One day a cruel hunter killed a beautiful mother eagle. A chicken full of compassion took the eagle’s egg from its nest and put it with her own eggs. It was a bit uncomfortable because the eagle’s egg was considerably bigger. But that detail isn’t of any significance for us here. When the egg hatched the farmer named the baby eagle “Chicky” and treated her as he treated all baby chickens. As she was growing she just assumed that she was a chicken like the others.
One day “Chicky” saw some birds flying high in the sky. How “Chicky” envied those birds in the sky! She so much wished she could fly like they did. Unfortunately, no one told her that she was an eagle and could fly high up into the heavens.
Then one day a stranger came into the barnyard, caught sight of “Chicky” and instantly recognized what she was, an eaglet — not a chick. He took her out into a nearby field and began to make her hop from his finger onto the ground. Gradually he increased the height of her perch on his hand. When he thought she was ready he threw his arm up high so she would fly. And she did. Oh, how she flew, wheeling and soaring in the bright, blue sky!
Then she circled around the stranger’s head, and giving him a screeching cry, flew off into the sky above.
How many of you can see where they story’s going? Good. So let me now ask the critical question: “How do we see ourselves?” When you stop and think about it, that’s a question that’s always in the back of our minds. Women ask themselves if they are pretty. Men wonder if they are good looking guys. Teens are obsessed with that question, always concerned with how other teens see them. Do I belong to the “in” crowd? Am I popular?
Likewise adults are always comparing themselves with others. The entire advertising industry is based on buying products that give them better pictures of themselves in relation to others. “Buy our automobiles and you will really BE somebody!” Many alcoholics feel terrible about themselves deep down inside, so much so that many use alcohol to anesthetize their negative feelings about themselves.
Do you see how pervasive the question is in our lives and in the way we see and relate to others? The question plays a huge role in our lives. How we see ourselves and how we see others aren’t understandings that are merely “nice” –they are fundamental. There are those who do not want to see a baby in its mother’s womb. They want to see it as only human protoplasm, not as a person. There are those who do not want to see immigrants, both legal and illegal, as persons, persons who are God’s children and deserve our respectful attention. There are those who view laborers as simply a part of the cost of production. There are Catholics who judge themselves to be the true Catholics as distinguished for those others who are not fully Catholic in their thinking
For the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), the Second Reading (Eph 4:1-6) gives us a glimpse into what St. Paul is asking us to see.
I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Earlier, when writing to the Colossians (3:12-14), St. Paul had said:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
The whole point is that we should see ourselves and identify ourselves as loved by God and therefore we should see ourselves as important in God’s eyes. Each one of you here is specially loved by God. He sent His only Son to suffer and die for you. Therefore you are really special and really important. You are precious and lovable in the eyes of God. You should put aside how the world causes you to see yourself; put aside your self-identity and see yourself as God sees you. Likewise you should see others as God sees them.
Too often, I’m afraid, we sell ourselves short. Too often, when it comes to developing our relationship with Jesus, we tell ourselves we’re unworthy sinners and that we’re no good, or any number of other things that, if we really thought about it, were really excuses, excuses that reduce our involvement in the lives of others. Oh, we say we want to be close to Jesus, but when the time comes we feel it might make demands on us that we’re not really willing to meet. So we sell out.
Individualism is stressed today, individual rights, individual freedom, and the assertion of the few over the many. Our common good and our care for the common good is very much a part of God’s plan. Caring for the well-being of others and caring for the good things we can share with others is very much a part to the great command to “love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.” If you want to identify your self and who you are as a person then that identity will be realized in what you actually do for others. “I, a prisoner for the Lord,” said St. Paul, “urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Our Church has its faults, as we are all so painfully aware. Recent polls indicate that confidence in organized religion is down to around forty percent. But our Church as it is lived in its parishes continues to give us God’s message. With all of its faults our Church calls us to be one family sharing our faith as a family. Checking out and “going it alone” is not helpful. It is not helpful to that individual and it is a diminishment that wounds us as a caring, sharing, and faith-filled family.
Finally, we should all strive to see and appreciate our own worth so that we might see and appreciate the worth of others. After all, Jesus told us to love ourselves enough to be able to love our neighbors. How can we love our neighbors if we do not love ourselves? The same might be said about seeking first to hear God’s voice. God is here, you know. He’s trying to tell you that you’re not a little chicky – that you’re an eagle. He’s trying to tell you that you can spiritually fly. You can soar like an eagle into the heavens.
So let’s stop selling ourselves short. That way we won’t sell others short.
“I, a prisoner for the Lord,” said St. Paul, “urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”