Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From Earthquakes to Aquinas

It's hard to believe that we had an earthquake and a hurricane in one week here on the East Coast! Life throws many unexpected things our way, so it is important to be prepared for what we can and to remain calm when things happen. 

During the recent earthquake, my cat disappeared under a bed. It took a lot of coaxing and time to get him to come back out.

 According to FEMA guidelines, Gandalf did exactly the right thing: 

"Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench or against an inside wall, and hold on. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building."

While I and many other people were trying to figure out what was going on, my cat knew exactly what to do instinctually. 

I've been reading Aquinas for Armchair Theologians by Timothy M. Renick with a young adults group. One of the interesting things that we've discussed is Aquinas' idea that all created things (whether humans, cats, trees, or rocks) have the same basic end or goal - to serve God and God's plan for the world. Animals, plants, and inanimate objects serve God naturally by doing the things that they were created to do. Human beings have a choice in whether or not we fulfill our created end to seek and serve God. (This is an very basic explanation of Aquinas' idea, but it will do.)

It's nice to think of my cat as serving God naturally just by being a cat, a part of creation. Aquinas' concept includes all of creation as being important in fulfilling God's plan for the world, even rocks and trees (which we don't often think of as serving God). Human beings have a unique role due to our capacity for rational thought and our free will. In my opinion, this is both a blessing and a difficulty. It is a blessing because we have the capacity to serve God and one another in creative ways that are beyond the capability of any other being on this planet. It is a difficulty because what we say and do has consequences for other people and even the world - and these are often negative and contrary to God's will for us.