Friday, January 30, 2009

Dog Tired...: A Meditation on "Pethood"

Last night as I was letting Maddy out for the umpteenth time last night (she likes to lie down on the front stoop to cool off when the flannel duvet cover on our bed gets too hot for HRH's delicate undercarriage), the thought occurred to me: "Did Mary let Jesus have a puppy?"

Animals served a utilitarian function in that society ... and made regular appearances in the life story of the Lord. He was born among cattle, and laid in a manger. He spoke of sheep and goats, and chicks and hens. He was Himself called both the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd. (Admittedly, His references to dogs are devoid of His characteristic compassion and kindness: Mark 7:27-28; Matthew 7:6, 15:26; Luke 16:21).

Still, I think that -- given the opportunity -- Jesus would have had a soft spot for anything that made a child smile as much as a creature with a wagging tail and a hyperactive tongue. And I think Mary would have willingly done the 3 a.m. "potty patrol" just to see her Son on the business end of a rousing game of "fetch."

But in reality, if Jesus had a pet, it was most likely ... a lamb. Every year at Passover families had to sacrifice a lamb "without spot or blemish." The wise parent, however, would probably have tried to prevent the kids from having too much contact with it. In Behold Your Mother, I envisioned one such scenario:

The fuzzy head bleated with indignation.
"He wants his mother," young Jesus observed,
scratching the animal behind its ears. Joseph chided,
"Come ... It's almost time.
Tonight we remember, as God commands,
how we gained our freedom in Egypt.
For a price."

Later, Jesus scampered into the kitchen
as Mary bent over the coals' rosy glow.
"Mother! Where's the lamb? I want to feed him..."
Then stopped as he saw the bloody wool.
Turning, Mary saw his chin tremble. "Oh, Son!
It was born for a task: to help us remember
that first sacrifice."

To order the book, click here. Makes great Lenten reading!