On June 5, 2013, the  UN’s World Environmental Day, Pope Francis dedicated his regular Wednesday papal audience to the environment.  The Pope began this audience reflecting on how God settled human beings on earth to cultivate and care for it (Genesis 2:15).
In the beginningPope Francis continued his reflection by explaining why and how we are to take care of the earth: “Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone.” These words of our Pope recall the whole Christian tradition toward God’s creation. This teaching highlights our God-given responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation. But this teaching has been ignored by many, resulting in domination, exploitation and consumerism. These three evils are the most important characteristics of a “culture of waste”, one that stresses money, profit and consumption instead of human lives. Popes like John Paul II and Benedict XVI spoke about this same issue when they referred to the due relationship between human ecology and environmental ecology.

In a “culture of waste” everything and everyone is disposable. The norm has been set by the cultural insensitivity and the selfish individualism that surround us. There is no time or room to give or to gift. As Pope Francis says: “We do not consider it [God’s creation]  as a free gift that we must care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation and  listening to creation.”

As a Hispanic, I question myself about the issue of living in a “culture of waste.”

What can Hispanics do to change this “culture of waste”?

Roberto Goizueta, Hispanic theologian, reflecting on the meaning of fiesta for Hispanics, brings some unique insights to this question. For Goizueta fiesta is a liturgical act that enlightens how Hispanics understand attitudes such as “to gift” and “to give”. Goizueta points out that:

The fiesta reveals an understanding of the human person and human action, which though not necessarily expressly religious or spiritual, represent a theological anthropology in the truest sense, that is an understanding of the human life as a gift and consequently, of the human person as one who ( in gratitude) receives and responds to that gift. At the bottom what is celebrated is life as gift, and the fiesta is the liturgical act whereby the community receives and responds to the gift.[1]

This understanding of fiesta helps us to appreciate better the sense of stewardship as counterweight against the “culture of waste.”  As Hispanics, we can give and gift to others the sense of stewardship of creation. This stewardship of creation is represented through fiesta, where our humanity and human actions are revealed. Through the stewardship of creation, we Hispanics celebrate the gift of life to all, the same life that is sustained when we support our common good – the earth.

Birthday Party

Responding in the joy of fiesta and celebrating the gift of life to all has enabled many Hispanics to respond with gratitude to God by engaging themselves in the  stewardship of creation. Stewardship, in this sense, is the celebration of life to all in an ordered and beautiful cosmos, as Goizueta illustrates,

Viewing himself or herself fundamentally and primarily as the one who receives and responds rather as one who makes and produces, the U.S. Hispanic is free to celebrate life, as a gift of absolute value[2]

In a dominant culture where “time is money” Hispanics are free to celebrate, as Garcia-Rivera puts it, how all humans “are not simply to enjoy the living forms but also to be formed by their beauty.”[3]  This celebration involves a political character that will provide Hispanics with a better sense of stewardship, a sense of a deep commitment to the most vulnerable, the poor.

Stewardship understood as a celebration of life to all and as a commitment to the most vulnerable, the poor, could be a significant step towards a solution to the “culture of waste.”

2013 Nelson Araque.  All Rights Reserved.

Genesis Photo by Ian B-M

[1] Roberto Goizueta, “Fiesta. Life in Subjunctive,” in From the Hearth of Our People Latino/a.  Explorations In Catholic Systematic Theology, ed. Orlando Espin and Miguel H. Diaz (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1999), 91.

[2] Ibid., 90.

[3] Alejandro Garcia-Rivera. The Garden of God. A Theological Cosmology. (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2009),  99.