Most of us dwell in urban or suburban areas of the country. It’s no surprise since these are the places that offer the glut of opportunities: jobs, schools, markets and shops, homes, and apartments. I’ve always lived in a big city or suburb. I grew up in a suburb in Southern California, went to college in L.A. and now live and work in San Diego. I’ve always been surrounded by people and traffic, cement and asphalt, track homes and apartment buildings. There are of course aspects of city life that I enjoy—the rich culture and sense of community, the easy access to diverse restaurants, attractions, and people. But there is something strangely compelling about a bucolic life of simplicity.
From God’s directive to “subdue” the earth, we come to understand that by caring for creation and building up a society in this material world we are responding to God. We are sculpting the rough marble of our physical and spiritual lives into something beautiful—our life’s oeuvre offered to God as a gift. If we believe this, then we see all of creation as a gift for our sanctification and holiness. “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
Since all things were created for Christ, we are therefore obligated by love to take care of them. God has bestowed creation upon us in good faith, which Pope Francis illuminates in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home). But there is more to it than simply taking care of creation because God has tasked us with such a commandment. By caring for creation, we also care for our own souls. Meditating upon the beauty of the natural world can heal our mind, body, and spirit, as well as nurture within us the seeds of wisdom and truth. The beauty buried within every corner of the natural world has a lesson for us along the journey to becoming the souls God has destined us to be—holy and without blemish. We can choose to let nature teach us and sustain us, and bless it. Conversely, we can ignore it and use it as we can use people, ultimately destroying our souls while gratifying our egos.
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