with Friar Jim Van Vurst
June 22, 2016
I am Fr. Jim Van Vurst and I hope you’ll enjoy all of the news and great features at AmericanCatholic.org
as well as my own writing. By the way, I am a real Franciscan friar, as is my co-worker, Friar Jeremy.
You can find more about us here.
Do Animals Go to Heaven?
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, OFM
From time to time, I am posed with an interesting theological question: Do animals go to heaven?
We’ve heard people with great sincerity say, “If my dear pet can’t be with me, then I can’t be there.”
That sounds extreme, but we shouldn’t criticize such strong emotions. Any of my readers who have owned
pets will know this feeling well.
It is a topic worth discussing, not that we know the answer for certain. But there are suggestions in Scripture
that could point to such a conclusion. In several places, there is the image used that, at the end of time,
God will create "new heavens and a new earth” (Rv 21:1; 2 Pt 3:13).
We shouldn’t throw away God’s creation of the universe. In Genesis 1:31, it reads: “God looked at everything he
had made, and he found it very good.” Indeed, all that God does is truly good. And among those good works are
humans, animals, and plants. God is life itself, and we could argue that once God gives life, he would not destroy it.
Out of Love
Sometimes we think that God made us to love him. Yes, but that was not his first reason. We were made so that
God could love us. Loving is what God does. Isn’t that why moms and dads have babies? It is not so the baby can
love his or her parents. Rather, it is because the parents have a new little person whom they can love. Out of love,
God made us and gave us all of creation. God did that for our sake, so that we could consider how loving our God is.
The theology would hint that heaven and earth are not for God, but for God’s creatures. And, thus, animals that have
been so loving and helpful to their owners would be there, too. Some Christians imagine a heaven where we spend
eternity loving and praising God. They say we don’t even need each other—just God. But that is so contrary to all that
we know about God and his love and need for us. Aren’t parents most happy when their children are happy and loving one another?
What heaven is like is far beyond our wildest imaginations. Our call on our earthly journey is simply to know, love, and serve
God as best we can. But what God has planned for us we cannot conceive.
For more on this topic, I recommend Jack Wintz, OFM’s audiobook, I Will See You in Heaven.
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