Responding to God’s command to till and to keep the land that he has entrusted to humanity (Genesis 2:15)
“Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognise the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that ‘becomes concern and care for the other’.” (Pope Benedict XVI in the new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate)
Caring for God’s creation
God made us stewards of His creation – giving man supremacy and guardianship of His creation. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” (Genesis 1:26.)
With such control and dominance comes responsibility for the care and protection for the well being of our planet earth.
Eco-friendliness has been a trend in recent times. Many organisations and companies have caught on to this and lobbied for a cleaner and greener environment – one that discourages wastage and advocates conservation and protection.
This trend has not been lost on the Church, and it is one organisation that has also made efforts to do its part. As recently as 4-5 years ago, the Church has been at the forefront of the fight against climate change and advocating eco-friendliness.
In 2011, the Vatican issued the statement: “We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink, as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish.”
In our local churches, church canteens have recyling bins to cut down on wastage and parishioners are urged to do their part in keeping the church clean.
In context of the Mass – song sheets have replaced song books, or projection on the screen to cut down on the wasteful printing of hymnals. The green movement is now part and parcel of the Church’s way of life.
However as noted in recent times, some lapses have occurred in Singapore in general. Incidents of littering have risen and standards of cleanliness have fallen. This is naturally a cause for much concern.
‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’
Although not actually a biblical quote, there are many references to “cleanliness” in the Bible. Recently there has been much discussion in the media about cleanliness (specifically littering) and the returning of trays in hawker centres and food courts.
God desires his people to be clean. He instructs us to clean the inside so that the outside may be clean as well. Inward cleanliness should manifest itself in outward cleanliness. When we are clean inwardly it can be unbearable to live in unclean surroundings.
In Matthew 23:26, Jesus says, “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
Keeping the Temple of the Lord clean
From the early beginnings of the Bible we see how “on reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts” (Mark 3:5). Such was Jesus’ zeal for His Father’s House and for it to be kept clean.
Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31)
Cleanliness is a social grace – part and parcel of communal living and a civilised society. As a country striving to be more gracious, such social values and civic responsibility are necessary. A society made up of selfish individuals does not foster harmony nor is it conducive towards generating goodwill and peace amongst its people.
Serve one another (1 Peter 4:10)
Cleanliness displays important character traits such as responsibility, discipline or simply just common courtesy to the person after us. It reflects our mindset – either that we are considerate and thoughtful towards others or think and care for only ourselves and our own convenience.
The Servant King has demonstrated through example – washing the feet of His disciples during the Last Supper.
Similarly, returning of trays in food courts is not just an act of cleanliness, but also one of service, humility and love for our neighbour.
Just as our Lord Jesus Christ was humble enough to wash the feet of His disciples, we are called to imitate His humility and love in doing menial tasks with joy, and to “serve one another humbly in love”. (Galatians 5:13).
Through our actions in spreading the message of cleanliness, we are invited to “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). In becoming the least of our brethren, we aspire to greatness and everlasting happiness in the heavenly kingdom.
Archbishop Nicholas Chia