December 28, 2014
Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family
December 28, 2014
Many of you probably heard the story about Pope Francis consoling a young boy whose dog had died. According to the New York Times, the Pope declared that all pets go to heaven. It turns out that this was just an urban legend created by an over eager media, but it still raises a question that I would like to address today: do animals go to heaven?
Author C.S. Lewis observes that pets form a part of the diversity of our families. A family might consist of a mother, father, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and even a dog or a cat. Lewis states: “They are not interchangeable.” Each family member is a unique person. “The mother,” states Lewis, “is not simply a different person from her daughter; she is a different kind of person. Father and grandfather are almost as different as night and day. If you subtract any one member, you will not simply reduce the family in number, you inflict injury on the structure.” Lewis continues, “The family is a unity of unlikes.”
In the fight for equality, we need to remember a deeper truth. C.S. Lewis reminds us “we are not made for equality. We are made for worship.” To modern ears, this sounds rather blunt. “Worship” sounds like idolatry and “obedience” is something we expect of children and dogs. Let me try to explain what I mean.
The root meaning of “worship” is “worthiness”. It means admiring someone who is superior to me-and thanks be to God that such people exist. I am glad that there are guys with greater athletic ability then me. If there were not, the Patriots would be in trouble! When we watch a Pats game, we experience something akin to worship. Cheering on our team and wearing their insignia allows us to be the “12
th man”, to be lifted up and to lose ourselves for a moment.
We have natural desire to admire. There is one person we can always look up to without hesitation. We celebrated his birth just a few days ago.
We are also made for obedience. Not a blind, unthinking obedience. That is not what God wants. Rather, God calls us to work together. This obedience is the type of obedience God wants. Part of being obedient means obeying those who have legitimate authority over us. This does not mean that one who has authority over us has supreme authority-this belongs to God! Abraham and Sarah learned-in a rather blunt way- that their son Isaac did not belong to them, but to God. Still, God wanted Isaac to honor his parents; just as he wants all children to do. God wants a child to honor his mother and father by letting them know what he will be doing, where he will be, and with whom he will be out. Communication is indeed at the heart of obedience.
We are made for worship and obedience. These two things lead to forming families. We need families with a mom, dad, and children. We need extended families, and we need our parish family. We should all want to be a part of the family that will endure-the Communion of Saints.
I return to my original question: will our pets be in heaven? The Church says nothing about this. The Bible is also silent. I would, however, be delighted to see my beloved childhood dog Roxie because she represented adoration and obedience-neither of which I deserved!
You and I are part of a family. Being part of a family means worship and obedience-that is, a healthy admiration for God and willingness to work together to serve Him. However, doing so without hesitation is hard because we are human and sinful, but it is my prayer that one day we will be in that family where we will worship and pray without hesitation in the great family of God!