Article 33 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Catechesis on Creation
By Father John G. Hillier
Some of you may recall a fun-loving daily radio program called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Featuring interviews between the host, Art Linkletter, and children-guests, the host would ask a question to a child (around the age of 4 to 9) who would usually respond in a uniquely honest and cute manner.
I once heard a child in our parish religious formation session make a remark reminiscent of “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” In a group discussion on the topic of God’s creation, one little girl observed: “How bored God must have been all alone before He created the Universe, the world and all of us people!” Amazingly, this remark echoed a similar gnomic comment made by 4th century theologian St. Augustine in his famous Confessions: “What was God doing before he made heaven and earth,” a theme continued in his book, “City of God.”
As for the child, aside from the regrettable assumption that God could ever be “bored,” I couldn’t help but think on that winter day in our Religious Formation class that, even at a young age, this child was already thinking about the activity of God before he set out to create things.
This section of the Catechism begins by quoting the first words of Sacred Scripture in Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Apostles’ Creed later takes up this theme invoking belief in “God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” The Nicene Creed continues with the words: “of all that is, seen and unseen” (ccc 279).
Read the Bible account of creation for yourself and sense the majesty of it all! “In the beginning God created heavens and the earth … let there be light. And there was light … Let the waters be gathered in one place … Let the dry land appear … Let the earth bring forth vegetation … the earth brought forth vegetation . . . an abundance of living creatures … God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply … God saw that it was good … Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness” (see Genesis 1:1-28).
When we consider God’s creation, it may not always occur to us that “Creation is the foundation of all God’s saving plans; the beginning of the history of salvation that culminates in Christ” (ccc 280). In fact, Christ is the reason God created the heavens and the earth “in the beginning.” Why? Because “the glory of the new creation in Christ” was God’s desire from the beginning (ccc 280). This is the reason the Church’s Easter Vigil Liturgy, on the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, uses the creation accounts from Sacred Scripture.
The reason that creation holds such a prominent place, concerning “the very foundations of human and Christian life” (ccc 282), is due to the fact that God, our Creator, is the cause of all created things. It is only when we contemplate the Creator in relationship to his creation that we can consider the fundamental human questions:
- “Where do we come from?”
- “Where are we going?”
- “What is our origin?”
- “What is our end?”
- “Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?” (ccc 282)
A few paragraphs later (ccc 284), other questions are raised:
- “… if the world does come from God’s wisdom and goodness, why is there evil?”
- “Where does it come from?”
- “Who is responsible for it?”
- “Is there any liberation from it?”
The answer to these questions had been proposed by philosophers and others including “ancient religions and cultures [that had] produced many myths concerning [the] origins” of things (ccc 285). The final paragraph in this section of the Catechism (ccc 289), however, tells us that when the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis are “read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the ‘beginning’: creation, fall, and promise of salvation.”
In other words, we know that “God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation” (ccc 287). The answer to all these questions is ultimately answered in the mystery of Christ. The Catechism explains: “Creation is the foundation of all God’s saving plans … that culminates in Christ” (ccc 280).
This is affirmed in Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, “On Care for Our Common Home.” The pope tells us that “… the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator” (paragraph 83). He cites St. Basil, who called God “goodness without measure,” and encourages us to see creation as more than a “system which can be studied, understood and controlled,” but rather “a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all” which came about “not from chaos or change” but from love (paragraphs 77, 76). The result? “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise” (paragraph 12).
Echoing the Catechism that speaks of God creating the universe ‘in a state of journeying toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained” (ccc 302), Pope Francis’ encyclical teaches that we live in an “interdependent” world (paragraph 164) wherein “God wills the interdependence of creatures,” and since “no creature is self-sufficient,” creatures exist “in the service of each other” (paragraph 86). Interdependence characterizes human society as well and all living things, even as human beings “have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth” (Gn 1:26).
Father John G. Hillier, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Chancellor to the Bishop and the bishop’s liaison to persons with disabilities.