Moment #3: Spirituality and Creation Care
Updated: Feb 11
Mutual Belonging and Shared Destiny
Today's moment I thought I would start with the readings from USCCB for Jan 3rd, the Epiphany. Here is the second reading
Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God's grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
As a Christian and Catholic, mutual belonging that Pope Francis speaks of (LS, 202) stems from the sense of interconnectedness offers by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. co-heirs and members of the same body. And with the scientific knowledge of the innate interconnectivity of the sacred cosmos, this takes on new meaning for people of faith today.
God's overflowing love is what caused the origin of the cosmos 13.8 billion years ago and is reflected in the birth of Earth 4.5 billion years ago. But it also invigorates the mutual belonging of this grand tapestry of life and animates the movement of this finite, unfinished world towards our shared destiny in the arms of the Risen Christ.
Today's moment of reflection and prayer will be rooted in the idea of mutual belonging -- for this is the cornerstone of why creation care is not an add on or optional activity for Catholics but at the core of Catholic spirituality and justice.
I came across a poem that moved my imagination during my recent research into the evolution of sustainability in higher education and the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 -- I will be looking at these during the retreat so if you want to take a look at these CLICK HERE). The intimacy of the worldview was breathtaking and it captured the essence of how being open to the many subjects in God's sacred cosmic communion are sources of wisdom for humanity. Its presence in my memory urged me to share it today as foci for reflection on mutual belonging - the interconnectedness of the natural and cultural order:
Listen to things
More often that beings
Hear the voice of fire
Hear the voice of water
Listen to the wind to the sighs of the bush
This is the ancestors breathing
Burago Diop (1961, Senegal)
As a scientist by trade, I know that blue-green algae emerged 3.5 billion years ago and were the architects of the air we breathe today. We are sustained by the breath of these ancestors (who are still around by the way!) and both my scientific knowledge and Catholic faith were illuminated in new ways as I read this poem. Their bodies and ours have a common origin, a shared story of belonging on Earth and a shared destiny. This impacted
how I heard Paul's revelation -- a man who lived prior to the scientific knowledge that we possess but who speaks such truth.
This is holy noticing.
I deeply grateful to Erin Lothes Biviano who first wrote this term in her chapter “Elizabeth Johnson and Cantors of the Universe,” in Turning to the Heavens and the Earth: Theological Reflections on a Cosmological Conversion (2016). Holy noticing is when we pay attention to Earth as a subject and participant in all aspects of our lives (including our faith life) and, in our blossoming awareness, we appreciate how creation is indeed very good and worth caring for.
Now lean into your surroundings -- try to feel the continuum that is life, past present, future generations. In a Facebook social media post (Dec 18) from caretakers of the writings of John O'Donohue, I found a message that that needs to be contemplated slowly before we embark on our work together today:
"At Christmas, time deepens. The Celtic imagination knew that time is eternity in disguise. They embraced the day as a sacred space. Christmas reminds us to glory in the simplicity and wonder of one day; it unveils the extraordinary that our hurried lives conceal and neglect. We have been given such an immense possibilities. We desperately need to make clearances in our entangled lives to let our souls breathe. We must take of ourselves and especially of our suffering brothers and sisters." John O'Donohue, from unpublished collection
Here are a few ideas to sit with -- and journal about -- as you deeply listen to the story of the universe around and within you. Bring these ideas no matter how small or deep to share at our retreat January 9th!
Find a spot where you are comfortable and connected to creation -- inside, outside, music, quiet ... let your soul breath. Breathe in deeply the breath of your many familiar and unfamiliar ancestors. Be with your Earth family.
Now start your meditation with the most familiar, our human family. People that area members of the same body quite literally ... human bodies ... for the past six million years out of Earths 4.5 billion year history. The human body has taken many shapes with those most closely familiar for our imaginations emerging from Earth's creative impulse between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago. The echoes of these ancestors are part of us and yet, like them, we are unique and gifted in different ways. Who in our human family -- our brothers and sisters -- are crying out due to poverty? injustice? prejudice? apathy? disease? Take a journal and during your day(s) leading up to the retreat, write out their names, sketch their faces, write their story. As you create these memories for our time together Jan 9th, Gospels or Scripture stories echo in your mind? Perhaps use the Daily readings -- CLICK HERE for a link to a good resource. What Gospels truths speak to you through these human stories -- perhaps unconditional love, vulnerability, compassion, sacrifice, new life, liberation from oppression, mercy, wonder ...
Write down those that speak loudest to you in this moment. How did these stories of your human brethren create a clarity to the Gospel that might have been dulled over time?
Now repeat the journal process but close your eyes and expand your holy noticing to our other-than-human brothers and sisters -- our neighbors? Here are a few prompts:
Who is my neighbor now that I know that humanity has emerged from a sacred universe story that is 13.8 billion years old?
Who is my neighbor now that I understand that the emergence of human beings was one of Earth’s magnificent bursts of creativity, not unlike the moment when Earth erupted with color when flowering plants emerged?
Who is my neighbor now that I appreciate that my body is powered by sunshine gifted to me via green, photosynthetic plant life?
Who is my neighbor now that I know that I am intricately bound to all other species from fungi to parrots to kangaroos to bacteria?
Can you hear their voices? What blocks you from hearing them -- and be honest! It took decades to deafen us to our other than human brethren ... don't expect the process to be instantaneous.
Nor will it be purely sentimental ... listening to my sister mosquito is hard for me since her bites wreak havoc on my immune system bit without them, ecosystems will die and as a interdependent, co-resident of these systems, I must care.
Which of our neighbors are languishing due to human activities? Write their names and stories in your journal. What message are they trying to proclaim about their participation in the body of God that is creation? What truths do they share about the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer? What passages of Scripture resonate anew in your mind?
One that jumped out to me in my journey was Matthew 10:29
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
For me, this opened my eyes to truth being offered by Paul: coheirs and copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus in the gospel. Copartners -- this term jumped out since coheirs could be seen as humans being separate from and passive recipients of God's inheritance but co-partners mean interactivity, interdependency, mutuality, reciprocity ... my heart leap at this revelation of how intertwined humans are in the sacred web of life and how we sojourners with our other-than human brethren moving towards the promise of the Risen Christ. But my heart also sinks because our world is an immense pile of filth (Pope Francis' words!) and we are moving ever closer to a point where Earths life systems can not rebound from our atrocious behavior.
The Epiphany is about a grand awakening to a majestic truth of God's presence among us. But it is a story of simplicity and wonder too. It is a beautiful story of interconnectivity, mutual belonging and shared destiny.
For the next four days we will become more present to our neighbors in order to help explore aspects of Catholic spirituality that is calling us to care of creation.
Take time to pray with new eyes on this feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis' Prayer for our Earth (from Laudato Si'). May you see a magnificent story of interconnectivity, mutual belonging and shared destiny.
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
A Christian prayer in union with creation
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!
LINK TO REGISTER FOR RETREAT -- CLICK HERE