Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Material World

There is this notion going around (and has been for many hundreds of years).  The church has been combating it from a very early time.  The Gnostics have long held (since the 1st and 2nd centuries) that all of creation was evil.  That notion is that the material world, that is all of creation, is 'bad' and the only good thing is the spiritual. What though would that notion say about Jesus Christ himself, who though fully God was also fully man?  Or about God himself who created matter?   This notion that our world is not worth the time we spend here and all that matters is Heaven to come has indeed infected the popular Christian music of our time.  A small example:

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

On one hand the lyrics are poignant and meaningful.  Being in Heaven with Christ is the goal of our existence.  The danger comes though when we spend all of our time thinking of things to come, without trying to see the beauty and gift of what Jesus has already given us.   It's kind of like getting a shirt that you kind of wanted for Christmas.  Then every time someone asks you about the shirt you're wearing, you start instead talking about the one you are going to get later.. the good one.. the one you got on is just a necessary thing to get you through.

We often forget the simple truth that when God looked back on creation, he said it was very good.  Not just mankind, but all of it.. the trees, the earth, the animals, the plants, in the water and on the earth.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.  Genesis 1:31 RSV-CE 

I think that is why this new encyclical, Laudato Si' is so pertinent and necessary for our times.  We have wrongly treated the word dominion as a right to complete domination.   As if we have the right to rape, pillage and destroy what God created and deemed very good simply because we are in charge of it.  How much like the renters of the vineyard we seem to have become who started treating it like it was their own.

“Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The very stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the corner;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one, it will crush him.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet."

Matthew 21:33-41

How very fickle we humans are indeed.  We did the very thing Jesus speaks about.  God created for us a vineyard, filled with so many beautiful and wonderful things.  He gave it to us to take care of and instead of enhancing it's beauty and productivity, we often just destroy parts of it in search of greed and wealth.  Then the son himself came, and we did just like Jesus spoke of... we killed him and claimed the world as our own.  Yes, we have much to learn.  I am thankful for God's mercy because we as a species definitely do not deserve it.  May God forgive us for all we have done, and may the Pope's encyclical reach all to all people of the world and remind them that we have a duty to creation and we need to start living it.