Today's reflection is brought to you by
are our home,
our source and our final resting place.
We live short lives
and turn back into dust.
time goes on infinitely,
but our time is like
dreams that come and go.
Teach us to appreciate every moment
and give us wisdom to seek you at every turn in life.
Help us to remember that earthly things,
those found in shopping malls,
are not what a good life is made of.
Remind us that all that you have given us
is meant to be shared,
Let your blessing flow through us to others
so that all may rejoice and be glad all our days,
so that your favour may rest upon all your creatures.
and only then,
can we relax,
as you intend for your children.
Let us not wait for the heavenly banquet,
but celebrate your kin-dom soon!
If there's anything that drives me crazy about Pope Francis' recent letter to the world, it's that it had to be written from the angle where we human beings with our theologically-approved ability to relate to God seem more important than the rest of God's creation, even though creation would probably manage better without us! As the writer of Ecclesiastes says this weekend, vanity of vanities... All is vanity! I suspect that God loves as if it's not just human beings who are special.
Halfway through section IV, which is called The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation, paragraph 86 notes that "God's goodness "could not be fittingly represented by any one creature. Hence we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships." Actually, the writers of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, are quoting different pieces of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, which were written in the 13th century! (You can read this week's paragraphs, 86-90, including the footnotes about where to find Aquinas' ideas, by clicking here.) The Bible says that God created humans in His and Her image, yes, but Saint Thomas tells us definitively that God's image also exists in the rest of creation and we need to understand the importance of everything. How did we miss this? Perhaps our intellectual vanity has gotten in the way.
Another piece of vanity -- the idea that we all deserve our very own fill in the blank -- means that there are too many of the earth's resources being spent on duplication of our belongings. But what if we decided to try some interdependence, also known as sharing? We might have to depend on one another, build stronger community supports, create fewer emissions that lead to climate change, and maybe live a healthier life, but would that be so bad? Not according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which points out at the end of paragraph 86 that "Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other."
Sound like Utopia? Or maybe heaven on earth? It would be if human beings didn't see the world and our possessions as our rights rather than as gifts from God. This Anthropocene era in which human activity has had a major impact on our earth's ecosphere since the Industrial Revolution has seen an incredible increase in population and pollution, partly because we've gotten out of the habit of working together. The increasing suffering worldwide due to climate change-related weather events seems to be a catalyst for the beginning of a conversion in us, where we see the necessity of living more simply, co-operating with our neighbours, and respecting the sacredness of creation. I just hope we're not starting too late.
Paragraph 87 seems to be designed simply to allow for the reappearance of Saint Francis' Canticle of the Creatures to aid us in praising God. I just wish they had printed it in its entirety, including the part about Sister Death. I can't help but think that if we were all better friends with our mortality, we wouldn't spend so much of our lives accumulating the earthly treasure Jesus warned against, "that moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal" (Matt 6.19). If we are constantly aware that Sister Death allows us to take no possessions with us, maybe we'd leave fewer behind! As a friend reminded me when we were talking about this Sunday's readings the other day, "I've never seen a hearse pulling a U-haul."
In paragraph 88, we are reminded that "The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into relationship" by cultivating the "ecological virtues" that are part of the social doctrine of the Church. Every creature in creation has its role to fulfill, and human beings in particular need to acknowledge our "right and proper place" instead of thinking ourselves the pinnacle of creation, or of creation as merely the fulfillment of our wants. Not the left, but the right, below.
God (not us) owns everything, says paragraph 89, and
all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate respect... God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement.
we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, where we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.Enormous inequalities breed enormous anger and terrible division. My church pretends to be blind to the greater rights it gives to men over women, and how that only feeds the inequality of women around the globe, many of whom are left to feed families and care for the elderly without much support from the males who are seen as having greater value in so many cultures.
But again, it's all of a piece, and we'll never get to equality and heaven on earth if we ignore sexism... or any of the other "isms" that divide us from other beings in creation. All that God made must be valued and considered worthy of care... and it would be good if all living things were accorded similar rights, though it would require much more effort on our part to care for them all. At the moment, we only care for the things we value, and heaven knows we haven't always valued the right things!
For the week ahead, let's give some thought to the things we value and how they fit into the web of life that God created. If a fire was to come and swallow everything we own, what would we miss the most? What could we easily live without? How much do our "needs" impact our planet and its ecosystems? How much impact do our "wants" have on the earth?
Let's give some thought to the idea that the needs of creation are important too.
It's time to chuck human vanity. This life, this planet, is not just about us.