"What God has united, man must not divide."
In the first reading of the final Sunday of the Season of Creation 2021, we hear the story of God creating the animals and a woman as the man’s helpmate. Particular note can be taken of the passage concerning the man’s naming of the animals. Naming is a prerequisite in forming an intimate or special relationship. Parents come to have a unique family relationship with their own children by conferring a name on them. In a similar vein, we can reflect on the man’s naming of the animals in today’s first reading. Although they were not the suitable helpmate for him, their value was not diminished. Instead, it can be claimed that, by giving names to the animals, the man made a God-intended intimate relationship with them. What is this relationship specifically? It can be said to be fellowship, in that the man and the animals shared things in common: by God, they were rooted from the same soil, given the same breath of life and settled together in the Garden of Eden which was their dwelling place.
In today’s ecological crisis, we are called to restore this fellowship by coexisting with other creatures in a harmonious and sustainable way, as God intends. Regrettably, the human race looks upon themselves as the ultimate ruler of this planet at the expense of the habitats and lives of other living species. The price paid consists of natural disasters such as zoonotic diseases and bushfires. We cannot exclusively possess this Earth, because, without other living species, we too would not survive on this planet.
In today’s gospel reading concerning marriage, Jesus says, “What God has united, man must not divide.” This teaching of a marriage bond can be extended to a relationship between humans and other creatures. It can be read: because God has united humans and other creatures in fellowship, humans must not break this bond. The current ecological crisis is a sign showing that, going against God’s will, we are breaking our bond with the natural world.
Concluding the Season of Creation this year, let us pray that we humans may be aware of this sign and be committed to restoring a right relationship between us and other creatures who were created by God to enjoy their lives in our common home – Earth – with us.
– Friar Stephen Dahan Lee, OFM Conv.
St. Maximilian M. Kolbe Province of South Korea