Today’s first reading is from Genesis 9:8-17.
Then God spoke to Noah and his sons with him, saying: Behold, I am establishing my covenant with you and with your seed after you, and every living creature with you: the birds, the cattle, and all the wild animals of the earth with you, of all that came out of the ark with you. Thus I will establish my covenant with you, and never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; nor shall there ever be a flood to destroy the earth.
Then the Lord God said to Noah: This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you, and every living creature with you, for perpetual generations: I am setting my rainbow in the clouds, and it shall be of the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. My rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I certainly will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh on the earth.
Again God said to Noah: This is the sign of the covenant I established between me and all flesh on the earth.
In today’s reading from Genesis, God permits the eating of meat, that is, the slaughtering of animals for the consumption of food. However, God also makes it very clear that we are never to kill another human being. About this. St. Ambrose of Milan writes:
For your lifeblood and your souls, I will require a reckoning of every beast and of the hand of man. He compared human iniquity to beastly wickedness and considered it to be even more culpable than the wildness of the beasts, for he added: of every man’s brother, I will require the life of man. Actually, beasts have nothing in common with us, are not united to us by any fraternal bond. If they harm a man, they harm somebody who is a stranger. Do not transgress the rights of nature. Do not obliterate the affection of brotherhood. Therefore, one who makes an attempt on his brother’s life commits a more serious sin. For this reason, the Lord threatened a more severe punishment by saying, “Of the hand of his brother, I will require a reckoning of the blood of man.” Is not perhaps a brother someone of a rational nature come forth from a certain womb so that we are united by a generation of the same mother? One single nature is mother of all humanity. Therefore we are all brothers, generated by one and the same mother and united by the same kinship.
Today’s second reading is from Proverbs 12:8-24.
The mouth of a man of understanding is praised by a man, but the slothful of heart are treated with contempt. It is better for a man in dishonor to serve himself than for him to surround himself with honor while in need of bread. A righteous man has compassion on the lives of his cattle, but the affections of the ungodly are without mercy. He who works his own land will be satisfied with bread, but those who pursue vain things are in need of discernment. He who is gladdened by wines in passing his time shall leave dishonor in his own strongholds. The desires of the ungodly are evil, but the roots of the godly are in strongholds. By the sin of his lips a sinner falls into snares, but a righteous man escapes from them. He whose looks are gentle will show mercy, but he who contends in the gates will afflict souls.
By the fruits of his mouth the soul of a man will be full of good things, and the recompense of his lips will be given to him. The ways of undiscerning men are right in their own eyes, but a wise man hearkens to counsels. A man without discernment immediately proclaims his wrath, but an astute man hides his own dishonor. A righteous man declares his honesty openly, but the witness of the unrighteous is deceitful. There are those who wound with a sword as they speak, but the tongues of the wise heal. Truthful lips establish a testimony, but a hasty witness has an unrighteous tongue. There is deceit in the heart of a man who devises evil things, but those who counsel peace shall be glad. Nothing unrighteous will ever be pleasing to the righteous, but the ungodly will be filled with evil things. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but he who shows faithfulness is acceptable to him.
In today’s reading from Proverbs, we also heard about animals, when it was said, “The righteous has pity on the soul of his animals.” About this, St. John Chrysostom writes:
It is an exercise of human charity when someone, by means of his animals, becomes accustomed to show mercy upon his fellow human beings. Indeed, he who has pity upon his animals tends to have much more pity upon his brothers. Do the righteous have pity upon the souls of their animals? Absolutely. Certainly, it is necessary to convey benevolence toward them so that there may be a greater exercise of benevolence toward fellow human beings. Indeed, with good reason God ordered that we should carry hurt animals and take back those that stray and not to bind the mouth of an ox. He absolutely wants us to preserve the health of animals: in the first place, for our sake; second, in order that they may provide us with their menial service.
At the same time, it is an exercise of benevolence and care. Indeed, the one who has pity upon strangers has much more pity upon those who are familiar to him, and the one who has pity on his servants has much more pity for his brothers. But you may say: An animal provides you with a profitable service, but what does a brother provide you? He is helpful to you, I say, much more from the viewpoint of God. You can see that when we offer care, such as we do for our animals, we do not consider this demeaning. For in doing so, we are not only serving them but also ourselves.
As we heard in today’s readings, let us be merciful to all of God’s creation, but let us indeed be most merciful to those whom we consider our brothers and sisters, that is, all of humanity. Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.