Laudato Si 80: A Creation Incomplete

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Even when we’ve gotten in our own way with regard to care for the environment–and ourselves–God is able to thwart the darkness.

80. Yet God, who wishes to work with us and who counts on our cooperation, can also bring good out of the evil we have done. “The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable”.[John Paul II, Catechesis (24 April 1991), 6: Insegnamenti 14 (1991), 856.]

The metaphor of knots is an interesting introduction here, given devotion of Pope Francis for Mary, Untier of them. Perhaps the most inscrutable “knot” is the persistence of human suffering. The Catechism reflects on it:

Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator.[The Catechism explains that God wished to create a world which is “journeying towards its ultimate perfection”, and that this implies the presence of imperfection and physical evil; cf. CCC 310]

God does not interfere with human freedom, to the lament of many:

God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs.[Gaudium et Spes 36] His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, “continues the work of creation”.[Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, art. 1 ad 4] The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”.[Ibid., In octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis expositio, Lib. II, lectio 14]

So Creation is incomplete. What are we to make of that? Has God entrusted human beings with some small portion of bringing forth things that are new? It would certainly be new if we made a more concerted effort to uphold justice for the oppressed, to go out of our way to care for the needy and offer a hand up and out to safety, and to care for what has already been given to us in the natural world. Or is it too much to ask of lowly creatures such as ourselves? To be honest, I’d almost welcome the sight of people rolling up their sleeves out of frustration with the Almighty and saying, “Let’s show You how it’s done!”

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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