In the first two sections of Chapter two of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis has expressed that our faith as Christians should be more than enough to compel us to care for creation. And he has reminded us that although we are called to care for the world, ultimately it belongs to God — we are just temporary caretakers.
As we jump into this next section, Pope Francis aims to take us into the mystery of creation.
Understanding Pope Francis on “The Mystery of the Universe”
In his opening words, of this section, Pope Francis points out what I think is a key point for those of us who are trying daily to live a “Christian Green” life.
He gives a brief explanation of the difference between the words “nature” and “creation.” He writes that nature can be “studied, understood and controlled,” but “creation” is so much more.
Creation, he explains, “can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the father.” (Paragraph 76)
This gift of creation, by our loving father, was a decision by God. It wasn’t something resulting “from chaos or chance,” and because the father willed it, his creation is “exalted all the more.”
“Creation is of the order of love,” the Pope writes. The love of God, making all of his creation precious and valuable. Everything God has created was brought about by his immense love for all living things.
“Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection.” (Paragraph 77)
Related Post: Do Christians Have to Be Green & Eco-friendly?
Humanity, Even Christians, Try to Take God out of Nature
With this all-important differentiation between nature and creation, we as Christians have tried to take the mystery out of God’s hand in creation. Although we may still “admire its grandeur and immensity,” we no longer see nature as divine, the Holy Father explains.
This leaves us with even greater responsibility for the care of nature because without God in nature, the world is left with only humanity to care for it.
It is our “duty to cultivate our abilities in order to protect it” so that through our understanding and study of the earth, we will be able to help it develop its potential rather than destroy it.
It’s important, he says, to remember “the value and fragility of nature” because without creatively developing nature while limiting our power over it, we cannot properly care for it. (Paragraph 78)
Christians Have the Responsibility to Properly Care for Nature
In our current world, with incredible resources for communication, we have the ability to seek and find and endless ways to work together for the good of nature.
The Church, the Pope says, has the job of reminding us that we must, as Christians, care for nature, but even more so, “she must above all protect mankind from self-destruction.” (Paragraph 79)
God Wants to Help Us When We Cooperate with Him
With the protection of the Church, God wants to “work with us and counts on our cooperation,” so he can “bring good out of the evil we have done.”
Holy Spirit in his divine nature, knows how to untangle the “knots of human affairs,” the Pope shares, no matter how bad they may seem to us.
Through us and our free-will God uses us to continue the development of the world.
“Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship.” St. Thomas of Aquinas. (Paragraph 80)
Human Beings Are Unique and Incredible
The pope then changes directions a bit to discuss our uniqueness as human beings.
We, even when considering the process of evolution, have a “uniqueness” that is unexplainable by evolution alone.
We are unique because each of us has a distinct personal identity (unlike anyone else) and we are all able to communicate and respond to each other and with God.
It is “our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities,” that are “signs of uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology.”
All of these incredible abilities can only be attributed to the work of God, so we can never reduce anyone to “the status of an object.” (Paragraph 81)
Human Intelligence Cannot Become Reason for Ultimate Control Over Others
Despite our unique gifts, Pope Francis reminds us that this still doesn’t allow us or give us permission to control other living creatures, especially to our own benefit.
He says, “When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society” that result in inequality, violence, and oppression by the most powerful of society.
This dominance and “winner takes all” attitude, he says are against the example of “harmony, justice, fraternity, and peace as proposed by Jesus.” (Paragraph 82)
The Purpose of Creation Lies “in the Fullness of God”
To finish this section on the “Mystery of the Universe,” Pope Francis takes a moment to remind us that “The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God.”
Our “ultimate purpose” and that of all other living creatures is not found in humanity, but rather we are all moving in the same direction towards “God.”
Only in God, we will find “transcendent fullness” where “the risen Christ embraces and illuminates all things.” (Paragraph 83)
What Does It Mean for You and Me?
By pointing out our uniqueness and the purpose of all living creatures, Pope Francis wants us to better understand our place in the world, our need to cooperate and work with God for the continued development of creation so that we might ultimately find ourselves fulfilled in him.
Next time as we continue in Chapter two of Laudato Si’, we will break down and discuss the section Pope Francis titles, “The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation.” Read and follow along in the encyclical here or get a hard copy for study here.