A Different Angle
Gospel Reflection for April 13, 2023
I am just going to warn you, up front, that my take on today’s Mass Readings is going to be quite a bit different than probably anything you have read before. Most writers would likely focus on the very beautiful and meaningful aspects of our lord appearing to His Apostles following the Resurrection. By no means do I wish to minimize that, but it is somewhat obvious. And…. I see a secondary thread running through at least two of these Biblical passages. I will quote a portion of each, so that becomes more clear. Please visit https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041323.cfm for the full readings.
Today’s Psalm is ps 8:2ab and 5, 6-7, 8-9:
R.(2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
From today’s Gospel, Lk 24:35-48, I extract:
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
The message I would like to focus on in these two passages, which is fortified by the authority given to Christ in the first reading (Acts 3:11-26), that I did not include in this article for sake of brevity, is the human being (generally referred to as simply, Man) as having dominion over the earth. This is a concept very out of fashion in our modern culture. Man is decried as a blight on the environment. Many believe that if humanity was exterminated, that would be the very best thing for the world. The constant punching bag, the scapegoat upon which all of society’s ills and even the state of the environment is Man… especially “the patriarchy.” Yet, here is the Word of God celebrating man’s role as having dominion over nature in the Psalm, and in the Gospel, we see the Apostles (who are all members of the patriarchy) being given authority by Jesus who is both man and God. Indeed, these are very politically incorrect readings in moder times!
But, why did I choose to focus on these few lines from the Gospel of Luke? Simply this, Jesus eats a fish!
Traditionally, the eating of the fish is seen as a proof that our Lord was truly resurrected in bodily form. The body has need of food, while the spirit does not. A ghost would have no need to eat. Jesus is fully human, tangible and alive. Yet, I want to point out that Jesus ate fish. He ate lamb in the Passover meal before His crucifixion. Jesus was not a vegetarian or a vegan!
You see, I make my living mostly as an author and teacher of Herbal Medicine and Permaculture/Homesteading. Many of the people with whom I associate are what we may call hippies, environmentalists (sometimes radical) and even neo-pagans. In various ways, these are generally well meaning people who idolize nature. While many do not actually worship nature, they are very focused on man’s misuse and destruction of the environment. Fortunately, they are taking action to be stewards of the earth, as God intended…. perhaps with age and experience they will learn about “Nature’s God”. I try to help them along that path, patiently but firmly countering un-Christian beliefs with historical fact, sound Catholic doctrine and a theological view that sees God’s hand very much in nature. I explain that without man as an active gardener, corn (for just one example) would not exist - it would still be a merely a grass. Without predators (whether men who hunt or wolves, and such) deer suffer mass die-offs from disease and starvation because the herds must be culled to maintain their own health and that of their environment. Forests left unmanaged lack diversity of species and are prone to devasting fires and blights. Only man can manage plants and animals for the good of all. We are the stewards appointed by god to care for His creation. We must do so intelligently and humanely. But, God is not found in the rays of the sun, the planets and other stars, the soil, water or trees. All are merely a reflection of His beauty intended for our good. The earth exists to sustain man, not man for the earth.
Far more troubling is the number of young Catholics I have encountered in recent years who are vegetarians and vegans. Many are “social and environmental justice warriors” who have no or limited real experience in nature. Their world view seems to be more informed by leftist politics and Disney movies than reality. They do not realize that a hunter’s bullet or quick and efficient slaughter by a farmer is the most humane death an animal can have. From their classrooms and behind their computers, they never see the horrific plight of animals who die int he wild - starvation, disease, ripped apart by coyotes or slowly consumed by parasites the moment age or sickness causes them to lose a step. They claim that man must change to a plant-based diet for the sake of the environment, not realizing just how inefficient and destructive that would be.
Having grown up on a farm, I know how many acres it takes to grow soybeans and other staples of the “plant-based diet” and how many poisonous chemicals they are drenched with annually, how much fuel large farm machinery and vehicles use and how much exhaust they expel, how many animals are killed in sprayings of chemicals and the harvest… literally a blood bath of rabbits, mice, birds, etc, and even larger animals… and that does not even get into all the insects, worms and microscopic living things in the soil…. I also know how much fuel and pollution is involved in trucking the product off site, how much is used in processing and the waste of those byproducts, how much is used in storage, then making it into something edible, then packaging and shipping to a store… etc, etc…. just to feed one vegan. Meanwhile, a cow may live a very pleasant life in fresh air and sunshine, eating grass until it is ready to harvest. It has a perfect life, with “one bad day” as we say. It is cared for from birth, protected from all danger and humanely killed. That one cow feeds many people using far fewer resources and causing essentially no pollution.
Of course, that is the ideal method - many will point out that industrial livestock production is not done that way. In all honesty, I oppose inhumane and polluting farming practices as much as any environmentalist. But, there is a difference. I recognize man’s God-given role. I worship the Creator and not the Creation. As Fr. Spirago pointed out in his explanation of the Catechism:
The lower animals are created by God for the service of man.
The benefits we derive from the animals are these : They supply us with what is essential to life, e.g., food, clothing, etc.; they help us in our work, they cheer us by their amusing ways, their song, their beauty, etc. Some instruct us by their example; bees, for instance, incite us to industry, storks to filial affection, sheep to the practice of patience, etc. Moreover they all proclaim the omnipotence, the wisdom, the bounty of their Creator.
In our relations to animals it is our duty to care for their well- being, to refrain from tormenting them, not to kill any useful animal without a special reason, and finally not to treat them with exaggerated tenderness.
We ought to take care for the well-being of animals. " The just regardeth the lives of his beasts, but the bowels of the wicked are cruel " (Prov. xii. 10). Those who keep animals are bound to provide them with necessary food, to keep them clean, and in good condition. Our Lord says : " Not a sparrow shall fall on to- the ground without your Father" (Matt. x. 29). This should teach us to care for the welfare of animals. Some treat brute beasts as if they had no feel ing, overtaxing their powers, beating them unmercifully, not giving them enough to eat, or depriving them of the one day of rest out of the week which the law of God ordains for them (Exod. xx. 8-11). Those who have to kill animals for the table, and medical men who make experiments with them, ought to be careful to cause them no needless suffering. It is not right, either in the interests of science or for the sake of amusement, to give pain that can be avoided. Wanton cruelty is to be condemned ; so is the destruction of harmless or useful animals. Noxious insects and dangerous animals must of course be killed, but others that are not hurtful, but rather useful, should be spared. Finally, animals are not to be pampered and petted over much. There are people who make an idol of some pet animal, preferring it to their fellow-man, and devoting every thought to it. Such persons resemble the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped cats, calves, bulls, etc.
Men who are either cruel to animals or ridiculously fond of them, often are very hard-hearted towards their fellow-men.
I doubt Fr. Spirago, writing in the late 1800s, could have imagined just how prescient were his words. Could this devout and brilliant priest have imagined that a vegan named Adolph Hitler would try to exterminate the Jewish Race, Gypsies and others? Could he have foreseen that Catholic politicians in the 2020s would be so concerned with “Climate Change” that they would advocate abortion, homosexuality and other immoral actions to reduce the human population of the earth?
Many of the Catholic vegans and vegetarians I encounter were encouraged to adopt those diets for reasons of “social and environmental justice” as they were taught in liberal Catholic Universities. Somehow, that is supposed to be better for the environment and poor people. They will argue that some saints and religious orders have abstained from meat at various times to justify their diets. Yet, those religious did so as a means of penance, not as an adherence to Catholic doctrine. They will point to Saint Paul who said that he would abstain from meat if eating it caused another to sin. Yet, Saint Paul was talking about the scandal that may be caused by eating meats that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. In modern times, we may liken this to eating meat on Fridays on which it is allowed, if that may undermine the vow of one who has chosen to abstain from meat on Fridays as a penance.
Of course, I am not arguing that there is anything immoral about abstaining from meat, whether on Fridays, during Lent or even as a diet. Various Biblical passages remind us that we are not justified by what we eat or drink (aside from the Eucharist). But, nowhere does the Bible say that eating meat is a sin. Jesus, being God, is incapable of sin. If you believe that eating meat is immoral, then you accuse Jesus of doing something that is immoral. You cannot hold that belief and believe in Jesus as God. You make an idol of not only nature, but politics and your own ego. To say that you know better than God is to make yourself your own God.
In closing, let us recall the warning given to us in the Bible about those who insist on vegan and vegetarian diets out of ideology or religious belief (Douay Rheims):
1Timothy, Chapter 4:
1 Now the Spirit manifestly saith, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils, 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy, and having their conscience seared, 3 Forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful, and by them that have known the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
In researching this article, I found that the vast majority of websites that show up at the top of Google and other popular search engines regarding this topic, make claims that Jesus and the early Church were vegetarian or vegan. Those claims are easily disproved by the Bible and the writings of the early Church. Perhaps such authors are those referenced in First Timothy….. they are liars. Lies are of the devil. Hold fast to the Truth. Just as we have teeth both for slicing into meat and for grinding up vegetables and grain, God designed us wonderfully and perfectly, just as He did the earth that sustains our lives. It is a grave error to reject such divine order and proof that the ideologies of modern culture are severely disordered. Our Catholic universities need to produce a lot more orthodox and faithful Catholics, and far fewer “social and environmental justice warriors.” And frankly, we would all be better served spending more time in nature and less time in front of a screen - whether in the woods or in the garden, nature has much more to teach us than modernity.
Excellent. I love your reflections and articles, Judson.
You remind me of my Dad. He loved animals. We always had pets. As a policeman, he took joy in arresting animal abusers and finding good homes for the animals. He also said folks who treat their animals as human beings were abusers who failed to allow the animals to be as God made them. This caused idenity confusion for the animal not allowing them to act as their God given instincts instructed them, not allowing them to be themselves. My Dad was a hunter too. He was taught by the Indians how to hunt and kill in a respectful, merciful manor. My Dad was all about kindness, gentleness, respectfulnes to animals. Anyway I won't go on and on. You have already said it perfectly, Judson!