Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost—10 July AD 2011

“Creation itself also will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.”[1]


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Dogs Go To Heaven    There was a series of pictures on the Internet a little while ago—of a Catholic and a Presbyterian church, both of which had large signs facing the road.  It was a sort of good fun theological duel between the two denominations.[2]  The first sign in front of Our Lady of Martyrs read “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” to which the Presbyterians answered “Only Humans Go to Heaven—Read the Bible.

    Now, actually, the Catholic Church has generally taught that only humans have immortal souls that will one day enjoy the beatific vision of God in heaven.  Saint Thomas seems to hold that the immortality of the human soul is tied up with the fact that humans have intellect and will, and that these two faculties must exist independently of the physical body which is informed by the soul—their existence is thereby assured, even after the soul is separated from the body.[3]  Apparently, Saint Thomas never owned a cat that kept devising strategies to wake him before dawn, when the creature wanted to be fed, or brushed, or let out onto the patio.  I don’t know much about dogs, but I can testify that the cat mind certainly has intellect and will.  So, perhaps our friends at Our Lady of Martyrs were on to something about dogs.

    The Bible, in fact, says very little about dogs.  The word appears only 18 times, mostly in the Old Testament.  The family dog of Tobias seems to be intelligent, for it is clear that he recognized the cure of the Elder Tobias’ blindness, for “he shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail.”[4]  The Presbyterians to the contrary notwithstanding, there is nothing in the Bible about dogs not going to Heaven.  Cats are not mentioned at all.

    But in this morning’s epistle, Saint Paul is quite clear about the entirety of creation being subject to corruption, but somehow being redeemed by Jesus Christ and the adoption of men as sons of God.  If that seems strange, consider how things were in the very beginning, before the sin of Adam and Eve disrupted God plan of creation:  “God created man to his own image ... male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, ... and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.[5]  God made all of the things of the Earth for the man and the woman—when the man and the woman revolted against God they took all of the things of the Earth with them.

    It is similarly clear from today’s Gospel that our Lord, as God, exercised power over nature.  The Apostles had been fishing (or trying to fish) unsuccessfully all night long.  But our Lord, undaunted, tells them to lower the net, and apparently, commanded the fish to swim into the net!  You and I may be able to get a dog to do certain things, and much more rarely a cat, but commanding the fish is completely beyond human ability.

    If we take Saint Paul literally we recognize that the healing of nature is sometime in our future, for even though Paul wrote after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ into heaven, and sometime after the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, he wrote: “we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption as sons of God, the redemption of our body in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”[6]  That last phrase, “the redemption of our body in Christ Jesus, our Lord” suggests that the healing of creation will come about on the last day—that mankind and nature will be raised up together on the Day of Judgment.

    The Gospels record a number of occasions when the Redeemer of man caused nature to act in harmony with the sons of Adam.  By His power the sick are restored to health, and even the dead are restored to life. Under His influence water turned itself into wine to gladden the hearts of men;  the waves of the stormy sea were calmed and the winds made to die away;  today the fish literally swim into the nets of the Apostles.

    Our own practical experience bears out the same idea. If we make, so to speak, an examination of conscience for mankind, don't we see order and tranquility where God's commandments are observed, and where Christ is honored as King?  And, I am talking about the here and now—not just something that will come about on the last day.  Where people are humble, and deal with each other as Christians? Where they make prudent and reasoned use of the material things around them?  Sometimes this even extends to miraculous proportions—we are told that there was a Jesuit house that survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima, just eight blocks from the epicenter—something the occupants attributed to their daily praying of the Rosary together.[7]

    On the other hand, don't we often see the revenge of nature when God's commandments are broken and His Kingship rejected?  Society cannot run on murder, theft, adultery, and slander. What do we see when it tries?  Don't we see an increase of violence, and don't we fear to leave our homes?  Don't we see ecological disaster?  Don't we see corruption in government?  Don't we see broken homes, child abuse, diseases that threaten our physical existence, and psychological maladies leading to despair and suicide?  Don't we see instability in our economic system, and a general breakdown of society?

    God's grace, you see, is as important for our natural earthly happiness as it is for our eternal salvation!

    Now, I don't know if we could eliminate all natural disaster just by keeping the Commandments—probably we will never be able to get everyone around us to try it and see. But, certainly, we can bring divine order to our own lives. We can live as if there is a tomorrow—not in murder, theft, adultery, and slander—but rather in humility, justice, chastity, honesty, and other such virtues. Not in making ourselves the reason for all existence—but by centering our lives around Christ, making Him our King, and Mary His Mother our Queen.

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