Pope Francis: A Corrupt Creation, Christian Hope, and Rebirth

On February 22, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the importance of Christian hope in the face sin during his weekly General Audience. Although his reflections focused on the corruption of creation, they are not the opinions of a left-leaning environmentalist but the profound insights of a man of God.

The Environment

Unfortunately, many Catholics will most likely overreact when they read the title of the pope’s latest address. Many conservative Catholics went into conniptions last September when Pope Francis called environmental destruction a sin and called for concrete action on climate change. His controversial encyclical on the environment, Laudato si’, released in September 2015, also upset some conservatives. However, if we do not react to sensational headlines but actually read the Pontiff’s homilies, encyclicals and addresses on the environment in their entirety, we will unearth deep spiritual inspiration which stands on the pronouncements of his predecessors. Remember, Pope Benedict XVI also covered environmental issues in Deus Caritas Est and in some of his homilies, too.

Saint John Paul II Spoke Out Against Pollution

Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith. (Pope John Paul II 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 15)

We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention to both the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations. (Pope John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 6)

The most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution. (Pope John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 7)

Creation is God’s Gift

Pope Francis’s Wednesday’s address echoes Saint John Paul II’s statements on the environment but Pope Francis calls it the corruption of creation. The reflections in this address could be used during Lent as an examination of conscience, especially by those of us who live intricately enmeshed in the economy of the first world.

Focusing on Saint Paul’s insights on the gift of creation in Romans 8:19-27, the pope stressed creation is God’s gift to humanity:

St. Paul reminds us that Creation is a marvelous gift, which God has placed in our hands, so that we can enter into relationship with Him and recognize the imprint of His love, in whose realization we are all called to collaborate, every single day.

The pope used powerful imagery to illustrate exactly how sin inevitably disrupts our peaceful communion with everyone and everything around us.

With the tragic experience of sin, having broken communion with God, we damaged our original communion with all that surrounds us and we ended up corrupting Creation, turning it into a slave, submitted to our feebleness. Unfortunately, we see the dramatic consequences of this every day. When communion with God is broken, humanity loses its original beauty and ends up disfiguring everything around it; and where before all pointed to the Creator Father and His infinite love, now it carries the sad and desolate sign of pride and human voracity.

Sinful Man Corrupts Creation

This is a strong description; sinful man actually corrupts creation, enslaving it by submitting nature to our weaknesses. Creation no longer reflects God’s love but rather it has become a “sad and desolate sign” of our pride and insatiable greed. Once again, Pope Francis has translated complex scriptural and theological concepts into a language which is easy for the average Catholic to grasp.

St. Paul continues by considering man’s effect on nature by inviting us to hear the groaning of all Creation:

“In fact, if we listen attentively everything around us groans: Creation itself groans; we human beings groan; the Holy Spirit groans in our hearts.”

Pangs of Birth

The pope explains that these groans “are not sterile or inconsolable, but – as the Apostle points out – they speak of the pangs of birth; they are the groans of one who suffers but knows that a new life is coming to light.” Even in these opening remarks, Pope Francis offers us an abiding hope rooted in a trust in the Lord. He reminds us these are not simply the groans of pain but the groans of a people of hope who trust in the power of God to bring about rebirth and transformation.

Even though God can redeem the effects of our pride and selfishness, the pope does not let us off the hook. If we are aware, we see the consequence of our sin every day. Pope Francis uses the example of water.

Think about water. Water is a beautiful thing; it is so important. Water gives us life and it helps us in everything. But when minerals are exploited, water is contaminated and creation is destroyed and dirtied. This is just one example; there are many.

Because we live in the world, we see “signs of evil, selfishness and sin” both in ourselves and in what surrounds us. But at the same time, as Christians, we also have learned to see the world “through the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the Risen Christ.”

Catholics Hope

Catholics have hope in our knowledge the Lord wants to heal our hearts with His mercy, and bring about “a new world and a new humanity, finally reconciled in his love.” Yet, Pope Francis understands we are often tempted by pessimism, the consequence of disappointment. He reminds us again and again that, as Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit, “we find solace in the Holy Spirit, breath of our hope, which keeps alive the groaning and the expectation of our hearts.”

Despite the many signs of our sins and failings, the pope said,

“we know that we are saved by the Lord, and even now contemplate and experience within ourselves and all around us signs of the Resurrection, of Easter, of a new creation.”

A Christian does not live outside of this world but in it sustained by the Holy Spirit. When we are discouraged or tempted to despair, Pope Francis reminds us that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and

“keeps alive our groans and the hopes of our hearts. The Spirit sees for us beyond the negative appearances of the present and reveals to us even here new heavens and a new earth, which the Lord is preparing for humanity.”

South Sudan

Pope Francis also called specific attention to “the martyred South Sudan.” Millions of people are dying of hunger due to a food crisis brought on by the country’s ” fratricidal conflict” which “joins a severe food crisis that condemns to death by hunger millions of people, including many children.” Once again, the Pope called for action because concrete action “is more needed than ever”; everyone must not simply declare the need for action but “give real food aid and to allow that it reach the suffering populations.”

His Holiness faces the results of mankind’s sin head on. He sees clearly that through sin, “humanity loses its original beauty and ends up disfiguring everything around it.” Yet Pope Francis remains firm in his faith and trust in the power of God to transform our mistakes if we allow Christ to redeem us.

“we know that we are saved by the Lord, and even now contemplate and experience within ourselves and all around us signs of the Resurrection, of Easter, of a new creation.”

Headlines and media blurbs can be misleading. Let’s read Pope Francis with a spirit of humility and prayer because he is simply trying to guide His flock by preaching the Good News of salvation. If we listen and are teachable, we can truly experience within ourselves, and in the world around us, signs of the Resurrection.

7 thoughts on “Pope Francis: A Corrupt Creation, Christian Hope, and Rebirth

  1. Melanie, what a relief this was – I have now come to be afraid of anything tagged Pope Francis because of the amount of vitriol a post or comment on him may contain. You said, If we listen and are teachable…… that’s it, isn’t it? If we could just put aside our pride and stubbornness and open our hearts to his words, we would hear the counsel of God through them.

    Through everything Pope Francis puts out, I hear the call to repair ourselves to repair the world around us. We can never hope to set things right if we are not right ourselves.

    But it takes the grace of humility to begin with ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said . . . and what a muddle we are in- those who feel they are the staunchly upholding the Catholic Church are really tearing it apart with their vitriol.

      One of Pope Francis’s biggest themes is the power of Christ to transform sinful man- and I pray this turmoil will indeed lead to a purification of the people of God

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is where the real schism is, I think, and yet so many are fixated on where the Pope is on the Synod of the Family, Medjugorje etc. as being the cause of the destruction of the church.

        Funny, I have been praying the whole night to be enlightened on what my personal Lenten journey will be this year, and I think I’m being shown my prayer intentions 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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