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Food, Gift and Behavior

Psalm 136 - The Great Hallel

Pope Benedict XVI continues to express abundant thoughts and teachings concerning Creation and the environment. Last week the Pope gave a catechesis on psalm 136, the Great Hallel  traditionally sung by the Jews on the night of the Passover. While it is clear that the central and unifying concept of the psalm is the enduring love of God, Creation ” frames this psalm at its beginning and its end “, and as such it is the place in which God chooses to reveal himself. The passages in which the Pope alludes to the spiritual dimension of creation are numerous:

  • The created world is not merely a set onto which God’s saving action enters; it is rather the very beginning of that marvelous action. With creation, the Lord reveals Himself in all His goodness and beauty; He involves Himself with life, revealing the good will from which every other saving action flows. 
  • laying particular stress upon the great lights: the sun, the moon, the stars — those magnificent creatures that govern the day and the night. The creation of the human being is not spoken of here, but he is always present; the sun and the moon are for him — for man — they are to mark time for man, putting him in relation with the Creator especially through the indication of liturgical times.
  • At this point the question arises: How can we make this psalm our own, how can we make this psalm a part of our own prayer? What frames this psalm at its beginning and its end is important: and this is Creation. Let us return to this point: Creation as God’s great gift from which we live, in which He reveals Himself in his goodness and greatness. Therefore, to regard creation as a gift of God is of interest to us all. 

The Psalm concludes with creation and the thanksgiving and praise to God, for the  Lord “gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever”. And on this point, that of food, the Pope had plenty to say at the World Food Day Speech, marked this year by the dramatic famine in Africa. The Pope always delivers a specific address for this occasion, seen here.  On this occasion he stressed the need for long-term strategies, interior attitudes and behavior change and solidarity.

  • The painful images of numerous victims of famine in the Horn of Africa remain engraved before our eyes and every day a new chapter is added to what is one of the most serious humanitarian catastrophes of recent decades. Surely in the face of the death of entire communities caused by famine and the forced abandonment of the native lands, immediate aid is essential, but it is also necessary to intervene in the medium- and long-term so that international activity is not limited to responding only to emergencies. 
  • liberation from the yoke of hunger is the first concrete manifestation of the right to life, which — despite its having been solemnly proclaimed — is often very far from being fulfilled effectively. 
  • In short, it is about assuming an interior attitude of responsibility, capable of inspiring a different style of life, with necessary sobriety in conduct and consumption, to thus favor the good of society. And that this is true also for future generations, for their sustainability, protection of the goods of creation, distribution of resources and, above all, the concrete commitment to the development of whole peoples and nations.  

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