|The Fox and the Hen|
One of the tools that a follower of Jesus needs to have in his or her tool box is the ability to discern spirits. This is a very practical gift of the Holy Spirit given to each of us at baptism. But this gift needs to be nourished with prayer and reflection and put into practice. Almost everything that happens in the world about us in our day (and really in the past and in into the future) has a spirit that can be discerned. The Holy Spirit, for example, never "scatters" anyone. When people are scattered from war, famine, or other distress, the cause is never the Holy Spirit. Where people are gathered, received, and welcomed in love and generosity, most likely the Spirit is there, and not just in Christian circles only, because the Holy Spirit of God "blows" or operates where it wills.
We discern this "gathering" happening in the scriptures appointed for today. God promised Abraham to be the father of a multitude, but Abraham didn't think it could happen, because he didn't have a proper heir. God would provide an heir. Abraham had to trust God. God took Abraham outside to look at the stars: your descendants will be like those stars. And he believed the Lord. Thus, the "gathering" of a people for God took place.
Paul writes to the Philippians:
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is their shame.
Here we see the discernment between "gathering," or a joining with, a work of the Spirit of Christ, and a "scattering" due to destruction, "belly" greed, and shameful vainglory. Do you discern these movements in our world today? I do. I.e. Thousands forced to flee from their homes caused by the "Powers of this world," destroying everything in their way for their own ends. This was a common experience of people when the armies of Rome conquered and divided the people in their path. This is the work of Satan, operating hidden in the bowels of human culture, creating victims in order to bring about "peace."
We forget, when it suits us, how connected we all are. I learned this week about an Aspen forest in Utah. This forest is made up of 47,000 Aspen trees that are very much alike and they have discovered that they all come from "one" single root system. In the same way, as human beings created by God, we appear to each other as individuals, but God knows, we are much more interconnected than we think.
This interconnectedness is what Jesus knew in his day and what I'm sure he knows in our day as well. In the Gospel today, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem slowly and deliberately His disciples want him to go in another direction because they have heard Herod wants to kill him. He calls Herod a "fox," because he scatters the "chicks," or the children of God. And then, in one of the most beautiful feminine images in the scriptures, Jesus calls himself a "hen."
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Jesus laments because he is unable to protect those he loves because they choose to continue in their victimizing ways. All Jesus can do is open his arms to all who will gather with him. This is the work of the Holy Spirit: gathering, never scattering. In John 11 Jesus says I have come to gather into one the scattered children of God. This "gathering" is what Jesus and the Holy Spirit are about. This is a most important way of discernment then and now. Bridges to help gather or walls to divide.
But, we might object, Herod, and others like him, down through time do some "gathering" too. The old way of gathering before Jesus was by uniting people against common enemies, by sacrificing some for the good of others, by finding scapegoats to be blamed, scattered, and gotten rid of, leaving the "good" people in peace. But the peace doesn't last for long. That's why Jesus taught a new way to gathering people together, a non-sacrificial, non-victimizing way. Not by expelling the ones we don't want to gather with, but by forgiving them. Where you see this going on, you see the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Most people hoped for Jesus to be the Lion of Judah that the prophets said would come. To their great disappointment, Jesus describes himself as a "hen." This didn't inspire great confidence in his followers, the "chicks." But Jesus is saying that if a fox like Herod wants to kill the baby chicks, he will have to kill himself, the hen, first. Jesus will allow himself to be the Victim so others need not be victimized. All the gods of Rome and the peoples fostered and inspired the victimization of others. Jesus and his Father and the Holy Spirit come down are completely different. Thank God for this! This is Good News!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE
(everyone means everyone)