Thursday, February 18, 2016

Notes for Session One

St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington


Caring for our Common Home

Notes for Session 1

These notes are based on chapter 2 of the encyclical Laudato Si', The Gospel of Creation.

Although the {Pope has addressed the encyclical to "all people of goodwill", he is clear that Christians have a special responsibility for the care of our common home, and a special contribution to make to the debate and action required.  He writes: " and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both."

1.  The Light Offered by Faith.

"If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of science and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it."

"It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognise the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions."

2.  The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts.

"In the first creation account in the Book of Genesis, God's plan includes creating humanity... every man and woman is created out of love and made in God's image and likeness."

 "The creation accounts in the Book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality.  They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbours and with the earth itself...  The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations."

"We are not God.  The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.  This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants [humanity] 'dominion' over the earth, has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting [us] as domineering and destructive by nature.  This is not the correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church."

"The biblical texts...tell us to 'till and keep' the garden of the world.  'Tilling' refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while 'keeping' means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving."

There are many texts asserting that the earth is owned by God.  The Pope cites Psalm 24:1, Deuteronomy 10:14, and Leviticus 25:23 as examples.  Similarly, many texts show the divine concern for other creatures besides humanity, such as Psalm 148:5-6, Deuteronomy 22:4, and Exodus 23:12.

The Pope writes: "The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism.  Each creature possess its own goodness and perfection...  Each of the various creatures, willed into its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness.  [Humanity] must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature to avoid any disordered use of things.

After recalling the story of Cain and Abel, the Pope writes: Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth."

"These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which we today share that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others."

"A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable.  That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot."

3.  The Mystery of the Universe.

"In the Judaeo-Christian tradition 'creation' has a broader meaning than 'nature', for it has to do with God's loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance.  Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together in universal communion."

"...Judaeo-Christian thought demythologised nature.  While continuing to admire its grandeur and immensity, it no longer saw nature as divine.  In doing so, it emphasises all the more out human responsibility for nature.  This re=discovery of nature can never be at gthe cost of the freedom and responsibility of human beings who, as part of the world, have the duty to cultivate their abilities in order to protect it and develop its potential.  If we acknowledge the value and fragility of nature and, at the same time, our God-given abilities, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress.  A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our powers."

" would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination.  When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society...  The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us.  Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.  Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator."

4.  The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation.

"The universe as a whole, in all its manifold relationships, shows forth the inexhaustible riches of God... we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships."

The Pope again quotes from the Catechism:

God will the interdependence of creatures.  The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tell us that no creature is self-sufficient.  Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other."

5.  A Universal Communion.

" part of the universe, called into being by one Father, 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 and humble respect."

"This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails.  Nor does it imply a divinisation of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting its fragility."

"...we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly.  But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby 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 what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste, which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet."

"A deep sense of communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack temderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.  It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted."

6.  The Common Destination of Goods.

"Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.  For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone.  Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged."

"The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use,, is a golden rule of social conduct...  The Christian tradition has never recognised the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property."

"The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone.  If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all.  If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others.  That is why the New Zealand bishops ask what the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' means when 'twenty percent of the world's population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive."

7.  The Gaze of Jesus.

"In the Christian understanding of the world the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ...  From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy."

"...the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One in mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end.  The very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence."

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