Today, we continue our community conversation on Pope Francis’s newly released encyclical On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’). For instructions on how to participate, an overview of the chapters, and information on how to download or purchase the encyclical, visit the Laudato Si’ landing page here at CatholicMom.com. ! Lisa Hendey
Chapter Two: The Gospel of Creation
Today, Claire Dwyer and Cindy Costello reflect upon Chapter Two.
In Chapter two Pope Francis brings us back to the very beginning: Who we are, who we are in relation to the rest of creation, and what we were created for.
God created the world and everything in it lovingly and deliberately, the Pope reminds us. (77). He recounts that while each creature has a “particular goodness” (69), each in a sacramental sense manifesting some aspect of God, man is the high point of the creation account, given a special dignity by being endowed with the very image and likeness of God. Indeed, he says, anyone devoted to defending human dignity “can find in the Christian faith the deepest reasons for this commitment.” (65)
However, man, in choosing sin, caused disorder to enter the world: disorder with his relationship with God, with each other, and with the world itself. (66) No part of creation has been untouched by the disaster of original sin. Ultimately, all of the imbalances we face, including ecological ones, are the result of sin.
Man lost his sense of place in creation, and of his relationship to God. On one extreme, nature itself came to be seen as divine. (78) However, while nature reflects God, it is not God. Creation is separate from its Creator, “there is an infinite distance between God and the things of this world.” (88) On the other extreme, nature is trampled on and man dominates and abuses that which is entrusted to him to “till and keep”. (67)
But the most grievous crime against creation is man’s sin to man. As the highest point of creation, justice calls us to prioritize people over the rest of the created world. “At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst…” (90) One thinks of course of poverty, a theme which the Pope repeats like a refrain throughout the encyclical. The poor are the first to suffer the ecological injustices.
But because of the innate dignity of the human person, murder, especially of those most innocent and vulnerable, is by far the most heinous violation of our mission to care for creation: “It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.” (91)
Yet we are not without hope. The seeds of redemption were planted even at the fall.
We, along with the rest of creation, are on a trajectory toward a new heavens – and a new earth – where sin and death will be no more, thanks to the saving power of Christ. (83,100)
Dr. Peter Kreeft writes in, Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ, “The medievals loved to say that God wrote two books: nature and Scripture.”
In chapter two of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Laudato Si, the Holy Father links God’s two books together, proving this harmony of word. Using Scripture as his foundation, He reminds us that God Our Father is Creator of nature, and that love is the “fundamental moving force in all created things.” (75). Contrasting the cultural definition of nature as a system to be “studied, understood and controlled” (76), with the broader meaning of creation which is seen as a gift, Pope Francis condemns “unbridled exploitation of nature”. (67) God certainly does grant dominion to human persons made in His image and likeness (Gen 1:28), but he also makes it clear that we must remember “we are not God.” (67)
Secondly, Pope Francis finds the link that is present between all creatures. We learn that God wills the interdependence of creatures, to the extent of their being in the service of the other. We are “all of us linked by unseen bonds….that form a sublime communion.” (89) Humans especially, the Holy Father says, transcend all other creatures in the way they are made to serve each other, never objectify each other, and sustain each other by never favoring or excluding anyone. “Creation exists only in dependence to complete each other”, he says. (86) We see this especially in the beautiful complementarity of all that God creates, especially in the male and female persons called the communion in love.
A final connection drawn by the Holy Father in this chapter is that of the link between creation and redemption. The God who has the power to create the universe out of nothing, is the same God who has the power to save us from sin! (73-74) He did this in Christ, who through suffering, created us anew. How mysteriously joyful it is to understand that even our own sufferings are creative artwork birthed in an effort to make something beautiful and new.
Who holds all links together and directs them to their end? Christ! He is the Word through whom was made the universe and our Savior sent to redeem us. (Eucharistic Prayer II). Our ultimate destiny is the fullness of God in Christ. To the extent that our lives are intimately linked to His and are linked in a communion of love with others and with careful service of all of creation, we are led back to our Creator.
Questions to Ponder:
We invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box below
- Where in your life do you see disorder due to sin, either in your relationship to created goods, other people, or God? Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit who “can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable?” (80)
- Where in our culture do we see evidence of giving a disordered priority to lesser creation, animals and plants, or the earth itself, over humanity? How can we help counterbalance this tendency?
- We may be familiar with reading God’s Word in Scripture. How can we read God’s Word in creation? Are we open to the mystery of His Presence in all things and persons?
- Do I recognize that creation, and its continual unfolding, is intimately connected to the work of redemption in Christ? Do I see myself as participating in that connection which creates something beautiful?
Next week, we will read and reflect upon Chapter Three of Laudato Si’. For more information on this conversation, visit our Laudato Si’ landing page.
Copyright 2015 Claire Dwyer and Cindy Costello
Image credit: Bessi, Pixabay, Public domain