"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

“Preach the gospel to every creature"

t Jerome, known for his translation of the Bible into Latin, emphasized a pure and open-hearted approach to Scripture. He stressed the importance of approaching the Scriptures without preconceived ideas but with humility and the readiness to be taught by the Holy Spirit. Today I heeded St Jerome's counsel to let Scripture speak for itself and I was drawn to the first verse that says “Preach the gospel to every creature.”

I caught myself first in disbelief. What? There must be a mistake in the English translation: “Preach the gospel to every creature.” I have looked up the original Greek version and it clearly says “CREATURE." I wonder now how I could’ve missed it that a very deep meaning has been staring at me from the simple term "creature." It unlocks a world of meaning to the gospel. I know it is not only me who is in disbelief now because many have not talked about this.

800 years ago, in the year 1220, there was one famous incident of St Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds. According to the story, while traveling with some companions, St Francis noticed a large number of birds gathered in trees along the road. He was moved by their beauty and began to preach to them, telling them to give praise or to be thankful to God for their colorful feathers and for the air they flew through. The birds reportedly listened attentively and did not fly away until he gave them his blessing. In the "Canticle of the Sun" (also known as the "Canticle of the Creatures"), St Francis praises God through elements of nature which he personifies as his siblings. For example, Brother Sun, which is a likeness of God; Sisters Moon and Stars in the sky, Brother Wind or air, through which God sustains His creatures, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and finally Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us.

Preaching the gospel is not a monopoly of humans and neither does it pertain only to the whole body of the Catholic Church. No. “Preach the gospel to every creature" includes the cosmos and with me whenever I go for walks, outside the Church building. Preaching is not a one-way thing. Preaching the gospel happens in communion with God in creation, i.e., among the trees and animals and insects.

Every time I celebrate the mass and offer the gifts I always acknowledge Sister Mother Earth. We turn grain into bread and grapes into wine. Thanks to her. Not to mention her trees that we make into tables, the list goes on. Not so many people in Christian circles tell us that we should preach to creation. But listen to every creature they are preaching to us. What is their language, it is the language of the heart. The water or the air can preach to us about true strength. I remember the lyrics of the song "Buildings and Bridges" by Ani DiFranco, I quote, “Buildings and bridges are no match for the air my friend. What doesn’t bend, breaks.” This song appears on her 1994 album "Out of Range," and like much of her work, it reflects themes of resilience and change. Where did she learn that? From creation.

But let me finish with a word of great caution. Do not get me wrong. We do not worship nature or creation and not to mention our creative human efforts. These are not God. None of the created world is eternal. That belongs to the Creator only. Let us not not fall into the illusion that our human labors could fulfill our deepest desires. Which only God can do. We can only offer all of creation, the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands to God who alone is eternal and constant. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ