The Yearning of the Deer

The destiny of the created world is linked to our destiny, St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, which we read today. “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.” Creation wont be destroyed but made new. (Romans 8)

St. Paul’s message is also the message of the Apostles’ Creed: “I look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.” We look forward in hope, not in fear, to sharing in the glory of the resurrection of Jesus. We look forward to a world to come, in which the creation we know now shares in the glory we know then.

The deer approaching the Cross in the great mural in the church of St. John Lateran in Rome (above) are not just representatives of humanity thirsting for God. “Like the deer that longs for running streams, so my soul thirsts for you, my God.” (Psalm 4) The Spirit calls living creatures and inanimate creation to share in the promise made to us. Creation “groans” and shares in “the sufferings of the present time”, as it waits for the promise to be fulfilled.

The Jewish scriptures, especially the psalms, recognize God’s promise to creation and often invite it to join us in praising our Creator:  

“Cry out with joy, all the earth. 

Serve the Lord with gladness. 

Come before him singing for joy.”  (Psalm 100)

In his Letter to the Romans Paul does not just proclaim a basic credal faith, he applies it to a challenging question Jewish-Christians and Roman converts were trying to resolve: what is the place of Jewish law and tradition in Christianity. If Paul was writing to Americans, Europeans, Asians today, wouldn’t he expand on the place of creation, so crucial to our world today?  That’s what you do with basic faith; you let it light the darkness of your time.

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