I’ve been enjoying sitting on the back deck in the evenings after dinner. As I sit with the sun to my back, my view is dominated by a number of large beautiful trees. Majestic. Awe-inspiring. They are so alive with God. I look at them and feel surrounded by God’s love and peace.
I glanced down at the base of the trees the other night and the thought started to form in my mind, “These trees are mine.” Before the thought was even completed I was bowled over by the absurdity of the such a notion. The trees are no more “mine” than the sun or the sky. They are not my possession.
It is true that in a legal sense I “own” the land on which the trees are growing and so I suppose I legally “own” the trees. But as I sat and thought about even that statement, I appreciated why the American Indians found the idea of ownership of land so incomprehensible. The land, the earth are God’s gift to all of us. None of it is mine to possess for myself.
In the words of Gaudium et Spes, “God destined the earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all.” The same document tells us that we “should regard the external things that [we] legitimately possess not only as [our] own but also as common in the sense that they should be able to benefit not only [ourselves] but also others.”
The trees are not mine, no matter what we do legally to carve up God’s land among ourselves. But I do like looking at them. And I am deeply grateful they are there.
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