Laudato Si – Care for our common home (a letter from Pope Francis)
Pope Francis refers to the following verses and how ‘have dominion and subdue’ fed into the days of empire.
Genesis 1: 26-28
26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (English Standard Version)
We seem to have gotten hung up on ‘have dominion and subdue’ and have forgotten what comes next.
Genesis 2: 15
The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. (New Living Translation)
Then the LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it. (Good News Translation)
The Lord god took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. (Jerusalem Bible)
Here the instruction is to tend and protect the environment.
If I then combine these, then the instruction to ‘have dominion and subdue’ is in order to ‘tend and protect’.
Why does the Lord God put these terms in this order? Because the Lord God in his foreknowledge knows that Adam and Eve will fall, and the whole human race with them, and will then be sent out into a fallen world capable of biting them back. They will need to ‘have dominion and subdue it’ in order to ‘tend and protect it’ and their model will be the Garden of Eden.
Perhaps this is why we like creating beautiful gardens and then enjoying them.
If we fail in this, as we do in pursuit of short-term gain, then the environment will bite us back and this seems to be what is happening with climate change.
As Greta Thunberg said in Bristol ‘The world is on fire’. Even if in Britain at the moment it looks more like it is drowning.
Pope Francis points out in Laudato Si that it is the poor that suffer disproportionately because of climate change and environmental exploitation.
So, this Lent we have a lot to take on board and repent of.
We have a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s work to save the world.
Let us pray.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
A Prayer for our earth from Laudato Si.
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognise that we are profoundly united
with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen