A resident of the Province’s skilled nursing home reflects on man’s behavior during a year that has been “traumatic, almost destructive” and urges discovering the “true power for cooperation with the purpose of the world.”
We have begun a new year.
The year that has just ended has been traumatic, almost destructive. Yet, as Christians we must hope that the passage of time leads us toward the coming of Christ and the new world that coming promises. We have recently experienced, on the one hand, the grandeur of nature and, on the other, the pettiness of man. The storms of the past few weeks, when linked to the great storms of the previous year, make us realize that nature, although it has been placed by God under the guidance and dominion of humankind, is to be respected and valued and studied. Our dominion must be one of loving humility as we see unfolding before us in so many ways, the wonders of nature.
Recognizing Creative Power of God
We must ask the cooperation of nature to utilize it, not for our purposes alone but to demonstrate the creative power of God as he gives us a world that opens itself to our careful study but never surrenders itself to our ruthless control. We do not look to nature to find foolishness and wastefulness and meaningless tyranny but rather to ourselves. Although we are profoundly impressed by the revelation of nature, given by science, we all too often translate that impression into a passion for control.
How foolish we can be! Because of our weakness and self-absorption, we who are made in the image of the creator translate that image into a conflict with the God who has so richly endowed us. We exercise that passion in all kinds of tyranny and foolish self-aggrandizement. Because of this, God, from time to time, unleashes the power of nature to show how false our impression of control can be. What nature destroys in the storms and tempests that constitute climate is any justification for suspicion that our relation to nature is truly based on our absolute control.
We build where no buildings should be and complain when they are destroyed. We seek to alter natural process and then lament the rebellion of a nature never meant to be enslaved.
A true scientist approaches his work with profound respect. We are blessed with a number of such scientists who have a feeling for mystery and that which is beyond us, which brings them into a real union with those who see at the core of nature the holy spirit of God. Reports of recent natural occasions which we call disasters bring forth in us negative feelings of frustration rather than the positive realization that discovery must always be accompanied by profound respect. We evaluate nature all too often in terms of convenience rather than in terms of mystery. We believe that our scientific advancement has made our domination of nature to be complete, all the while forgetting that control is a term to be applied to our understanding of our power of moral rectitude, the fairness of judgment, and mutual concern.
The ancient saying “physician heal thyself” goes hand and hand with the Delphic pronouncement “know thyself.” To know ourselves as a people is to be more and more in control, not of ourselves but of the world is to betray our humanity and the creator who gave us the power to work with nature exercising our dominion through a humble appreciation that we are part of a whole, a part whose dignity is to know who we are.
From a human point of view, the past year has illustrated in many ways the worst aspect of humanity: millions killed in war and millions more made homeless and robbed of cultural identity. We should know better, and we know we should know better.
May the coming year be a time when we discover our true place in this world and the true power for cooperation with the purpose of the world.
— Fr. Philip, a native of Massachusetts, has written reflections on a variety of topics since moving in 2015 to the Province’s skilled nursing home. The most recent, published in December, was about the Franciscan value of minority and finding strength in humility.
- “Franciscans Send Climate Change Letter to President Trump” — Nov. 22, 2017, HNP Today
- “Reflecting on Autumn” — Sept. 27, 2017, HNP Today
- “Ringwood’s House of Prayer” — May 16, 2017, HNP Today