In this second chapter of his Encyclical, Pope Francis wants to give a Biblical basis for the foundation of what he is addressing. As he writes, he reiterates the this particular letter is addressed to “All People of Good Will.” As mentioned in a previous note, an encyclical can be addressed to the Bishops of the World, to a particular group of Bishops, to a particular group of people or to whomever the Pope wishes to speak. Ladato Si is address to all people.
The Light Offered by Faith
The Holy Father wants to spark a dialogue between Science and Religion. Perhaps in the past, it might have appeared that the two were at opposite ends of any discussion. Pope Francis and other popes want to encourage communication between these two centers of thought. He believes there can be mutual support.
Beginning with respect for people, Francis begins his portion of his teaching. As people living on the same planet we are different. We are not the same in every respect. He says we must show respect for one another through our respect for each others art, poetry, interior life, and spirituality. The Catholic Church must be open to dialogue. It must develop thoughtful words on Social Issues that effect different people from different parts of the planet. He says Christians need to nurture and care for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.
Care for creation is essential to our Christian Faith!
The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts
By studying the Sacred Word what can we learn about the relationship of human beings with the world? Much is Francis’ answer.
Beginning with Genesis and the story of creation Francis reminds us that as male and female we were created. Out of love and in God’s image and likeness we were created. We were not then left adrift in chaos. He then says something that I find profound. Each of us is a result of a thought of God. He will our coming into being. He loved our coming into being. He saw our life as necessary. If you ever feel small or question why you are here, remember this. You are a result of a thought of God. In God’s mind he thought of you. Wow.
Each person has a relationship with God, with neighbor and with the earth. This loving relationship that God intended was broken through sin. Sin entered the world and the beauty of the relationship with God’s created image and the earth was broken. God gave dominion of the earth to man. He was to till and keep it. Because of sin this view of dominion changed. Sin cause the human person to look at the created world in a different way. Different from that which God had intended.
Francis reminds us that we are not God. Earth was created before us and was given to us. The dominion we were to have over the earth was to cultivate, care, protect, and preserve the earth as it was given to us. This thought teaches us that there is a mutual responsibility between the human person and nature. It is the responsibility of man to ensure the fruitfulness of the earth for future generations.
Man must respect the goodness of every creature. Now he cites the story of Cain and Abel. Biblical brothers who cared the gift of creation in different ways. Once again, Pope Francis reminds us of the effects of sin. Cain’s sin ruptured his relationship with God, but between Cain and the earth. Recall how he was banished from producing goods from the soil because of this sin of fratricide (Genesis 4: 9-11) This passage of Scripture reminds us that disregard for neighbor ruins our relationship with self, with others, with God, and with the earth.
In the time of Noah, the earth is filled with violence. Noah’s story tells us there is always a chance for a new beginning. It is never too late. All it takes is one good person to restore hope. The faithfulness of Noah restores once again the right order of things.
The Book of Leviticus speaks of sharing produce. What the land produces is not to be stored away for our sole use. The land which produced the harvest is a gift from God. The produce of the earth is to be shared with the poor, the widow, and the stranger. Do not forget that the Father creates and owns the world. If we forget this reality, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and reality on that which belongs to God.
Mystery of the Universe
Creation has a broader meaning than nature. Creation implies God’s loving plan. He has a loving plan with every creature and it has value. Nature is a system that is to be studied, understood, and controlled. Never forget creation is a gift from God.
Psalm 33 tells us that creation came about by a decision not by chance. The creating WORD expresses a free choice. God chose to create. He did not have to, but he chose to create. Creation is an order of Love. God’s love orders things into being. God’s love creates. Our fragile world is given by God so the human person can care for it. Humanity is to direct, develop, and with limited power cause it to blossom. When handled incorrectly, this care can lead to decadence and mutual destruction. The Church must protect mankind from self-destruction. When creation is mismanaged, it will have a negative outcome. There is hope.
God can bring good from the evil we have done. The Bible helps us to see humans as a subject who can never be reduced to an object. Jesus proposed harmony, justice, fraternity, and peace. Christ’s message is not about ‘winner take all’ or the most powerful one ends up on top. His message that has been preached for 2000 years is that the goods of the earth are for both the haves and the haves not.
The Message of Creature in the Harmony of Creation
Francis reminds us that the universe speaks of God’s love and affection for us. Simply take a look at the natural world around us. See the water, mountains, and the soil as a tender caress form God. Nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. Nature continues to reveal to us glimpses of the Divine.
To contemplate nature is to listen to a silent voice. Remember when Elijah sought the will of God, it was not in the storm, but in the gentle whisper of a soft breeze. Here is where we discover the God of Creation.
All creation exists in dependance on each other. We are in service to all other aspects of creation. We are all linked by unforeseen bonds. We form a family which much care for each member.
Having laid the biblical foundation for his argument, he returns to the question of what are we doing to the soil. He calls it a physical ailment. Again he reminds us that the things we do to creation can eliminate an entire species. He then equates protecting other species with the protecting of human life. How sad he says, that some consider themselves more human than others, born with greater rights.
This then leads to a statement on social issues. As we care for the planet we must not be indifferent to human trafficking, the poor, or the unwanted. Concern for the environment needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow men and women and to an unwavering commitment to resolve the problem. The Pope states that the way we treat other creatures of this world will affect the way we treat other human beings. If we mistreat animals we will mistreat other people. The earth is a shared inheritance whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.
The Gaze of Jesus
Francis ends this portion of the Encyclical by reminding us that even the flower of the field, and the birds of the air are imbued with Christ’s Risen presence.