February 26. DOES THE FALL CONTINUE? 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 existenceand 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 a 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.