Driving to Mass by Windy Hill in Reno Nevada, we saw a hawk flying overhead. Father Joe began his homily, at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral discussing Jesus’ telling his apostles how he was the vine and we are the branches.
Father Joe began his homily by telling the story of the hawk gosling born among a group of chicken eggs on a ranch south of Reno. It grew up thinking it was a chicken always pecking the ground like chickens. Seeing other hawks flying gracefully above its Washoe County chicken coup it longed to join them, but thinking it was a chicken, never tried.
As humans, we know the terrible truth about that hawk gosling. Staying on the ground with the chickens is the wisest choice for the young bird. The humans, as father figures, will provide chicken feed for it all of its life. Chicken feed may not be much for a hawk, but it is better than having nothing. Should it fly off and soar with the other hawks, it will very soon realize it has no hunting skills, and will perish.
As the article “At Mass do we know the symbols around us, the person beside us?” relates, Romans 11:17-24 discusses the parable of the wild olive branches. Father Joe related this to the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. God is the chicken farmer and the source of all nourishment for his chickens. He allows the young hawk to remain with his chickens. Following the logic of Romans 11:17-24, the hawk is the wild olive branch grafted into the mother olive tree, the chicken coup.
We as Anglo-Saxons, Germans, and Franks, Romans, Italians, Polish, Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, and more are all from warlike species of birds/humans. We are not white, black, red, and brown. We are all from a thousand warlike tribes, mostly of European ancestry. We are all hawks by birth. We are all hawks, naming our sports teams after hawks, eagles, bears, lions and other wild animals.
We are not peace loving chicks/people who would name their city, “City of Peace,” in Hebrew, “Jerusalem.” “Jewish” comes from the Hebrew Judah which means Thanksgiving. Grafted into the main tree, the olive tree or the Jewish people, we become like the wild hawk gosling, now become people of thanksgiving. We are dependent no longer upon the Protestant work ethic and rugged individualism, the hawk souring to find its next meal. We are now dependent upon the providence of Almighty God. As people of the same chicken coup, we become a community, striving to help one another in the game of life.
The wise hawk gosling remembers Jesus’ words, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
As we, representing the hawk goslings look up and see the other hawks, we remember how our foster-parent, God, never trained us to hunt. We are now entirely dependent upon the will of the God, for our sustenance. That includes looking for the chicken feed, which we as Catholics call the Physical Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Without God, physically present within us and among us, we now can do nothing. With God, we will be fruitful. That does not mean being successful in business. It means we will help the other chicks in our coup grow up to be all they can be. We will take the best possible care of that chicken coup, our planet as well. God started us in the Garden of Eden. At the end of Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells his fellow on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“Paradise” is the Greek term for the Garden of Eden. We will end up where we started, guarding and tending his garden. If we cannot do that now, why should God think we would be able to tend the next one?