Just a few words on our first reading from Isaiah. What we heard was a part of a long prophetic poem that paints a picture of a Messiah. This Messiah will come from the long lineage of David, one of the greatest kings of Israel. This Messiah will be blessed with a deep sense of what is right and just. This prophetic poem tells of a time when all things were at rights with one another. It is a reflection on the age of the Garden of Eden, a time of the ‘uninjured ‘creation.’
In our conflicted world it is hard to imagine this imagery as real; the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, the cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.
This certainly speaks of an idyllic time when all was well and harmony ruled creation. It conjures up images of the Garden of Eden, images which are themselves flights of fancy. In that realm of uninjured creation all God’s creation lived without fear of each other. What we call “natural enemies” were “natural friends”. Animals and humans lived with “integrity”. Integrity comes from a Latin word that means whole or uninjured. Isaiah’s poem ends with a surprising prediction. It tells of a person who will reverse the consequences of the original ‘injury’ that shattered that realm of harmony.
We know that the Biblical story of creation is just that, a story. It is an important theological story, a story that gave us our view of the world for centuries. It tells us that God is over and above all of creation and all that is comes from the creating power of God. In this story we humans are told we have a special relation with God, we are made in the image and likeness of God in that we were given the ability to love. Breaking the story up into seven segments was a teaching devise for a people who lived in the times of oral traditions; stories were passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation.
Over the past number of years through the different disciplines of science we have come to a more realistic understanding of the beginnings of the universe. We have come to know that some 15 billion years ago there was an original flaming forth of energy called the Big Bang. Everything that is was contained in that explosion of energy. Everything that exists is interconnected, related to all others from the largest star to a sub atomic particle.
We have to face the unhappy fact that we humans have shattered creations harmony. By the exploitation of the un-renewable resources of the planet, by polluting the oceans, lakes and rivers of the planet, by poisoning the very air we breathe, by cutting down the rainforests of the world we have managed to upset the natural life systems of Earth. We tend of pretend we don’t hear or understand the many warnings we’ve been given regarding the climate changes that taking place. We are addicted to exploiting the resources of the planet to maintain our style of living. Among the community of nations the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is a fact in our own country.
Tragically countries like China, India, Brazil and the nations of Africa see the North American and European life styles as the norm which they strive to imitate. The truth of the matter is Earth cannot sustain a second much less a third North America.
Our mindset, our understanding as to how we see ourselves in the community of life and non life has to change. We used to sing a hymn the words of which said ‘You made us Lords of all creation, everything is ours to use.’ Not so. We are not lords, we are kin to all creation, we are members of the family of life on Earth and everything is not ours to use and abuse. There is that truth we’ve forgotten, ‘we did not weave the web of life, we are a strand in the web and what we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
There was life on this planet long before the human family began and there will be life on the planet long after we’re gone. Remember the saying ‘the earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth and what we do to the earth we do to ourselves. The modern plague of cancer may well be the result of the ways we have altered and polluted the life systems of the planet.
Isaiah sees the coming Messiah as one who will heal our injured creation and bring back that time of peace and harmony. We are preparing for the birth of the Prince of Peace, the one who came to bring peace among the nations, a peace we have yet to realize. This Prince seeks to heal our injured creation and as his followers we are called to heal the wounds we’ve inflicted on the Earth. As President Kennedy said years ago, ‘God’s work must truly be our own.’
During the next weeks we will be engulfed in the buying frenzy we call Christmas shopping. We will be encouraged to buy, buy and buy some more. We will be told we must have this and must have that. Consumerism is the name of the game and it is so far removed from that time when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the seas.
We can use this Advent season as a time to look into our lifestyles, our consumerism, and our addiction to more and more gadgets. We can use this Advent season discover ways by which we can live more lightly on the Earth.
We can use this season of Advent to pray for a deeper appreciation of the wounded world and make our own simple efforts towards it healing. Thomas Berry speaks of the efforts we humans must make to bring about a mutually enhancing earth human relationship. Anything we can do in our own lifestyles to bring about such a life giving earth human relationship can bring about our own healing and a healing of an injured creation.
Father Paul Cusack, C.P. is the pastor of St. Gabriel Passionist Parish in Toronto, Canada.