I have always found this reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans rather fascinating:

Reading II for Sunday, 13 July 2008: Rom 8:18-23

Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

It is a beautiful passage, full of great longing and anticipation.  We yearn for the renewal and the completion of ourselves: union with God, restoration of humanity, both body and soul, to the glory and purity God originally created us with.

But we are not the only ones longing and anticipating that glorious end–all creation does as well!  Adam and Eve were the crowning glory of all creation, and all creation was subject to them.  When they fell, all creation fell, along with all their human descendants.  All became subject to corruption, pain, death, and evil.  And so, we are awaiting our restoration to glory, and creation is awaiting the restoration of its proper masters and mistresses.  When that happens, all creation will be freed of the ravages of the fall.  All creatures will share in the glory of the New Heaven and New Earth.

This text reminds us that human beings and the rest of creation have an intimate relationship and closely-intertwined destinies.  And we need to have a clear perspective of what that relationship is.  It is not a flat, horizontal relationship where human beings are just one sort of creature among the others.  Humans have a place apart from and above all other creatures.  Human beings have dominion over creation; creation depends upon humans.

There are many people in our world today who do not see it that way.  They place other creatures (usually animals) on the same level as humans–or even above humans!  They are more interested in the concerns of other creatures than they are for human concerns.  They act as if we must heal creation in order to heal ourselves, and we must fight for other creatures’ rights before we fight for human rights.  I am thinking of the many people I’ve encountered who consider it far more important to earn rights for animals than to earn rights for vulnerable human beings (the unborn, the aged, the ailing).

They have an inverted view.  Of course, human beings depend on other creatures to an extent–for food, for materials, often for labor, as well as companionship.  If we fail to be good stewards of creation, we will suffer.  But creation relies on us much more still.  Creation needs us to be children of God.  Creation needs us to attain to God’s grace, to God’s supernatural life.  Creation needs us to be transformed and restored.  And the moral decisions we make have everything to do with whether or not that transformation and restoration can come about.  Creation doesn’t get to choose its own fate–human beings do.  We choose our own fate, and creation’s fate follows from ours.  Grace flows from the top down: from God to humans to the rest of creation.  It does not rise from the bottom up, as some people seem to believe.

We humans have to choose the best life for ourselves first.  We must work to ensure justice and mercy, life and liberty for ourselves first.  We must choose God first.  Without us doing all of this for ourselves, the rest of creation doesn’t stand a chance.  As long as we stand for ruin among our own, creation will suffer ruin.  As long as we snuff out human life, there is no hope for other creatures.  If we cannot love each other, then we cannot love other creatures.  And if we cannot love God (who is Love Itself), then we cannot love each other.  All love comes from recognizing God’s will–including His will that humans and other creatures exist.

Love creation, yes–that is part of what it means to be human.  But love fellow human beings more.  That is the key to bringing about God’s kingdom and the restoration of the whole world.

I shall have to repost some of my recent writings about my own relationship with creation and my great love and delight in it.

Related Posts:

Creation and prayer

A tulip helps save me from grief

The tulip and me, cont.

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