How Do I Love the Earth? With Heart and Soul and Body and Mind

How must we love the Lord our God? How must we love our selves and one another, each of us bodily crafted, from the stuff of earth, in the image and likeness of God? How must we love the Earth, the mother of all God’s children?

We must love as whole persons, with heart and soul, with body and mind. We do not truly love, we cannot love, as partial persons, with parts of ourselves cordoned off from reality, from the risk and vulnerability – the profound mutuality – of love.

In his new encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis urges us to recover an “integral” view of ourselves as whole persons, in relationship to all things, not least the planet, our Mother and Sister, “our common home.” The spiritual and the material are not separate: “Everything is connected.”

Van Gogh.3People of faith whose root imagination flows from the Bible should not find this vision of integral ecology so strange. The twin mystery of Creation and Incarnation means little if not the infusion of matter with spirit, of history with divinity, of human freedom with divine love and covenantal partnership.

For Christians the resurrection of the body likewise gestures, in mystery, to the consummation of a “new Heaven and new Earth,” not accomplished by sheer divine fiat, but in and through our participation, our fiat. “Let it be done to me – in me, through me – according to your will.” We are a people of God who share in God’s freedom and great responsibility in the drama of creation and incarnation still unfolding.

I have seen no better discussion to date on the new encyclical and its biblically-infused vision of integral human life than this short essay by Andrew Davison, linked here and below, responding, in part, to Florida Governor, Roman Catholic, and GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s recent comments pushing back against Pope Francis’s new encyclical.

In very few words, Davison brings us to the heart and soul, body and mind, of the biblical view of love, a fierce and outward-reaching love, which does not hide or take refuge, as Mr. Bush seems inclined to do, from a relational and self-implicating vision of the world’s problems. We must be thoughtful people of faith: heart and soul, intellect and imagination, whole persons in integral relationship to the whole – reaching outward. The rhythms of the Earth beat in our very blood, whether we want them to or not. And no less, as Davison eloquently writes, “the behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere has come to dance to the sound of a human drum.”

With all due respect to Mr. Bush, we can no longer afford to leave the Earth and her cry of suffering to the Masters of the Marketplace or to the Technological Platos who now think they run the world. About one thing Mr. Bush is right: the biblical and Christian view of love begins in the human heart, but love’s transformation (like a mustard seed!) does not, cannot, stop there.

Andrew Davison’s piece, “Faith and Climate Reach Outward,” is here. Please take a moment to read it. And as ever, I welcome your comments.

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