My thoughts recently have been with the oil well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the efforts to stop the flow and protect the environment. I have had a lot of thoughts, ranging from technical interest to social justice and the environment to Biblical descriptions of the "last days".
For this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, one of the things on my mind is the working of the entire Trinity in Creation.
I mentioned it in a post a couple of years ago, called Nature, Contemplation and the Beauty of God.
The Apostle’s Creed affirms the role of God the Father almighty as “Creator of heaven and earth,” a role that can be seen in the first verse of Genesis, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) 279. God the Son and the Holy Spirit were also active in creation, so that the mystery of the Trinity is found in it (CCC 290 to 292).
Jesus, the Word of God, was the mediator of creation, as John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Colossians 1:15 call him “the first-born of all creation,” and Colossians 1:16-17 says of Him:
“For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. He is before all thing, and in him all things hold together.”
The latter phrase, that in Christ all things hold together, suggests a universal presence of Christ as creator in creation in the present.
God’s role in creation is such that St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans 8:18-23 envisions all of creation groaning for the glory to be revealed in the redemption when all things will be made new:
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God, for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
The CCC explains this in sections 1046-1047:
“For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
“The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, 'so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,' sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.”
I'm not always sure how to pray about today's disaster. Surely, we know that the earth is groaning for redemption. We too long to see the face of God in the new heaven and the new earth. But we are stewards of the earth, responsible for how we care for it, as long as we are in this life. The Holy Father wrote his Message for this year's World Day of Peace on the topic If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation. He wrote of our responsibility:
Surely we look at the ocean, the gulf, and the marshes with wonder at the work of God's hands, seeing in them God's love. What we cannot do, in looking at the disaster in the Gulf, is to use it to doubt God's love. Creation groans, the Gulf and marshes groan for redemption, when they will be made new through God's love, just as we long for our own redemption when we will be freed from the effects of evil on our bodies, our hearts, and our minds, and we will be made new.
This past week, I have also thought about a book my mother read when I was in high school, World Aflame by Billy Graham. My Southern Baptist mother was a great fan of Billy Graham. This week, I looked at his chapter on the last days, and I was happy to see how much his writing about how we should approach such a time coincided with my own view now. Here is part of what he wrote on "Signs of the End" that I liked and thought helpful to living through the present situation:
"Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (Matthew 24:46). Some people have the idea that if Christ is coming, then why must we carry on? Why not quit working and watch? This was one of the problems of the Thessalonians to whom Paul wrote to affirm that Christ was coming. He explained some of the details of the last days, and he urged them to get to work. The hope of the coming of Christ should make us work all the harder so that we shall "not be ashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28)."
Detachment: That is the word that I would use now to describe centering one's affections on things of God and not on the things of this world. It is "detachment", that Catholic concept of contemplatives, that Billy Graham described as that quality that would enable a Christian to live through the last days without cause for despair and discouragement. Whether we are now looking at such a scenario, or just a terrible disaster that the world will get beyond in time, detachment from worldly things is one quality that will help us to live through it without despair.
Fortitude: The virtue of persistence and mastery over terror comes to mind in thinking of one who would carry on with work and not be distracted by the temptation to drop what we are doing and watch the disaster unfold. So much of the time, over the last few days especially, I have stared at the live video feed of the blowout preventer at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, watching while the engineers tried to fill the well with drilling mud to stop the flow of oil. How easily I am distracted by disaster! Yet, in the Early Church when Christians thought they might be facing the final days, St. Paul told them they should work all the harder. "Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ." (Col. 3:23-24). It is more easily said than done, for me in particular, but it is what the Early Church was told to do, and what we should be doing too.
So I have thought of the earth as holy ground, as God's creation, and I have wondered how easily I could cut back on my use of fuel. I have written a fair amount in this blog about the ocean as metaphor for spiritual things, and about birds as metaphors. Now my thoughts are on the ocean, the birds, the sea creatures and the life in the marshes as holy in their own right. And I think back again to a song I learned when I was a child, "This Is My Father's World." I used a few of its verses in a post that I wrote during Lent, and now the tune comes back to mind for some of the same verses, and for one of the other ones:
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.
This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.
And so I pray. I am not always sure how to pray. I remember something I was taught about prayer years ago, that we do not need to tell God what to do. In the Mass, we hold out our hands and the priest places the Body of Christ in our hands, and we do not know how it works, but we know it does. In prayer, we hold out a situation, a person, a need to God, and we are with God for that person, that situation, and we do not know how prayer works, but we know it does. We sit in God's presence, casting all of our cares on Him for He cares for us (I Peter 5:7), and leave them there at His feet. And we say, "Thy will be done." And perhaps we add, "Maranatha" -- Lord, come quickly, as we long for the new heaven and the new earth that are the only way in which the earth and our own lives will be fully healed.
A blessed Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity to you all on this week-end so much in need.