Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which we read for almost four weeks at Mass, is considered his most important letter, but it can be hard to follow. Paul writes to a Jewish-Christian community in Rome to establish his credentials as an apostle of Christ and to enlist their help in a journey he wants to make to Spain. He knows also that this community of Jewish and Roman converts is trying to reconcile Jewish law and tradition with faith in Christ, so his letter takes on that question at length.
It’s helpful to remember the letter is based on Paul’s basic teaching, the common creed of the church he shares with the other apostles. For example, today’s reading (Romans 8: 12-17) is a beautiful reflection on the mission of the Holy Spirit, who leads us to become children of God. The Spirit leads us to call God, the creator of heaven and earth, “Abba, Father!” We are God’s adopted children. We are “joint heirs with Christ” called to share in his glory, “if only we suffer with him.”
Tomorrow’s reading continues this teaching as it applies to creation. “Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” It “groans in labor pains” until that day comes when there will be a “new heaven and a new earth.” Just as we are awaiting the fruit of our adoption, creation waits to share in our adoption in “the redemption of our bodies.”
All creation groans in labor pains, shares a common suffering, is waiting for the Spirit to fulfill his promise. Creation has a share in the resurrection of Christ.
This teaching about creation you won’t get from science. We have it from faith. It’s an important teaching for us today. It’s important, too, to recognize this is not just Paul’s personal teaching. He’s preaching from the basic teaching of the church.
Paul also speaks about creation as he begins his Letter to the Romans. “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.” Creation reveals God to us, yet human beings turn from the God of creation, creating gods of their own, St. Paul says.
Paul’s words are a timely commentary on our own response to climate change today as we continue to put our national and personal interests, our oil fields and coal mines and life-styles above the well being of our earth. His teaching on creation is a basic teaching of our faith. That teaching needs to be heard.