Called to be open to the caress of God Reflecting on Laudato Si’
The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, [God’s] boundless affection for us.
Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. LS 84
We all have experiences of being ‘touched’ by nature. The intense colour of sunsets, the haze of distant mountains, the sounds of the waves, and the beauty of natural bush and colourful flowers all ‘move’ us. They take us beyond ourselves and through these experiences we feel connected to something more.
Over the years, I have to confess, I had lost some of my openness to being ‘moved’ by experiences like these. Like many, I lost the simple delight and wonder of a young child. I grew up shaped by a very practical sense of what was useful and what was not. I studied science and learnt about the physical properties of nature and the biological characteristics of life. God’s creation was taken apart to understand how it worked and then reassembled in ways that were for the benefit of us humans.
Yet for some time I have known something was missing. I did look at sunsets or notice the wind in the trees but very quickly my mind would focus again on the practical things and my self-created busy agenda.
As a way of being deliberate about relearning simple delight and wonder, I am trying to stop more often and be in places where I might be ‘touched’ by something more than myself. I try to stop, to listen, to smell and to see what is around me. My personal favourite is an evening walk in the edges of the waves but I have chosen places to live that makes this an uncommon experience.
Pope Francis speaks of all of creation ‘as it were’ being a caress of God. He calls us to see that all that is comes from God and communicates something of God to us. While we name Jesus as the fullness of God’s incarnation, we are at the same time aware that God has been active in and through all creation since the beginning.
We are limited human beings and always experience God mediated through sign, sacrament and created world. To be conscious of this helps us see the gift God gives in creation. If we are open, we are able to experience the caress of God in and through all that God has created.
We humans are also part of the created world. We experience something of blessing, something of God, in the care and compassion others show us. Pope Francis speaks especially of Jesus incarnate in those who are poor, treated unjustly and pushed to the margins. If we are open, we can also experience God when we risk genuine friendships with those who are most pushed to the margins.
As adults, we do not often experience caress. In fact, we tend to limit caress to intimate moments. To be open to the caress of God, means then that we are called to be open to an intimate experience of God, one that deeply touches us and moves us to a response.
My sense is that an authentic experience of God is an experience that changes us. An experience of the caress of God calls for a response. We are invited to respond in ways that connect us to God and to what God has created. Through these connections we can learn how to better love, care for and protect all that mediates God’s caress.
It is in our very nature to be open to God’s loving caress. Yet we need to learn and relearn how best to do this. By stopping and reflecting on the beauty we see in the movement of the waves, the sway of the tree, the colour of bush flowers, the intensity of the sunset or the care of others we are learning to be ‘touched’ by God’s caress and shaped to be more loving, more connected and more whole.