in one of his writings: “Our earth speaks to us. We must listen to the earth if we want to survive.”
Pope Francis said in his encyclical concerning care for God’s creation: We praise the Lord through Mother Earth, our sister. We must remember that we are the dust of the earth. We are dust and unto dust we shall return. We breathe the air of Planet Earth, and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
In today’s Gospel Jesus uses two images from the world of nature: The in-gathering of the harvest and the wolf pursuing the lamb. In the world of agriculture, harvest time is a time of great anxiety. There is a great need to get the harvest into the storage bins before it spoils. There is no time to waste at harvest time.
Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.” What does that mean? It means that God has poured forth an abundance of love and grace. God loves each and every person. But some people don’t know that. They know that there is a God. And they think that God made the heavens and the earth and then stayed up in heaven, far, far away. They don’t know that God is living in their hearts. God has made His home in their hearts, and they don’t know it.
Someone needs to tell them. Laborers are need for the harvest. Disciples are needed to get out there and spread the word. So, why the tone of urgency? What’s the hurry? People are dying without knowing that God loves them. Before they die, they need to know that God forgives their sins and loves them totally and unconditionally. They need to know that God is connected to them with a bond of love that will not be broken.
Jesus wants you and me to be the disciples who spread the word about God’s love. The harvest is abundant. God’s love is abundant. Jesus needs us to spread the word.
Then Jesus offers a big dose of reality therapy. He says that his disciples go out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Disciples need to know that sometimes they will run into opposition. There are wolves out there who are violent because they believe that hate is stronger than love. They don’t know that God’s love is stronger than hate.
They make life difficult for us because they come at us with attitudes of intolerance and discrimination because they don’t know about God’s love for each and every person. Sometimes we are like lambs in the midst of wolves. But we don’t flinch because we face opposition with these three convictions: Love is found naturally in the human heart. Love is stronger than hate. Love always wins.
l will close by repeating our convictions: Love is found naturally in the human heart. Love is stronger than hate. Love always wins.