Ecological Spirituality helps us to discover God in all things. Franciscan Associate Kevin Elphick shows us that the message of God and creation as One has been repeated many times in Scripture and theological writings.
Treasuring Mother Earth and Sister Water
By Kevin Elphick, Franciscan Associate
At one time, spirituality devalued matter to focus solely on a new world to come. This mindset makes care for the Earth as our common home almost unnecessary because we’re going to get a new and better world. St. Francis helped recover the spirituality that treasured created matter, announcing that the present world is our sacred cloister. He celebrated Mother Earth and our Sister Water. In his encyclical, Laudato Sí, Pope Francis reminds us that “we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes.” Pope Francis’s earliest training and career was as a scientist in chemistry. Only later did he study to become a Jesuit. It seems that when you are both a scientist and a Jesuit, you end up with a Franciscan heart!
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) is another Franciscan-hearted Jesuit. A priest and a paleontologist, he played a role in discovering the Peking Man. As a scientist and theologian, Teilhard integrated the theory of evolution into salvation history. For Teilhard, evolving creation aimed toward its ultimate goal, culminating in Christ, the Incarnate God. Creation began with Christ as “the firstborn of all creation” [Col. 1:15], and it returned to God through Christ. “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” [I Cor. 15:28] Christ was the Alpha at creation’s start and, as it evolved, the Omega, its final goal, wherein God pervaded creation. If we hear that the efficacious Incarnation transforms all creation, we might hear anew Christ’s concern that his followers gather the leftovers from his miracle of the loaves and fishes “that nothing may be lost.” Creation evolves; salvation history guides all creation into the Omega, where God will be all in all. No fragment of creation is lost, but all is gathered into the divinizing effect of the Incarnation. There is no mere pebble or blade of grass. All of creation is the garment in which God is becoming clothed!
Teilhard explains that we can “reach consummation only in his Unity; … [E]very creature, in the whole of itself, acquires its full development, its full determination, its full personality, only in Christo Jesu. …God [is] creating all things and being born in all things… the Universe is seen as the universal Species in which …Christ is incarnate.” [The Heart of Matter, pp. 215-216]
We hear this message again in the Gospel of John: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me: that of everything that He has given Me, I will lose nothing….” [John 6:39] His parables convey the same message — Jesus is the Good Shepherd searching for the lost sheep, and he is the woman who searched “diligently until she found…” a lost coin. This seeking and gathering are God’s actions “so that nothing will be lost.”
Like Pope Francis and Teilhard, we, too, have Franciscan hearts. We treasure — so that nothing will be lost — Brother Wind and Sister Water. We protect and preserve our Sister, Mother Earth, “who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” In his canticle, St. Francis reminds us, “Blessed are those who will find Your most holy will.” Jesus explained, “this is the will of Him who sent Me: that of everything that He has given Me, I will lose nothing.” We are charged then with preserving our cloister home, protecting our Mother Earth. In Christ, God diligently seeks out the lost and at-risk and gathers them all back in. Through conservation and environmentalism, we join ourselves in this same salvific work. Like a garment in which God is to be enrobed, “creation itself would … share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21). By reverencing all creation and protecting it, we are vesting and robing God with the glory of the created world, wherein God may be all in all.
Image inset: The Author made a pilgrimage to Teilhard deChardin’s final resting place in July, prayerfully thankful for Teilhard’s skillful integration of science, theology and mysticism.
Many say we can find God in nature. But how do we prepare ourselves for this holy experience? Chris Lanciotti shares his helpful ideas in an article published in the Denver Catholic titled, “Seven keys to find God in nature.” We invite you to make some time to walk with God and enjoy the healing power of His creation.