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Text: Laudato Si’ Online
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Understanding Pope Francis on “A Universal Communion”
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures…” –Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 92
This statement sums up this section of Chapter two perfectly. Here in the chapter devoted to “The Gospel of Creation” written for Christians, Pope Francis puts our love for each other and care for the environment into perspective.
Love of God compels us to love one another and care for creation. In these five short paragraphs, Pope Francis explains to us how we must love and care for both humans and nature to live as authentic Christians.
In paragraph 89 of Laudato Si’, the Pope shares how our world and all of God’s creatures are closely tied together by “unseen bonds”. These bonds, he explains, were created by God as the “owner” of all living creatures and forms “a kind of universal family” which requires us to live with “sacred, affectionate and humble respect” for each other.
Tolerance of Inequality
He continues then in paragraph 90 to explain how this reality of created dignity “challenges us.” He clarifies that created dignity doesn’t intend to “put all living beings on the same level nor deprive human beings from their unique worth,” but rather we need to keep perspective on the importance of humans while caring for and preserving other species “lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly.”
In this same paragraph, the he then turns to the give us examples of how we as humans already have created great imbalances and inequalities when we “tolerate” people who think of themselves as more important or “more worthy” than others. Some he says are in stuck in “desperate and degrading poverty” while others have such an abundance of wealth that they use it for vanity and “showing off their supposed superiority” leaving a wake of waste that damages the earth.
Related Post: Do Christians Have to Be Green & Eco-friendly?
Sincere Care for the Environment and Humans
These inequalities among people make “deep communion” with nature insincere “if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion, and concern for our fellow human beings.” Pope Francis points out here in paragraph 91 that there is hypocrisy in our desire to protect the environment if don’t also protect people as well.
He gives examples including when people fight against the trafficking of animals, but don’t fight against human trafficking. Or when we campaign against the extinction of animals, but ignore the poor and allow “unwanted” human beings to be destroyed.
The Pope says again as he has said many times so far in this encyclical, “everything is connected” and our commitment needs to be a both/AND. Meaning, we need to be committed to the care of both the environment and all people with “a sincere love.”
Universal Communion is for All
In paragraph 91, our love and care for all the Pope explains, “excludes nothing and no one.”
Here Pope Francis is putting down some tough love in the sense that truth and reality can be hard to accept. He seems to wag his finger and warns us that our mistreatment of the earth’s creatures will eventually lead us to mistreatment of humans because “every act of cruelty towards any creature is contrary to human dignity.”
We “cannot be truly loving” if we ignore any part of the reality that “peace, justice and the preservation of creation” are connected and cannot be separated. We are he says, “woven together by the love of God.”
What Does It Mean for You and Me?
In a nutshell, it means that we as Christians cannot live double lives. We often talk about our “why.” What is the motivation behind our actions and beliefs?
Here Pope Francis gives Christians the biggest reason for caring for creation: we cannot be sincere in our love of God if we do not both care for both our fellow human beings and earth.
How Can We Make a Difference?
We need to become more eco-friendly with a sincere love for God and all of his creatures including our neighbor.
If this is a challenge, we can take it to prayer and spend some time asking God how can I make a difference? How does he want me to live and behave as his faithful steward of the earth?
As we continue our Laudato Si’ study series in the last sections of Chapter two, we will stop to consider what Pope Francis has titled, “The Common Destination of Goods” and “The Gaze of Jesus.” Until then, if you’ve missed any of the posts in the study, you can see them all at the Laudato Si’ series page here.
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