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Third Tuesday of Advent

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Edinburgh, a certain cat started visiting the University library.

A Facebook group soon appeared with photos of the cat inside the library foyer. A Twitter account posts musings on the happenings of the feline guest, @edinlibrarycat. Scottish TV news even started interviewing students to get to the bottom of who the cat belongs to. Journalists have been on the case in uncovering one of the apparent secrets of the Scottish Catholic Church. Students at the Dominican Catholic chaplaincy of course, know the cat as Jordan, who is one of the two Priory cats. It appears Jordan has been receiving food and attention from a number of sources in addition to the friars.

In today’s reading, we hear of the reluctant son who says he won’t work in his father’s vineyard (but ends up doing it after all) and the other son who agrees to work in the vineyard, but does not. Perhaps the son was more interested in children’s games. We play our games like children in life, but there is a simplicity in either doing what God wants in the vineyard, or playing our games and not working in the vineyard. There are clearly things we do not and indeed probably can never know in this life. Like, what happens after death. We are promised that if we follow Christ and his teachings contained in scripture, we will inherit eternal life with God. This relatively simple message has always been accepted by Christians, on our salvation and resurrection after our death.

However, on occasion the childish questions start to surface. What will happen to our pets when they die? My dog, my cat, my guinea pig. Will they be in heaven with us? Pope Francis has been in the media limelight once again. The world’s media has, in a somewhat childish manner, latched on to something the Holy Father told a distraught boy whose dog had died. Pope Francis supposedly said “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures”. There are doubts over how verifiable this quote is, as the topic of the Pope’s talk at his Papal audience (November 26th), was about the transformation of all creation into a new heaven and new earth. Hardly enough evidence to say that Jordan the cat will go to heaven once he dies. If we are to take a Thomistic approach, the answer is non-rational animals have souls, but not eternal souls. Once they die, animals exist and then cease to exist, and the substantial form is lost. This seems to be an important question for many people, but is rather puerile in comparison to questions over the salvation of human souls which are immortal. How we treat others and live our lives does have an impact on what happens once we die, on the day of judgement. As for animals, Jordan can go between the Dominican chaplaincy and the students in the library, it has no consequence either way for him, other than the quality of cat food or the comfort of a chair to lie in. But if we replicate this behaviour of double standards or divided loyalties in our own lives, the consequences for us of course, go into eternity.

 - fr. Luke Doherty OP


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