Our Planet, let’s plan it!

April 20, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Our PlanetWay back in 1994 and even earlier, the Religious of the Sacred Heart began talking about the care and integrity of creation. The USA Province made giant strides, while our Indian Province staggered along. Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable was one of the five priorities of the General Chapter of 2008. The Indian Province did make some headway especially in some of our institutions but we Indian RSCJs still have miles to go. Pope Benedict XVI was called the Green Pope because of his actions, his letters, his theology, his thinking and his ventures. Now Pope Francis’ invitation to protect the Environment will perhaps help us further, along the way.

Christians have been the least environmental friendly and have added substantially to the destruction of the Planet. This was scientifically proved by theologian and scientist Professor Lyn White in the 1970’s. The historical roots of Christianity are responsible for the present ecological crisis e.g. The phrasing of some of the traditional prayers of the Roman Catholic Church like the Hail Holy Queen (poor banished children of Eve, moaning and weeping in this vale of tears) conjures up the image of a Planet where human beings are meant to endure trials and tribulations only for a while. The Earth is not our home, only a temporary stage and therefore whatever we do to her does not really matter.

The Bible does inspire us to be Environmental friendly but discrepancies crept in later on e.g. Gen 2:15 written earlier in 900 BC, Yahweh God took the man and the woman and settled them in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it, is often forgotten while Gen 1: 27-28 written later in 500 BC, Be fruitful and multiply, fill the Earth and conquer it, is used by Christians to defend themselves.

Noahs ArkThe Noah Story as a Paradigm of the Old Testament sets the tone for an Eco-spirituality. God is passionately Earth concerned, fervently in love with the Cosmos and its inhabitants which is why He made provision for two of each species to be in Noah’s ark, including the serpent He had cursed.  This shows that God cared for all His creatures (Gen 6:19-20). In fact, God covenants Himself to the Earth and this Cosmic Covenant is unique (Gen 9:8-9). Similarly in Deuteronomy-the Book of Laws, God cares for all His creatures (Deut. 5:14, 22: 6 ff, 25:4, and 20:19). The Book of Psalms, especially the Nature Psalms sing the same tune for Conservation e.g. Ps 104. Then the Prophets came, who prophesied peace and harmony. In New Testament times too, Jesus was portrayed as a man in love with the Earth. The central insight of the New Testament is that our labouring God has always been savingly active in the minds and hearts of his people, whispering and inspiring newer ideas, inventions, discoveries and avenues (Jn. 5:19).

The Early Christian community even though they suffered heavily understanding persecution, they lived the experience that God is always at work, which is why, they had no fear and depended totally on God e.g. Peter with the hungry lions in the Colosseum. The Kingdom of God is indeed here and now. Unfortunately the incorrect Second Coming of Christ Spirituality distorted matters, which is why many Holy men opted for a life in the Desert which was an aberration of Christianity. Austerities, physical punishments on the flesh etc. were thus glorified e.g. the Desert Fathers and Desert Monasteries. However, Ignatius of Antioch (35-110 A.D) one of the early Fathers, was a prophetic figure who said, Creation is the primary book of God’s Revelation. This is an antidote to popular thinking that scripture is the primary book of revelation.

As early as the 2nd century, St Ireneus the Church Father believed that the Glory of God is the human being fully alive! According to traditional contemporary Christian history we have the Creation story, followed by the Fall of Adam and Eve, culminating in the Redemption. The Sacred history conjectured by Ireneus was different. He rationalized, God created the Universe. Adam and Eve His children like all children fell and He sent His Son Jesus to redeem them. But who did God pay the ransom to? This calls for a deeper reflection. Ireneus thus propounded, that God began with Creation, when we have the First Fall of God’s Children like all of God’s children, God’s Greater Love then prompted Him to send us the Prophets and further God’s Greatest Love sent us His only Son Jesus i.e. Emmanuel (God with us) and further still the Promise of His abiding Presence till the end of time and finally the Consciousness of the Holy Spirit that renews the face of the Earth.

Slowly simplicity but not austerity was promoted by St Benedict in the sixth century which unified and codified the cenobite way of life, thus bringing joy and happiness back into the world. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) an artist, visionary and theologian said, The World is God’s Playground. It forms not only the basic raw material for humankind but also the substance of the Incarnation of God’s Son, thus again highlighting the Joy of Creation.

St Francis of AssisiSt. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), the Patron of Ecology, created a Revolution with his Spirituality of Relationships. He related to all of God’s creatures e.g. sister weed, brother wolf. Thus all of God’s creatures have a right to grow and bloom and live. Meister Eckhart (1200-1328), the German Mystic Monk said, God is Within, We are Without i.e. God is here in the universe and we seem to be without; craving to meet Him after our death. Michelangelo (1475-1564) the great painter and sculptor met his God in his work. He admired all of God’s creation, which is why he celebrated the human form. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) too reiterated the same, Find God in everything and everything in God. Teilhard de Chardin, (1881-1955) a Jesuit scientist and theologian brought science and religion together. He advocated, from Alpha to Omega. God is the beginning and the end. This prompted him to write, The Hymn of the Universe. The Cosmos is not a Collection of Objects but a Communion of Subjects said Fr Thomas Berry a cosmologist.

Today, living thinkers like Brian Swimme, Rosemary Reuther, Miriam Mcguillis, Mathew Fox (Eco-spirituality), Sallie Mc Fague (Feminist) and others too, find God in the here and now e.g. Fr Bede Griffiths OSB (who died in 1993), whom I met and lived with, also had the same idea of God. Mother Teresa too saw God in all her work. Samuel Ryan SJ, Jerry Rosario SJ (Barefoot Jerry), Sebastian Painadath SJ, also think in the same vein.

Keeping Gods EarthThe latest National CRI Consultation in Patna summarized the same with the caption Walk Humbly, Live Joyfully. In November 2009, the Irish Catholic Bishops said, We need to protect the Environment today on behalf of the future generations-Archbishop Dermot Clifford. Caritas in Veritate in July 2009 said, The Environment is God’s gift to everyone and in our use of it; we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. Archbishop William D’Souza of Patna reiterated the same in his Christmas message in 2010 and 2011. The Kerala (God’s own country) Catholic Bishops Council in December 2011 announced that Catholics include sins against the Environment when they visit the confessional. How gratifying! Any exploitation of nature amounts to sins against God.

The Church with Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis has set a role model for others. Its initiative will have a great impact on the world community, said KE Kunjikrishnan, a Hindu Environmental activist. Charlie Paul, a Catholic Youth Leader said, The New Vision for Environmentalism will help develop positive attitudes towards nature for a new generation. Holy Mother Church has taken the right stand. GOD IS NOT DEAD. HE IS ALIVE AND IS ALWAYS ACTIVE AND AT WORK. As we celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of our congregation in India, can we RSCJs of the Indian Province in particular and all true disciples of Jesus say a decisive YES to care for creation and make a strong and practical commitment to revere those trends that risk making our present situation of decay irreversible? Hum kisise kam nahi (We are no less than others). Only then, will one of the five priorities of our General Chapter 2008 become a reality! It’s our Planet, Let’s all plan it!

– mudita sodder

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