Sunday, June 2, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: How do we receive God's love letter?

This Sunday reflection is brought to you by
Ephesians 1:17-23.

God of glory,
you give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation.

You enlighten our hearts.

You show us
the hope to which you call us.

You bless us
with the abundance of glorious inheritance
our earth has to offer.

Your great power is visible
in the many resurrections of spring.

You can be seen
in all that you have made,
you rise above all human rule and authority and power and dominion
and every name that is or will ever be.

You are the fullness we seek.

Help us not to settle for less than your love
moving in us
and in our protection
of your world.


* * * * * * *

This week's smoky skies had a lot of people musing about the apocalypse, but as I walked our pup with a smoke tickle in the back of my throat, I found myself moodling about this amazing world God has given us to inhabit, this love letter that we too often trample in the dust rather than keep carefully.

This isn't exactly the way I intended to start this reflection, but the wildfires displacing so many of our human family in Northern Alberta played heavily on my mind as I reflected on today's paragraphs (81-85) from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Homewhich can be accessed by clicking here.

The question on my mind was, "How do we receive God's love letter more gratefully and carefully?"

Paragraph 81 looks at the fact that every human being on earth has developed or is developing into a unique creature with our own ways of being: "The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship" not only with God, who addresses herself and himself to me, but also with creation. Each one of us is a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object by virtue of those relationships.

"When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society." And not only society, but nature as a whole. Not only are people being forced to flee the fires, but many creatures' natural habitat is being lost due to human-caused climate change.

I'm so glad that the human idea that "might is right" is noted by Pope Francis and his encyclical team in paragraph 82. It's a fallacy that has led to immense inequality, injustice and violence against the majority of humanity, many other species, and our environment, since resources are exploited by the wealthiest, the most powerful, or the first on the scene. Of course, "Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, community and peace as proposed by Jesus," who told us not to use power over one another, but to serve each other (and, I believe he also intended that we serve all of creation).

The main gist of paragraph 83 doesn't surprise me: "All creatures are moving forward with us and through us to a common point of arrival, which is God" -- and we are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator, say the human encyclical writers. Of course, I want to argue with this assertion. Yes, all of creation is called back to God, but we human beings with our big egos are not only leading all creatures back to God -- we are also being led by them, if we allow it. I'm thinking that the ducks in the river at the bottom of the hill are as much a sign of God's action in creation as I am. Their community is just as important as mine, and their gentle way of being together inspires me as I pause and think about where I can be with my loved ones in a gentler way...

Paragraph 84 notes that "Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose." But where I beg to differ, Pope Francis, is in my assertion that each creature is as much an image of God as I am! God is not contained only in human beings -- "The entire universe speaks of God's love" and life. We human beings are putting God into a very small box when we forget that all creatures are part of God's image, just as we are.

Paragraph 85 notes that in creation, God has written a precious book, but going back to the beginning of this reflection, I prefer to think of it as a love letter. This idea of God as a lover writing a love letter first hit me as I was working on a novel in which one character says to another,
How many lovers have you had who could woo you with a gorgeous winter sunset like the one we had this evening? How many lovers could create a planet like the one I live on, and give it to me as a free gift? How many lovers could place entire diamond galaxies out in space just for us to marvel at with our dinky little telescopes? And how many lovers could create human love to show us the overarching love behind everything that is?
The Canadian bishops say, "From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine." Everything God made holds a lesson for us -- "for the believer, to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice." And what is that message?

That we are loved.

In seeing the world's sacredness, created out of God's love, we also find our sacredness, and an encouragement to love creation as God loves it.

Where will you notice God's love letter for you in the week ahead? And what love letter will you give back to creation? Is there one small way you can reduce your fossil fuel emissions this week, to help decrease the incidence of future wildfires?

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