Sermon: St. Francis and the Blessing of the Animals

Old Blind Broussard and his Seeing Eye dog were sitting on the dock behind Pierre’s Oyster Bar and Bait Shop when Thibideaux pulled up.

“Hey Broussard, I ain’t seen ya in a while. Where ya been?” Thibideaux asked as he tied off his boat.

“Thibideaux my friend, I ain’t seen you in a while either. I’ve been on an adventure!” Broussard replied.

“What kind of adventure can a blind man go on?” Thibideaux asked.

“Well, I went bungee jumping,” Broussard replied.

“Bungee jumping? For true? How was dat?” Thibideaux asked.

“It was lotsa fun, but I can’t go no more,” Broussard said as he patted his dog on the head.

“Why’s dat? Did ya hurt yer self?”

“No nothin like dat,” Blind Broussard said, “It just scared the heck outta my dog!”

I had a cat for eighteen years, Thomas P. was his name. Big ol’ throw rug of a black cat. Now I’ve got Dumb Dumb. His official name is Ezekiel’s Mystical Dream. God love him, but he’s dumber than a bag of hammers. Truly. Either that, or he’s smart enough to play dumb so that he can get away with anything.

In this world, we’ve got cat people, dog people, horse people, and apparently there are a few chicken people in our congregation. It was the theologian Raymond Brown who said that our liturgy would have an entirely different feel to it if the sacrificial animal of Israel had been a chicken instead of a lamb. Can you imagine the words at the end of the Mass? “Behold the chicken of God. Behold the chicken that takes away the sins of the world.” Fried chicken is truly a taste of heaven, but that just does’t work for me.

I don’t know that you should take your dog bungee jumping, but we are all a bit crazy when it comes to our animals. Perhaps we should be, they are, after all, a part of God’s creation. And God gave us his creation to be stewards of it.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and a bit further in the creation narrative we are told:

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Today in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews we hear that same theme, when Paul states that all things have been subjected under our feet.

God created all things and we are to “fill the earth and subdue it.” He crowned us with glory and subjected all things to us. The Lord took all that he had made and handed it to us. Yet in doing so, he did not make us owners or dictators over it. He made us stewards, supervisors of His creation. No, I’m not going to start preaching against waste water wells or save the whales, but I will say that how we care for creation is a reflection of how we care for one another.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

Francis is saying, if you abuse an animal, you’ll abuse a person. If you pollute the earth, you’ll pollute a soul. If you see creation simply as a means to an end, then it is likely that you will see others simply as objects created to fulfill selfish desires.

How should we act towards creation and others. Jesus said, “Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.” I read that on Facebook, so it must be true. No. Jesus did not say that, but there is a good bit of truth in it.

I don’t even think Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, could understand my dog, but I know Zeke thinks I’m pretty amazing. In me he finds kindness, compassion, comfort, a scratch behind the ear, and treats. My prayer is that the world will discover the same qualities in us (just maybe not the scratching behind the ear). Why? Because Jesus did say, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Yes, be the kind of person your dog thinks you are. Be the kind of person who brings glory to the Father.

Today, however, is not just about remembering our responsibilities to and our roll in creation. It’s also about enjoying. Enjoying the blessings of those animals God has placed in our lives. There is a Native American saying, “God Made the earth, the sky and the water, the moon and the sun. He made man and bird and beast. But He didn’t make the dog. He already had one.” I suppose you can replace “dog” in that saying with the animal of your choice, be it a cat, a ferret, or even a chicken. We are called to be stewards of creation, but we are also allowed to simply enjoy it. To be a part of it and find delight in all of God’s critters.

Let us pray: Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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