Infinite Presence, Infinite Love

Nature: Week 1

Infinite Presence, Infinite Love
Monday, November 7, 2016

When he considered the primordial source of all things, [St. Francis] was filled with even more abundant piety, calling all creatures, no matter how small, by the name of brother and sister, because he knew they had the same source as himself. —Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274) [1]

If Christianity would have paid attention to the teachings and example of Jesus and Francis, our planet—“Mother Sister Earth,” as Francis called her—would perhaps be much healthier today. But it took until the 21st century for a pope to write an entire encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, making this quite clear and demanding.

We have not honored God’s Presence in the elemental, physical world. We made God as small as our own constricted hearts. We just picked and chose, saying, “Oh, God is really only in my group, in baptized people, in moral people, etc.” Is there that little of an Infinite God to go around? Do we have to be stingy with God? As Isaiah put it “the arm of God is not too short to save!” (59:1). Why pretend only we deserve God, and not other groups, religions, animals, plants, the elements, Brother Sun, and Sister Moon? It just won’t sell any more.

God is saving creation and bringing all creatures back where they began—into union with their Creator. God loves everything that God has made! All created things God proclaimed “good” (see Genesis 1:9-31 and Wisdom 11:24-12:1). But we, with our small minds, can’t deal with that. We have to whittle God and Love into small parts that our minds can handle and portion out. Human love is conditional and operates out of a scarcity model. There’s not enough to go around, just like Andrew said about the boy’s five loaves and two small fish (John 6:9). Humans can’t conceptualize or even think infinite or eternal concepts. We cannot imagine Infinite Love, Infinite Goodness, or Infinite Mercy.

Tertullian, a third century Father of the Church, often called the first Christian theologian, said “enfleshment is the hinge of salvation.” [2] We don’t come to the God Mystery through concepts or theories but by connecting with what is—with God’s immediate, embodied presence which is all around us. I want you to begin to notice that almost all of Jesus’ common stories and examples are nature based and relationship based—and never once academic theory! (Fr. Thomas Berry [1914-2009] taught the same way in our time, and I hope to share his work much more in my writings and teachings in the future.)

We have not recognized the one Body of Christ in creation. Perhaps we just didn’t have the readiness or training. There is first of all the seeing, and then there is the recognizing; the second stage is called contemplation. We cannot afford to be blind any longer. We must learn to see and recognize how broad and deep the Presence is if we are to truly care for our common home.

Gateway to Silence:
Brother Sun, Sister Moon, help me see God in all things.

References:
[1] Bonaventure, The Life of Saint Francis, trans. Ewert Cousins (HarperCollins: 2005), 84.
[2] Tertullian, “Caro salutis est cardo,” from De resurrectione carnis (Treatise on the Resurrection), 8, 2. 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Christification of the Universe,” a homily at Holy Family Parish, August 16, 2016, Center for Action and Contemplation, https://cac.org/christification-of-the-universe/; and
Taking Heart in Tough Times, disc 2 (CAC: 2009), no longer available.

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