Friday, February 9, 2007

The Use of Creatures

1. God has created all things for Himself, as He is the most perfect being and the final end of all things. He has made man supreme in the world, however, and has made all other creatures subject to him (Cf. Gen. 1:28). This God-given supremacy over the universe continues even after the fall of Adam. It can no longer be exercised without trouble and suffering as it was in the state of innocence, however. Now it must be acquired by hard manual labour, and by keen intellectual resarch and study.

After man's disobedience to God, even the relationship which existed between him and created things was disturbed. But these things are still a ladder which leads to God if they are properly used. They are a distant reflection of His beauty and omnipotence. The heavens, says the Psalmist, declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Ps. 18:2)

Let us listen to the voice of creation, for it speaks to us of God. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wept when she beheld the fragile beauty of a flower, and said "How great is God's love for us!" St. Francis of Assisi saw the image of the common Creator everywhere around him and called all these things including fire and water, his brothers and sisters. He even conversed with them in a simple way. He looked upon death itself as the good sister who was to free him from the slavery of the body and unite him to God.

2. The Saints understood clearly what our attitude to creatures should be. Created things should be a reflection of eternal beauty which entices us to love God, the source and origin of all things. They should form a ladder which makes it easy for us to ascend towards God and to achieve unity with him. But is this what creatures really mean to us? Or do they, more often than not, lead us away from God? Perhaps we are held up too frequently by our love for creatures and tend to forget God. The passing loveliness of this earth causes us to forget the everlasting beauty for which we are destined. Worse still, the use of creatures may divert us from God altogether and cause us to disobey His law. Let us examine ourselves thoroughly on this point. Let us see if it is necessary to alter the direction of our thoughts and desires and to purify our hearts in such a way that we shall think, love and act for God alone.

3. St. Ignatius of Loyola investigates this subject in his Spiritual Exercises. He writes that we ought to use things in so far as they bring us nearer to our final end. We ought to avoid things completely, he continues, in so far as they separate or distract us from this end. The function of creatures in our regard is to lead us nearer to God, to remind us of God, and to make us love God. But if they are a source of scandal to us, we must avoid them. The Gospel is very strict on this matter when it says: If thy hand or foot is an occasion of sin to thee, cut if off and cast it from thee (Mt. 5:29-30). This means that we must be ready to give up anything rather than endanger our souls and risk the loss of divine grace.