Something Greater than Ourselves

Genesis

The readings for daily Mass this week and next from the Book of Genesis speak to us of origins and meaning.  “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth . . .,” we hear today (Genesis 1:1). Here and in later blog posts, I would like to explore certain aspects of this book on humanity’s beginnings and God’s plan for us.

From time to time many of us find ourselves thinking about the big questions in life. A child may ask of us, “Where do trees come from?” A friend may ask, “Do you really believe there is life after death?” We may ask ourselves, “Why am I here?”

It is hard to answer these questions without speaking about the existence of God, whom our faith confirms created us and everything good that exists, and who therefore gives meaning to life and the whole universe. When God is part of the answer to these kinds of questions, we discover a certain order in creation.

Believing in God separates us from those who erroneously conclude that all of creation, including ourselves, is somehow a result of chance or our own efforts and not the initiative of the One who when asked by Moses his name, said, “I am” (Exodus 3:14). When we pray the Creed, we begin by stating this belief and recognize that there is a power and a reality far greater than ourselves to whom we are responsible.  God is the name we give to this reality, who is not merely a transcendent, all-powerful, spiritual force, but a personal being.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical on caring for our common home draws our attention to how the creation account in Genesis teaches us something of the reality of human existence in the world. “Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself” (Laudato Si’, 67).  These relationships remind us that the magnificence of God’s creation is a gift to be shared by all generations and so we all share in the responsibility to care for the gifts of nature as we care for one another.

What the Holy Father is spelling out is the primacy of an “authentic human ecology,” a relationship of the person, of the environment, and of social-economic development, understanding that as humanity advances, together we need to be respectful of the environment. This brings a Catholic worldview to bear on the discussion and helps us to see more clearly the moral lesson woven into the story of creation.

Men and women are called to live in peace with God and in the natural world.  As we proceed as a society, nation and people in the world in efforts to improve the human condition, there should be a clear harmony between efforts to promote integral, including economic, human development and those on behalf of our common home.

This is the first post in a series on the Book of Genesis.

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