Sunday, April 14, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: God is God, and I am not

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Philippians 2: 6-11.

You ARE God.

But you don't use your status to your advantage.

Instead, you use it for ours.


You empty yourself,
lower yourself (as servants do),
becoming one of us.

And then you die on the cross
to show us that all our deaths
lead to resurrections.

To show us what love is really all about.

And so we exalt you,
Name Above All Names.

All creation bend our knees to you
and our many voices sing your praises.

You ARE God.

Thank you for everything.

+Amen.

* * * * * * *

I spent this week looking at paragraphs 65-69 of Laudato Si, which can be accessed by clicking here. It reminded me that as a member of the human race, I am beloved by God, as is pointed out in paragraph 65: "Saint John Paul II stated that the special love of the Creator for each human being "confers upon him or her an infinite dignity".... How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles!"

However, the encyclical's assertion that we are all conceived in the heart of God needs to be applied to all of God's creation all the time (even when it's not particularly convenient for human beings). I would argue that the chickadee outside my window is also the result of a thought of God and should be accorded dignity on that basis as much as I am. Therefore, using pesticides to control bugs that the chickadee likes to eat is a sin, right? And not just because that pesticide might travel through the food chain to us human beings...

Our broken relationships with God, our neighbours and the earth are the focus of paragraph 66. Sin is the disruption of those relationships, the disintegration of harmony, the disruption of the web of life. After Jesus, Saint Francis was one of the first to notice the lack of harmony and try to make up for it, and I sometimes wonder if his sermons to the animals weren't one big apology on behalf of the human race, with a reminder that God loves all creatures better than human beings seem to.

In addition to reminding us that "We are not God," paragraph 67 also says, "Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God's image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures." It goes on to explain that Scripture exhorts us to care for, protect, oversee and preserve our earth and its fruitfulness for those who follow after us. It also reminds us that the earth belongs to God and our claims to ownership of anything really aren't valid, though we seem to forget that on a regular basis. Can you name any of your so-called possessions that aren't actually a gift from God, directly or indirectly?

We "must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world" (paragraph 68), and take special care not to take advantage of the creatures with which we share creation. Here's where the Wisdom of the Biblical accounts comes into play, noting scripture passages that underline the importance of humane treatment of all God's creatures. This section is most concerned that we see that "the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures."

"By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws," says paragraph 69. Wise elders among our First Nations brothers and sisters have been closer to the truth in their respect for nature, and we have so much to learn from those who seldom lost sight of the fact that "[Humans] must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things" (paragraph 69). This phrase comes from the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is also a tenet of original First Nations culture, one that our North American consumer cultures have conveniently forgotten in our pursuit of material goods. 

Ah, here's the whole point: what does it look like to "avoid any disordered use of things" in my life? 

Well... if I didn't wear earrings or other unnecessary ornaments, animals might have healthier habitats that are less polluted by mines. I suspect that I eat and use products made from animals that are raised in inhumane conditions when I could get ethical products by dealing directly with small-scale producers if I do a little research and go further than my local grocery chain or big box store for the most convenient items. And when I waste electricity or other forms of energy, I'm contributing to unnecessary fossil fuel emissions that change environments and habitats for creatures all over the world. 

As always, it's a matter of awareness, of recognizing that every consumer choice we make matters in one way or another, and choosing the best option every time. Do we really have to put herbicide on the coming crop of dandelions? Or can we allow them to be early food for our bee populations? All we need to do is wake up to better ways.

Here's a nice little video to help increase awareness...

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