An Ascension Press Article
By: Allison Ramirez
“And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kind: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so … and God saw that it was good.’” Genesis 1:24
During this time of isolation from other human beings, we are reminded even more of the furry (or not so furry) animals God has placed in the world to abide and dwell with us. Be it the friendly wag of a dog’s tail, the soft purr of a cat, the sound of a hamster running the wheel, a bunny nibbling a carrot, or the display of colorful fish fins, animals can be a source of companionship, joy, and a reminder of God’s creative energy and imagination.
When we are stuck at home, we have our pets to provide laughter, enthusiasm, and comfort, whether we live alone or with family. Pets can cheer us up, snuggle close, entertain and fulfill within us a sense that we are not alone; furthermore, pets are creatures who depend on us for their wellbeing; we have a purpose and responsibility to these creatures under our care, and during this time when so much feels out of our control, tending to pets who need us can be a great source of purpose.
A Lens into God’s Creativity
“Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence, they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.” CCC 2416
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Whether or not we have a pet of our own, animals provide a lens into the heart of God, and his ability both to bring into life and hold in existence the multitude of plants, animals, trees, and living creatures that are able to coexist together and bring diversity, beauty, and uniqueness to the world around us.
In the book of Job, chapter 12, we are told:
“Ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky and they will teach you, or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
In a world where a virus riddles the delicate fabric of human existence, the world of nature and of animals remains grounded. We are still able to take a walk outdoors, enjoy the warmth of the sun and the smell of the flowers. We are still able to let the parrot hitch a ride on our shoulder, or ride the horse around the pasture and collect eggs from the chickens. Even if we cannot connect with the world in all the ways we are used to, we can connect with the environment around us and the living creatures that God has placed in our midst.
Participants in God’s Grace
We just recently celebrated Palm Sunday, and on that day we celebrated the scene in John chapter 12 who paints the image for us of “the great crowd that had come for the festival and heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel!’” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’”
Indeed, in the midst of a crowd shouting praises, Jesus chooses to rely on a simple donkey as his means into Jerusalem. He uses an animal to aid in his glory and his mission here on earth. In our Holy Thursday readings, we hear of the sacrificial lambs’ blood slathered on the doorposts of the faithful to mark them as God’s people. Animals have aided humanity throughout Scripture in revealing the glory and the truth of God to man. In the book of Daniel 6:22, God closes the mouths of lions to reveal his providential authority to the king. Daniel tells him:
“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
Animals are a means to bring about God’s presence and power to the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike.
And as we stand in awe of the beauty and majesty of God’s creatures, we are pointed back to an even greater creation—us—made in God’s image.
In Matthew 10:29, we are told:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
If we understand the order and the ability with which God provides for the animals of the earth, then how much more can we accept and believe in his desire and his ability to provide for us and our needs, even in the midst of great trial, desolation, illness, and fear?
Creation as God’s Canvas
In this time of quarantine, isolation, and separation from loved ones, if we are able, I see an invitation present in our midst to turn to the heart of creation to seek the wonder of God in our beloved pets and the companionship they bring during such lonely days. We are given an opportunity to spend day after day with our pets, embracing the responsibility we have to their care, and thankfulness to the Lord for the ways in which he reveals himself to us through his creation.
Now more than ever, with the church doors closed, we are able to look upon our living world and seek him. Even if one does not have pets of their own, one can still explore the biblical ways in which animals and creation aided in God’s grace and creativity to man, and how saints have spoken of animals and our relationship to them.
Indeed, God uses all things to bring about his presence in our physical world: the Garden of Eden, the animals of Noah’s ark, a burning bush, Jonah in the belly of the whale, spoken parables on mountaintops, and baptisms in springs of water. God uses our world and the living realities in that world to echo his praises and point us to him who called the stars into the sky and gave the earth its seasons. If our God can hold the earth and all of its elements and creatures in balance, he can hold us too.
During this time when joy is harder to come by, we can take courage and comfort in Matthew’s declaration:
“Yet not one of them [sparrows] will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care…. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
God cares for all of creation thus he will care for us, too.