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IN SEARCH FOR COMFORT AND MONEY, DID HUMANKIND HEAD FOR PATH OUT OF ACCORD WITH WHAT GOD INTENDED?
[adapted from Tower of Light]
During his Good Friday message in 2006, Pope Benedict referred to attacks on traditional family life as "a kind of Fourth Station, of anti-Genesis, a counter-plan, a diabolical pride" which sought to "modify the very grammar of life as planned and willed by God."
The first sign of charity, he had said earlier, must be "sought in creation… the heavens, the earth, the waters, the sun, the moon, and the stars." There was "a Divine message secretly inscribed in Creation," a sign, said the Pope, of "the loving faithfulness of God Who gives His creatures being and life, water and food, light and time." It was from such created works, he said, that "one ascends to the greatness of God, to His loving mercy." Light and love were the same, he noted. They were "the primordial creative power that moves the universe."
When we ruined it, when we polluted, when we altered it beyond recognition – not just used something, but ruined it – we were violating love (and “against the accordance of the Will of God,” to quote the 1990 prophecy). “Satan is actively trying to destroy this planet, the environment, and even nature,” said the Virgin of Medjugorje. “Only through prayer and fasting can he be stopped.” The 2003 addendum prophecy had mentioned that God would move before the damage was "beyond recovery." “Today, I call you to become my witnesses by living the faith of your fathers,” she said. “Little children, you seek signs and messages and do not see that, with every morning sunrise, God calls you to convert and to return to the way of truth and salvation. Also I call you to give thanks to God in your heart for all the graces which He gives you, also through the signs and colors that are in nature.”
Have there been signs? Perhaps. There has been the sun and brightening comets and the northern lights. "On Tuesday December 13, 2005, at around 5:30 p.m., I looked out the window which I don't usually do at this time of day and saw the most beautiful star,” a woman from The Bronx wrote me. "The sky was empty of anything but this one beautiful star. I have never seen a star like this before, except on Christmas cards when showing the nativity scene, with the star shining brightly above it. It was in the shape of the Cross and had lines of blue surrounding it, and it gave me the most amazing feeling. I called my son and he too was amazed by its beauty. The next evening I looked up and again it was there like the night before, all bright and beautiful. That was the last time I saw the star. This was not the first time I have seen something in the sky, however: My mother called to me to come outside last summer and see, and when I looked up (it was around 8:30 p.m.), the sun was bright red and high in the sky, instead of setting. My mother is ninety years old and said she had never seen anything like this! We have also seen clouds in the shape of the Cross, and in the shape of an angel holding a child, when we were discussing abortion. I think these are special times we are in."
Nature spoke. It promised. It warned.
God had blessed His Creation, willed it to multiply, and as the image of God on earth, man was supposed to act like the Creator – with concern for all living things. Men and animals lived in harmony before the fall and if they were at odds now it was a sign of the serpent. Yes, animals had to be subdued; yes, there were venomous snakes. But the issue was kindness: before anything was done to nature there had to be prayer. In this way would God work through us. While there were few direct references to pollution in the Bible (since it was not much of an issue back then), throughout the Good Book were implicit calls to live peaceably with what God had created. Ecclesiastes said that all creatures “have the same breath” (3:19).
"A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast," said Proverbs (12:10). And John Paul II had repeated it when he proclaimed that "animals possess the spark of life and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.” Benedict had repeated the same when in 2002 as Cardinal Ratzinger he had said it is not our right to make "industrial use" of animals. It was wrong, he said, to degrade them as a "commodity," which the future Pope said was "to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible." We were given responsibility over creation. Did that give us the right to destroy it? Was water, which is often the very symbol of God’s power, meant to be sullied? When it was, there was a response. Harvests were signs of God’s pleasure (or displeasure). So were famines, epidemics, and wars. Especially, we had to love each other. To believe a person in a foreign country and particularly a starving child in Africa was worth less than a Westerner was a grave sin and one that was common.
The very beauty of God was in nature and therefore it was not to be worshipped but it was surely to be preserved; surely, we were not to trample on His handiwork – which was the reflection of His beauty. In the fifth chapter of Job was a prophecy that one day man would be at peace with nature – implying that such was to be a goal and indeed it was where the prophecies, especially the second, indicated.
In the book of Jeremiah (9:9-11), the Lord warned against destroying nature. The punishment for doing so, it said, was that the land would be "laid waste." In Scripture, trees were accorded a special respect – with actual rules on planting and harvesting them. "You may eat of them, but you shall not cut them down," it said (in Deuteronomy, 20:19-20) – referring of course to fruit trees, preserving them for food, and certainly not telling us that we can never cut down a tree, but implying that such must be done with circumspection. It was a far cry from what we were creating. There was even a prohibition against hybrids. "You shall not let our cattle breed with a different kind," said Leviticus (19:9-10). "You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall there come upon you a garment of cloth made of two kinds of stuff."
God, it had said in Genesis, had created all plants and animals "according to their kinds."
We were in violation of that. It already had reached one extreme and was about to reach another -- you only had to look at our crops. We were in charge now, we were pumping our plants like an assembly line, we were causing them to have different colors, we were boosting them with fertilizer, we were jacking up the soil and mixing all kinds of hybrids to come up with more exotic fruit and now even inserting animal genes into them! This gets to the part that was enormously dangerous. Oh, the serpent; now the apple he offered was perfectly shaped and artificially colored and bio-engineered.
And so now we got to the crux of it. We got back to the notion of witchery (the 1990 prophecy had referred, mysteriously, to a world that allowed "chemical witchcraft"). Extraordinary as it sounded, chemicals did what the occult and alchemists tried to do, sometimes on purpose, sometimes as a coincidence, but often in parallel. Chemicals caused mutations like alchemists wanted to transmutate and they rearranged genes like geneticists now wanted to affect genes and they caused a “curse” upon those who were less fortunate. Synthetics gave man control and this too was the aim of witchcraft: control over nature, control over others. The vats used in the production of toxics might as well have been called caldrons. They created power for those who dabbled with them (the magic of high earnings) but like witchcraft – after short-term benefits – they came back to cause a negative effect. They boomeranged. As paganism and forms of the occult used the sacrifice of innocents, so did chemicals target the young.
This was very radical thinking and was submitted only as an attempt to define what was meant by the simple powerful term “chemical witchcraft.” There was another way of viewing it: that by witchery it meant that which hurt others for the benefit of whoever cast the spell (or made the compound). It did not include compounds that were harmless, that were an absolute necessity, that were readily degradable, that did not in any way harm the created, the Creation. That left open the manufacture of more inventive products that were in harmony with nature, if less profitable. They could use solar power. They could make plastic out of corn and starch. Such would take time. Such would take invention. Such would take inspiration. But such was also the aim of prayer.
With prayer, we could construe of lifestyle that was both "convenient" and in accord with the Lord. How did He live? Why would He not feel at home now? In Jesus' time, the ox was relied upon to plough and weather determined if crops would flourish and beasts lived in the courtyards, often in part of a house itself. They drew their water from wells. They lived in homes that were not nearly as cocooned, as divorced from the elements.
There was constant interaction with nature and that meant a constant communion with God. Around each house was land they farmed.
And next to that, wilderness -- in throwing distance, in a way that engendered respect.
It wasn’t as if no trees were cut. Of course trees were felled. They were felled as families grew and remained on an estate. They were cut for fuel. But fumes released from wood could be integrated through the ecosystem. Such was a key: when we wanted to know if our path was wrong (if the way we lived was out of “conformance”), we had only to know that anything using a resource that was not renewable or imparted into nature an alien molecule, a substance that could not be readily dismantled and certainly one that caused changes in genetic structure, was wrong. It was immoral to concoct anything that could not melt back, that would not dismantle under action of the sun, water, wind, or organisms. Yes, it was true: there were natural mutagens. There were substances in nature that could cause cancer. Peanuts could!
But these did not affect humans like synthetic ones. The body could get along. The body would know what else to ingest in neutralizing such an effect, if the body was in congruence with what God created. Such was almost surely true when Jesus walked the earth. There was far more harmony with what God had made. There was no way of mass deforestation. Figs, vines, and olives were grown on the hills around the homes, and most households maintained flocks of sheep, which were able to roam. Animals were slaughtered for meat, yes; they were sacrificed, at least before the New Covenant; there was the manufacture of hides. But it was done in the way of individual need and not a product that was mass produced -- which when coupled with greed caused decimation. Many of the problems with the course of humanity could be traced to the technique of mass production, which was another item that galloped onto the scene in the 1900s and was most widely introduced by Henry Ford with manufacture of yes automobiles. It was this idea of making everything in robotic fashion that maximized profits at the same time that there were the glimmerings of dehumanization.
There was far less craftsmanship. There was less concern for the result. This manner of production was soon to pervade every aspect of the economy and then enter agriculture where it led to all chemicals. As with most things that tended to evil, there was a sin at the root and in this case it was selfishness. Where the Church taught that goods should be sold for no more than cost of material plus reasonable compensation for time spent (in manufacture), the modern way – the way that the prophecy took direct aim at, and against which the Vatican also had long railed – was to create a product with minimal effort and maximum profit. Often, that meant the “magic” of synthetics and took us right back to the ideals of alchemy. Electricity was the magic that alchemy had been unable to conjure. Now it was the force not only behind chemicals but cloning. That process involved taking the nucleus of one cell, planting it in another, and charging it with an electrical current.
"Artificial" became a sacred term. This was idolatry of the mind. And it was all around. In all likelihood, Jesus was raised in a regular peasant hillside home, watching His mother and her life of prayer and toil: drawing water, cooking, and repairing clothes – using everything until it was worn out, until it was unusable, and then returning it to the environment, where it melted back into the landscape. They had subsisted on fruit, fish (caught with nets), and bread. If she had worn shoes, the Virgin probably donned sandals of leather and wood to go along with a chemise and a robe or a gown. Was it utopia? It was hardly utopia. The wilderness held beasts that could kill and encroached on settlements. There were plagues of insects.
There were crop failures. It was not Heaven. But there was an acknowledgement that fertility was a gift and that every crop was a blessing. This was the world into which Jesus was born – not a world in which fruits and vegetables have been stripped of proteins and calcium and vitamin C and iron compared with the produce not only in ancient times – when manure was the fertilizer – but with crops from just the past several decades. The higher the yield, the lower the nutrients; the less elbow grease, the higher the chance of cancer. It was the unwillingness to till by hand, to rotate crops, and to yank out weeds – instead, dousing them with chemicals – that led to the eruption of something that seemed counterintuitive: cancer clusters in rural areas.
This was why the Vatican constantly harped on a theme that may have come as a surprise: the need to return back to the small family farm. Pope Benedict called on the nations of the world – the ever mechanized, ever expanding countries – to recognize "the essential role of the rural family as a guardian of values and a natural agent of solidarity between generations." Such was also what would follow the breakdown of societies. It was the peasant attitude. When each family or almost each family had a farm, there was much more care for the soil, much more attention to each plant, and much more independence. A failure of a nation or an economic crash would not cause a household to starve. Where there was land and where it had been preserved, where it had been properly tilled, where love and prayer were soaked in the earth along with rain, there was a goodness to the bounty that was not quite Eden-like but closer than we now were to the Garden.
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