Reading Pope Francis’ Laudato Si in the Indian context

Michael Amaladoss, S. J.

Image: S Jayaraj

Ecology is a theme that is very much talked about today. We are living in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. People have started saying that it is nature which is taking revenge for the exploitative manner in which we are using it, polluting the goods of nature like the air, the water, the forests, etc. in the process.

The way we treat nature depends on the way we look at it. We can consider it as an object which we are free to use, abuse and even destroy. We can also see it as something alive that lives and grows, which we can consume, but which we also have to cultivate and grow. Its growth depends, not only on us, but on the sun and its heat, the atmosphere and its air, the rain and the water that it brings, the ocean, the clouds and the winds. The world around us is not dead matter, but a living being. It is God’s loving creation and gift to us. We have to nurse and protect it.

We believe that God takes on a human body in Jesus, who died but rose again. All of us humans too are destined to rise again. We do not know what a resurrected body is. But it is a body. The universe is not simply meant for the humans. “All creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.” (Laudato Si no. 83) The humans too have a role in attaining this objective.

The universe is not simply the ‘field’ in which the humans work out their salvation. It is not either an object meant to be used by the humans for their own needs and purposes. “Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.” (83) The humans, therefore, are not merely responsible for their own salvation or fullness. They are also responsible for the universe so that it may reach its goal. The humans have to do this, not by doing violence to the processes of nature, but acting in conformity with them. Francis, however, insists that “nature as a whole not only manifests God but is also a locus of his presence. The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into relationship with him.” (88)

The Hindus see the rivers as goddesses and mountains as the abodes of the gods. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna gives Arjuna a vision of his glorious body in which Arjuna sees the whole universe. (Gita 11, 12–13) A Hindu housewife is supposed celebrate a five-fold sacrifice (pancayagna) by feeding (symbolically) the gods, the ancestors, the animals and some guests before serving the family.

Pope Francis quotes a Muslim mystic, Ali al-Khawas: “Prejudice should not have us criticize those who seek ecstasy in music or poetry. There is a subtle mystery in each of the movements and sounds of this world. The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows , the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs or the sick, the groans of the afflicted…” (Note 159) All creation can lead us to God, who will help us to live in harmony with all creation!

The goal of an ecological spirituality will then be to “Find God in all things and all things in God,” as St. Ignatius of Loyola used to say. We can achieve this vision also in dialoguing with all believers.

About the Author

Michael Amaladoss, S. J. is a South Indian theologian with international experience and the founder of the Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions. He is the author of 35 books and about 500 articles in theology. He also has a degree in South Indian Music and has composed music for more than 100 hymns.



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