February 25. Mrs Beatus continued her sharing. PRAISED BE YOU, my Lord through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. PRAISED BE YOU, my Lord through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong. Both water and fire are gifts of creation without which there would be no life on earth and yet they are dangerous hazards as well. Scripture describes their positive qualities and also how they were used by God as punishment as found in the stories of Noah and the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. In the context of climate change their positive and negative properties play a very significant role of which we have to be extremely conscious.
Water is absolutely essential for life throughout creation and has been throughout the earth’s history. In bygone days large herds of animals would migrate, following the water sources known to them. Although most desert locations appear devoid of plant life, with even a small amount of rain the land surface will suddenly become green. Plants that have been dormant or seeds that have lain ungerminated will spring to life. Water is found in the great oceans covering 2/3 of the planet, in natural streams, rivers, lakes, manmade dams and canals. Glaciers and snow-capped mountains hold water while ice-caps cool the poles. The water cycle draws water into the atmosphere and circulates it in the form of rain. The bodies of humans and animals consist of 70% water.
Devastating floods result from climate change but many parts of the world are water-scarce affecting sustainable life for all the families of nature, plant, animal and human. Safe drinking water is a universal right that should not be restricted or privatised. The poor are most often deprived of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation while a large amount of water is wasted.
Fire has existed in nature and its discover by humans as early as a million years ago was a turning point in evolution. It provided warmth, a method for cooking food, creating tools and protection. Its role in creation changed dramatically from providing energy to superheating in technological applications today. Its benefits as a source of energy and dangers as weapons of war and destruction are clear. Harnessing fire from lightning and volcanoes is still an untapped resource.
In the context of climate change and ecological conversion fire is a major concern. Deliberate burning and wild-fires are ravaging vast areas resulting in the loss of biodiversity, property and lives and affects ecosystems everywhere. Water and fire have vast symbolic and spiritual significance in all cultures.
God said to Noah “I establish my covenant with you that never again shall flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. This is the sign of the covenant for all future generations. I set my bow in the cloud. Genesis 9:11-13 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven and he overthrew those cities and all the inhabitants and what grew on the ground. Gen19:24.
Pope Francis: The problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of water issues in the context of inequality of peoples. LS 30. Someday after mastering the winds, the waters, the tides and gravity we shall harness for God the energies of love and then for a second time in the history of the world man will have discovered fire. T de Chardin from The Phenomenon of Man. Reflect, share, act, pray. As family members research, read up and share on the issue of water and fire in creation and how their use is manipulated today. Are our own actions just, in line with God’s plan in creation?
February 26. Family relationships human, animal and plant. Mrs Beatus again mused over the types of relationships in creation as portrayed in the Bible and described by Pope Francis. She shared with the group. Pope Francis: The creation accounts contain in their own symbolic and narrative language profound teachings about human existence historical reality. Human life is grounded in three fundamental relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. These three have been broken, by sin, outwardly and within us by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. The harmony which St Francis experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. LS 66.“
She said, “Adam and Eve broke their relationships of perfect harmony with God. In the story of Cain and Abel, it was envy that led Cain to murder his brother. Can that be any worse than murdering a stranger? Should the special family relationships place greater guilt on the act? God accosts Cain and asks him, “Where is your brother?” Cain answers, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That question echoes across the centuries still. It is applied to other human relationships, but is there not a natural and special significance where the intimacy of family is involved? And if we were to treat all others as family should there not be less violence in society?
How would this attitude apply in animal life? What are types of relationships between different animal families, or within families? Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott is an interesting and moving book giving details of large group of elephants, their extended and intergenerational family units, their care and their grieving for the loss of members. Although they were meant to be a protected group, poaching and killing for their tusks happened all too frequently. Different animals have different male-female levels of commitment. Some mate for life while mother-child is often the primary relationships. Much can be learned about relationships from a study of animal behaviour. Plant behaviour towards kin is another area for discovery and consideration.
Our human relationship with the earth has been harmed by distorting or misinterpreting our mandate of “dominion” over the earth and all other creatures. Pope Francis writes in LS 66-69, “although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.” LS 67 Correctly it should be interpreted that it grants us to “till and keep” the garden of the world. This refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while keeping means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. It implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. “The earth is the Lord’s, the earth with all that is within it. (Dt10:14) LS69
Reflect, share, act, pray. Starting with our own pets and even small garden creatures how can we grow in awareness and appreciation of creation in the families of nature and what special care is required.
February 27. Reproduction. Something that appears to be forgotten frequently when considering creation is the dynamic process of evolution. It is now widely recognized that creation was not a one-off six day event but a very long and still ongoing process. One very important aspect of creation, also seen from our particular perspective, is the wonderful ability of sexual reproduction as the way to sustain and multiply members and species. This was a command of God in the biblical account of creation. The term reproduction creates the impression of a more mechanical act of mating or fertilization in plants but when termed sexuality a more sensitive and emotional quality has become embedded in the concept especially for us human beings.
Here is a nice creation story borrowed and adapted from a website https://biomimicry.net/sexual-reproduction-how-nature-creates-complex-diversity/ Imagine compressing the age of earth i.e. 4.5 billion years into one calendar year. All the major developments could be noted as a date on the calendar, beginning with January 1. Life first appeared on earth in the form of single-cell organisms on February 25. These organisms simply replicated themselves like carbon copies. It was easy and it was fast. In March, photosynthesis evolved as a development in plant life.
Much later, from 2 billion to 1.3 billion years ago, around 17 September on the Earth calendar something new evolved. It began with bacteria exchanging genetic material after which gradually genetic mutation occurred. Sexual reproduction included mixing genes and so evolution continued, paving the way for the great diversity we see today. Clearly in sexual reproduction organisms need to find a mate in order to reproduce. It would have been slow and tedious but is hugely important, as generations allow future generations to do more than their parents.
Only in the last few hundred years is evolution being studied scientifically and certainly, even without taking into consideration the psychological and emotional aspects, sexual reproduction still remains one of the great mysteries of creation. Oh! and by the way if you compress earth’s 4.5 billion year-long history into 1 year, this day would be at less than 1 minute to midnight on 31st December. How does that make you feel?
Scripture: So God created man in his own image, male and female he created them. And God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion……. And God saw everything that he had made and behold it was very good. Gen 1:26-31.
Pope Francis. The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in God’s image and likeness. This shows us the immense dignity of each person who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. LS65. Reflect, share, act, pray. Reflect and share on the creation of sexuality as both a mechanical and relational matter.