Saturday, December 5, 2015

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #20... WANTED: Wisdom

The Treasure Within
by Mary Southard csj
(more of her art can be found at
The advancement of human beings is pretty incredible when you really think about it. It's just our wisdom hasn't kept up. In this week's 5 paragraphs of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis names some of the amazing technological advances of the past two centuries, and notes our need to rediscover wisdom for our planet's sake. See for yourself by clicking here and reading paragraphs 101-105.

We've completed the second chapter of Laudato Si, The Gospel of Creation, and now we are moving into Chapter three, The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis, which will look at how "human life and activity have gone awry, to the serious detriment of the world around us." Our encyclical writers "focus on the dominant technocratic paradigm and the place of human beings and of human action in the world" (paragraph 101).

"We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change" begins paragraph 102, and here's a long list of some of the changes mentioned:

steam engines
the telegraph
chemical industries
modern medicine
information technology
digital devices
domestic appliances
transportation systems
bridges, buildings and public spaces
nuclear energy
information technology
knowledge of our DNA (all in paragraphs 102-104)

And I'm sure there are many more that our writers didn't name. God-given human creativity has brought about all these wonders, many of which have vastly improved the survival and fulfillment of many human beings on earth. The problem is that these things have also given human beings "tremendous power" and dominance over one another and all God's other creatures.

The problem is that our technological advances keep occurring faster than our understanding of what they mean for all of creation in terms of "human responsibility, values and conscience" (paragraph 105). Our awareness of our limitations is clouded by human ego -- "look what we did! Isn't it incredible?!" -- preventing us from remembering that it's not just human beings who are affected by what we do with our discoveries. If we really think about it, there hasn't been a bridge built or a medical procedure invented that hasn't affected the lives of countless creatures, human and non-human, in one way or another. As has already been mentioned four times already, everything is interconnected. But we have the freedom to create, and unfortunately we don't always use wisdom to remember those connections, or use our creativity the way God intended.

The last three sentences of paragraph 105 sum it up pretty bluntly:
Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.
I'd like to underline two key words in this last bit: spirituality and self-restraint. It strikes me that, had human beings created that long list of wonders above while in spiritual, meditative relationship with God, one another, and all of creation, self-restraint would have come naturally, and wisdom would have played a much larger role in our creation of a world with fewer problems. But we humans are often in too much of a hurry to wait for Wisdom, she who calls to us so beautifully in Chapter 8 of the book of Proverbs (click here to read it).

We could all use a dose of wisdom in our lives, especially during this holy season of Advent. We succumb to such a pressured pace in December that it's no wonder we lose perspective. So this week, I would invite us all to slow down and spend some time meditating on Wisdom as she appears in Proverbs 8, and allow her love of truth and goodness to fill our hearts as we prepare for Christ's coming, and as we wait to see what will come out of the Paris Climate talks. Perhaps she can motivate us toward self-restraint when it comes to the consumerism linked to Christmas, and inspire us to find ways to walk more simply on the earth in this holy season.

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Up next: #21... "Realities are more important than ideas"

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