From Section V: A Year of Mercy
In his letter, Bishop Kettler asks people of the diocese to consider two areas of need he sees particularly pressing. Yesterday, he discussed caring for our neighbors.
A second area of concern moves beyond the traditional works of mercy to consider how we might show mercy to the planet. In his encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis reminds us that human life, according to Scripture, “is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth itself” . We have considered the place of mercy in our relation with God and our neighbor. It is important that we at least note the call to mercy in our relation to the world.
A central theme of Laudato Si’ is that the world has an intrinsic dignity as God’s creation that must be respected. (10) As we have seen, God’s mercy is at work in the very act of creation. We are called to participate in and make present God’s mercy to creation as well as in God’s mercy to our fellow human beings. This is part of what it means to be a sacrament of mercy. Historically, we have tended to think of our relation to the world less in terms of respecting its dignity and more in terms of the dominion that we were granted in Genesis 1:28. Not only that but we think of and, more importantly, exercise this dominion more in the manner of the kingdoms of the world than the Reign of God. We all too often have acted as if our dominion means we can do whatever we want to the planet; that it exists for our pleasure — and our immediate, physical pleasure at that. Pope Francis observes, citing Saint John Paul II, that “This [understanding of] dominion over the earth…seems to have no room for mercy.” (11)
The Holy Father calls us to rethink the character of our dominion and change the way we exercise it. The dominion we are given is nothing less than a generous participation in God’s dominion. It is part of our being made in the image of God and entrusted with the gift of the earth as our home. The model for our dominion is thus the dominion of God which is a dominion — a reign — of mercy. It is a reign that consistently calls us to use the resources entrusted to us for the good of all, not just for ourselves.