I recently participated in a sabbatical programme run by the Dominican Sisters in their Ecology Centre in Wicklow. The programme focused on the implications for our faith and spirituality of the new universe story. There is so much more that science can tell us about our origins and development as humans and about our common home - but have our faith and spirituality kept up?
For me, it was an eye opening and inspiring experience.
I realised that my knowledge and understanding of such developments had not really moved beyond my early educational options. I had heard of Darwin and the origin of species but never really worked out the implications and perhaps just suspended judgement on how it might conflict with the seven days of creation story.
So what a wonderful revelation to begin to contemplate our 13.8-billion-year history, from the great ¨flaring forth¨ to the moment when the astronauts looked at the earth rise and saw how beautiful it is.
How amazing to realise that we are all stardust and made of the same stuff - carbon, nitrogen and all that was present at that moment of creation.
How amazing that our planet situated itself at exactly the life-permitting orbit that’s neither too near the sun to burn up, nor too far to be too cold.
And how amazing, too, the process of development of tiny organisms and the journey that takes them to the incredible variety and complexity of creatures and species with whom we share this planet.
How amazing that we share something like 45% of the genes of a fruit fly, are one third primrose, and of course, 98 % chimpanzee.
And so it is a great challenge to take on board the urgency of the ecological conversion called for in Pope Francis´s document on Care for our Common Home, Laudato si.
Such phrases as these need time for contemplation:
¨The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore from the very heart of things something new can always emerge.¨ LS80
¨Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness¨. LS69
The most challenging revelation for me is to try to understand the meaning of Incarnation as part of this whole process: the meaning of God’s presence since the beginning, and of Jesus as a part of our evolving world; of beginning to see that our salvation is inextricably linked to the saving of our planet.
The question now of course is: do we care enough about the future?
Does the way our faith has developed or the way we have been taught have anything to do with attitudes that may have led us to separate earth and spirit?
What if there is no separation, and the end of the planet is the end of us all?
The challenge for Justice and Peace and for all of us is to join with those working to prevent the destruction of the planet. Can we recover a sense of the sacredness of all things and get in touch with the Spirit that renews and enables something new to emerge, finding the energy to make the changes that are necessary?