I apologize for not being as good about staying on top of writing these entries as I had hoped! How is it that summer always ends up being such a busy time? I have also been working on preparing the courses I am teaching this fall, so I admit, I am going to take the easy way out! During my first years at St. Monica, I wrote reflections each week on the doctrinal points given in Celebrating the Lectionary, the program we were using in the Sunday School at that time, and sent them home to parents. Over the next few weeks I am simply going to share some of those reflections with you, so here is the first of them! The doctrinal points in this reflection dealt with the fact that God is creator, that creation is good, and that the Christian community has been tragically divided, so those are the points I address in what follows. I hope you are all having a good summer!
We believe that God is creator, and as such, all that God created is good. This is the message of the story in Genesis, in which God creates and then God proclaims that what has been created is good. Theologically, the Catholic Church teaches that creation proclaims the presence of God. Even without revelation, one would be able to come to a natural knowledge of God as creator through contemplating the beauty and the wonder of the created world. St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan friar who lived in the 13th century, wrote The Soul’s Journey Into God in which he reflected that creation is a book that has been written by God. The first movement of the soul toward God is the ladder of creation. For Bonaventure, in nature we see the footprints of God. To say that the world is sacramental is to say that it is a visible way in which God is present to us – if we know how to look at it.
When God creates the humans, he gives them dominion over creation. Dominion, when used in this way is not understood as domination, but rather as stewardship. God has given us the gift of creation, but has also entrusted it to our care. We are the stewards of the earth and its resources. Part of our job as stewards is to protect the earth and to make sure the resources are sustained. Part of our job as stewards is to make sure those resources are used justly and responsibly. To lose parts of the natural world through extinction or destruction is to lose part of God’s revelation to us.
In the creation account in Genesis, we also learn that God made human beings in the likeness and image of God. The fact that all human beings are created in God’s image means that all human life is sacred. All human life has dignity, not because of anything a human being does, but simply by the fact that he or she is created by God as an image of God, regardless of race, religion, gender or any other ways we categorize human beings. Such dignity is called inherent dignity in moral theology, because it is given to us as part of who we are, as opposed to ascribed dignity, which we grant to people on the basis of things they do or how they act. The inherent dignity and sacredness of human life means that as Christians we must protect all lives and make sure people live in conditions that are worthy of their dignity as images of God. We use the language of the seamless garment to talk about issues of life, which means that all of the issues around protecting and sustaining life are connected in such an integral way that you cannot stand for one and not the other. Many Catholics are familiar with the concept of pro-life in terms of being anti-abortion, but in Catholic teaching pro-life also means that one should stand against capital punishment, against war unless there is absolutely no other way to defend oneself, against assisted suicide. It also means that we must stand for life-giving and sustaining issues – making sure that people have proper food, clothing, and shelter, making sure children are being nourished and nurtured, making sure neighborhoods are places of safety instead of violence. As Christians, we must be scandalized that people still starve to death every day in our world. As stewards, especially stewards that live in the wealthiest nation in the world, we must work to see that the resources we have, resources that have been given to us by God, are distributed in a just manner.
It is especially important these days to remember that as Christians we also called to be peace-makers. We strive for peace both because war violates the sacredness of human life and because we have been given the peace of Christ and are compelled to share it with others. We believe that the reign of God is both already here, having broken through in Christ, and not yet fully here. Thus we work with God to give hope to the world that peace is possible, to keep alive the vision of Micah and Isaiah who looked to the day when the nations will “beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks;” a vision of a world in which “one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again (Is. 2:3-4, Micah 4:3).”
In a world seeking peace, we also must face the fact that the Christian community has been tragically divided. We have come a long way in our relations with our brothers and sisters of different Christian denominations. Unfortunately we also have a long way to go. How can we be true symbols of peace in the world when our own community stands divided? We look to the witness of those who are in mixed marriages, i.e., a Catholic Christian and a non-Catholic Christian (of course, marriages between Christians and those of other religious traditions also witness to us about dialogue between religious traditions!), and hold them up as examples of how love conquers the divisions between us. We stay in dialogue with one another, and we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in continuing to heal past hurts and to move toward a future that celebrates all of our unity in the midst of our diversity.