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Cactus Leather, Return of the King, and Stewardship

I saw an article on Facebook the other day that caught my eye immediately. It spoke about two men in Mexico who have created "vegan leather" out of cactus leaves. Whaaaaaaaat?! I thought it sounded strange, but I read the article and was really impressed. It reminded me of stewardship, the biblical concept that the Earth is a gift from God (and not ours to do with what we'd like). This cactus leather is a great example of stewardship!

Personally, I think leather is pretty awesome. Wallets, car seats, couches, recliners, jackets, you name it! From the feeling to the scent, we can all agree that leather is a great material. However, it comes with a cost. Getting genuine leather requires the killing of many animals and the use of harsh, environmentally damaging chemicals to treat their hides. Cool product, to be sure, but with cost requirements that are morally gray at best.

This "vegan leather" that requires neither the killing of animals nor the use of harsh chemicals is a great step towards environmental protection. I hope that we will start to see it used more and more. But why? Why should we care? Because, like I mentioned earlier, the Earth is not our property. The Earth is a gift from God, as much as the bodies we live in and the talents we show off. Here's the thing, though: it's not a gift that we can do whatever we want with. It has been entrusted to us to care for until the Return of the King.

You thought I would only make that one Lord of the Rings reference a couple of weeks ago and be done with it? Oof. You're probably gonna be disappointed going forward. Anyways, here we are. As you no doubt have guessed, there's a Lord of the Rings example that fits incredibly well here. For those of you who haven't watched or read (first of all, hop on that), a brief backstory: there's a country called Gondor that was ruled by a line of kings for a long, long time. One king produced no heir, and the throne was taken by a Steward. The line of Stewards reigned for 25 generations.

The Stewards' job was to watch over the kingdom until the next true king, an heir of the original King of Gondor, could come and claim the throne. They performed many of the duties of a king, but had neither the power nor the honor of a true ruler. The point is, they were simply caring for the kingdom until the true King came to claim it. The last Steward, named Denethor, is the one we see in the movies. He's kind of the worst, and he tries to claim ownership of the throne for himself. Gandalf has this great line where he says, "Authority is not given to you to deny the Return of the King, Steward."

Definitely an insult, but a great point! The Steward was not there to take ownership of the kingdom, but simply to preserve and care for it until the Return of the King. Sound familiar? It should! This is exactly the same situation we're in. We are the stewards of the Earth, not its rulers. Our "duty and our salvation," as we say in Mass, is to care for this planet we've been given until the Return of the True King, Jesus.

It's hard to take care of the environment! From cars driving everywhere to oil heating and power to large swaths of the manufacturing industry, things that damage the environment have become ingrained in our society from top to bottom. Does this mean that we need to immediately stop driving, eating meat, and turning on the lights at night? Absolutely not, and to say that we should can be dangerous. What we are called to do as Catholics, however, is examine our own lives and make changes to our habits for the good of the environment.

I, for one, can make more of an effort to use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic ones. I can also eat less meat and takeout and take shorter showers. See? We all have small steps we can take! Imagine what would happen if we all made 3 small changes like these. I bet the environment would see significant health increases. Think about this during Lent! Maybe make it part of your sacrifice or your #pickonething commitment. Everyone has something they can do.

Remember, this isn't just something nice to do because it's trendy to be environmentally conscious. This is a solemn duty that we all have as stewards of this Earth! We are not the kings and queens of this world. There is only one true king, and He's a lot more powerful and good than we can ever be. Instead of trying to assert our own rule over our planet, let's just focus on taking care of it until the Jesus, the King, returns.

God Bless you all,


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