Which earth has given and human hands have made

By Canon Philip Gillespie

Some years ago our Bishops suggested a series of particular intentions for prayer which would cover the whole year. This cycle of prayer suggests that this is the time of year when we give renewed thanks for the creation around us – a thanksgiving which is often celebrated in the harvest festival. This festival is not just the preserve of the rural parish; in the heart of the town or city too, it is a good thing to be reminded that what we receive each day on our plates does not just appear fully formed (and cooked!) but is the end result of many people's hard efforts – from the farmer and fisherman to the cook.

Increasingly we are being alerted to the fact that we cannot take the world around us for granted and abuse it at our will; the Book of Genesis did indeed give to man and woman the care of the created world, and as one of the prefaces to the Eucharistic Prayer (Sunday, preface 5) puts it: "You set humanity over the whole world in all its wonder, to rule in your name over all you have made and forever praise you in your mighty works ..."

Pope Francis reminded us in his recent Encyclical Letter (Laudato Si') that we share a "common home" which needs to be respected and cared for. To be a good steward is not only to know how to get the best out of what is entrusted to us but also to remember that what we enjoy today is also held in trust for the generations which follow us.

Our Liturgy has always had a deep respect for the creation around us. Just think how the Sacraments make use of natural gifts – bread, water, wine, oil – which by the grace of the Holy Spirit become ways in which God touches our lives at the most fundamental of levels. As the bread and wine are brought forward at Mass, we give thanks that they are both gifts of God in creation and the result of the care and skill of those who have prepared them for human consumption. We ask for the grace never to take for granted the good things which the earth bestows on us, but to give thanks, as we do for every meal.

We give you, thanks, Almighty God, for all your benefits which we have received from your bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.