Watch the chickens

Source: Watch the chickens

The wise men from the east ‘saw his star’. There are many stars in the sky but they saw his star. They knew it was different. I have come across a privately, but beautifully, produced book on birds. The author, Stephen Buckland, writing at one point while describing Bronze Mannikins, branches off:

‘One of the things I love about birds is the way it requires one to look really closely at what is in front of one, at the world in which we live. Most of the time we do not really see what we are looking at. Watching birds – seeing not only how they look but how they behave, how they make their living on this planet – makes me engage much more deeply in that world.’

Stephen describes tiny differences between birds that most of us cannot see.

In our gospel today, John the Baptist is described as ‘looking hard’ at Jesus. It is the same Greek word that is used when Jesus himself first looks at Peter. It is stronger than just ‘looking’. It is more like intuiting, going beyond what is immediately obvious, having immediate insight of something deeper. Luke uses the same word at a more painful moment when, during the Passion, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. We are told the cock crew and ‘Jesus turned and looked at him.’ The look pierced Peter and ‘he went out and wept bitterly.’

In the Christmas letter, which Sr Gabriel wrote for the Children’s Home at Emerald Hill, Harare, she recorded the answers children gave to the question, ‘what do you like about our home? One answered,

I love to watch the chickens and see how mother hen takes care of the chicks by scratching the ground for worms or insects.’

Another wrote,

I like the different types of trees around the Home with the bright colours blooming at different times of the year; Jacarandas, Flamboyants, Tulips, Cassias and Frangipanis, as well as the local Msasa trees whose leaves come out in red, yellow and light green colours before they turn into their deep green …’

These children have, what Celtic spirituality calls, ‘rinsed eyes.’ They do not just see things and pass by. They stop and look hard. They begin to grasp that there is another world beyond the one that jumps at us from our little and big screens. That is what Eli eventually appreciated in the boy Samuel who, three times, heard the Lord call his name and thought, at first, it was only Eli calling him.

In the letter to the Hebrews, the twelfth chapter opens with the words, ‘With so many witnesses in a great cloud around us, we should throw off everything that weighs us down, like the sin that clings so closely, and keep running in the race that lies before us.’ We are to look beyond what we ‘see’. The father of the prodigal son looked beyond the actions of his errant son and believed that one day he would change his ways. We too are to see beyond the pain of the present in hope for the new future which is coming.

14 January 2024 Sunday 2B 1 Sam:3…19     1 Cor 6:13…20 Jn 1:35-42