The ‘new creation’

By  Joseph Sinasac
  • April 17, 2007
As the consensus develops over global warming, the Catholic Church is slowly sifting through its teachings to find wisdom that can help Christians understand their own responsibility for creation.
Most recently, Pope Benedict XVI found parallels between the relationship of the people of God to the Eucharist and its relationship to the world. In a section of his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist that was ignored in the hubbub over Latin Masses, Gregorian chant and the Sign of Peace, Benedict focused on the Eucharist, with its transformation of the “fruit of the earth” and the “fruit of the vine,” as a lesson on how Christians bring all their efforts on earth to the eucharistic table to be redeemed. Specifically, Benedict talked of our role as environmental stewards:

“The world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit,” he wrote (Sacrament of Charity, no. 92). “Rather it is part of God’s good plan in which all of us are called to be sons and daughters in the one Son of God, Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1:4-12). The justified concern about threats to the environment present in so many parts of the world is reinforced by Christian hope, which commits us to working responsibly for the protection of creation. The relationship between the Eucharist and the cosmos helps us to see the unity of God’s plan and to grasp the profound relationship between creation and the ‛new creation’ inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ, the new Adam.”

The church has noted in recent years that humanity’s responsibility for the environment cannot be separated from its responsibility to itself. Environmental questions are issues of simple justice for both the world and for those human beings who are the weakest in the world.

The connection between global warming and human poverty was underlined most recently by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Its latest report, released on Good Friday, observed that the worst impact of environmental change will be on the poor, the weak and the elderly, particularly in Third World countries that have little access to modern communications, technology and health care. In particular, less developed communities that rely on nature for survival will be hardest hit.

Later this year, the Vatican is sponsoring a conference on Christian theology and global warming. This represents the first serious attempt by the Catholic Church to come to terms with the proper response of Christians as Christians to this issue. If, as Benedict asserts, we remind ourselves of our relationship to the natural world each time we gather at the Eucharist, then we draw a straight line back to Christ’s act of redemption 2,000 years ago as a gift not only to people, but to the world.

As we understand it, the Eucharist is a gift that leads to acts of love. Increasingly, we must include all the world in that loving embrace.

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