Friday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time
1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59; 1 Chronicles 29:10-13; Luke 19:45-48
[Sharing during SJPS last School Mass on 20 November 2015]
A mother eagle was sick and wanted to ensure that the egg that she was carrying would survive. She knew that hens took good care of their chicks and so in the dead of night, laid her egg just outside a chicken coop. The mother hen saw the egg and took it into her nest. The little eaglet hatched and grew up alongside the rest of the chicks. It was ugly and oversized but was still well loved by the puzzled and bemused mother hen. As it grew into a beautiful young eagle, the rest of the chickens continued to take it as one of its own and the eagle continued to scratch the yard for worms and eat the same grains that the other chickens did. Despite its huge wings, the eagle could not fly higher than the low trees surrounding the coop.
One day, an eagle few overhead and the young eagle in the yard with the chickens looked up in fear. The young eagle also looked up with a sense of wonder thinking, ‘Wow, I wish could soar high in the sky like that. I wish I were an eagle.’ A few days later, after a night of heavy rain that left large pools of water in the yard, the young eagle walked over to one such pool and looked in. It got a shock – what looked back at it was not the same as all its adopted brother and sister chickens but the regal head of an eagle. It suddenly found its voice, let out a screech and began flapping its wings. Before long it was aloft and started flying. And how it flew! It flew for hours and hours before finally returning to the yard to bid farewell to its brother and sister chickens. It had found itself and was going off to explore the world.
What does the story tell us? Many things I believe. One is to be able to realise one’s potential and not to get stuck thinking that one is no good. There’s great potential in all of us to soar like the eagle in many different ways and we just have to realise it. But there’s more to this. What happened when the eagle looked into the pool of water? It saw it’s own reflection, a vision of its true self. Physical reflection is when light reveals something through a surface – reflection in our lives does the same thing in revealing things about ourselves.
The other thing that the story tells us is that we need to remember. We could say that the young eagle only finally remembered who it was when it saw itself in the pool of water. The word ‘remember’ means to bring together and it brought itself together truly when it saw itself. Students need to remember many things while in school as that helps us to bring our knowledge together and to look at what we’ve learned. In life, we remember so that we can be grateful, to see what things are important and to remember that God is there in our lives always.
To reflect and to remember. Two important words for today. Without both, our lives would not be very meaningful; without both, one can easily forget our God who is the cause and purpose of everything. They both come together because in order to reflect well, we need to remember what happened and as we remember, we also reflect on how these events or experiences affect us. These two things are especially important for us at the end of the year as we approach the holidays, Advent and Christmas. We should seek to remember and reflect as we wind down, have fun and rest.
The first reading is all about remembering. Before the events of the reading, the Israelites were horribly oppressed by the Seleucid Greeks who desecrated the temple of Jerusalem and forbade worship of God. Some Israelites tried to fight back, led by the Judas Maccabeus. After much struggle, they won and gained control of the Jerusalem and the temple once more. The reading shows how the temple was rededicated, consecrated and made holy for God once more. This is the basis for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, an 8 day commemoration of the rededication of the temple that remembers the original celebration that also took 8 days. In this celebration, Jews light candles on a branched candelabra called menorah to remind themselves of the struggles faced in the past and the need to remember. The Jews of today know that part of who they are is a result of the struggles of their ancestors. They don’t forget and are grateful to God for such graces.
The gospel may seem short but it’s a clear sign of what happens when we forget. We forget when we don’t put sufficient effort into remembering and reflecting. The people in the temple at Jesus’ time seemed to forget about the importance and sanctity of the temple. The words of the Lord as he said that they turned the house of God into a robber’s den are biting as they are true – the people forgot about the struggles of their ancestors and merely indulged in their own selfish practices. Their ingratitude and selfishness lay at the heart of why the Lord rebuked them so.
If we don’t remember or reflect, we forget and become ungrateful. Like the people in the gospel lack of reflection and remembrance make us forget where we come from and may even lead some into feeling that they are entitled to what they have. This leads to selfishness and lack of regard for others around. Another failing that comes from a lack of reflection or remembrance is hopelessness and a loss of potential. Like the young eagle that didn’t realise that it could soar like its kin, someone who does not reflect may go through life not realising that he or she could achieve much more than what was originally thought possible.
Good reflection is like looking into a clear mirror. When we take the time to reflect, we begin to see ourselves as who we truly are and not just who we think we are. Allowing ourselves to look more deeply into who we are and to allow God to guide this look will lead us towards greater freedom and self knowledge. Good reflection requires us to look at our past, our present and our future. We look at our past with remembrance, realising the importance of our prior experiences and how they allowed us to grow. We sense where we are in the present, looking at how we’re doing and how we feel about ourselves and our situation. And we look to the future with hope, looking towards a time where we can achieve our potential.
I’d like to suggest 3 questions to help us reflect as we draw to the end of the year.
- What were the highs, lows and perhaps interesting points of my year? We have to acknowledge the high points as these encourage us, keep us happy and encourage us to do better. We must look into our low points so as to learn from our mistakes and always keep ourselves trusting in God. And we remember the interesting points because life is never boring if we’re able to see the light in all things.
- How do I feel now at the end of the year? The present is important as we should neither live in the past nor in the future. How we fee is important as it shows us where we are and how we’re responding to things that happen around us. Being in touch with our feelings helps us to know ourselves better.
- What are my hopes for the upcoming year? As we look to the new year, we prepare ourselves and remember that we cannot lose hope with faith in God. We know that God is always there in all we do and bring that faith into our forward looking stance at the end of the year.
As we near the end of the year, we remember that every end is the start or prelude to a new beginning. Every dusk is a preparation for the new dawn. Each year that ends allows us to look forward to a new year. We see this in the death and resurrection of the Lord as even death gives us the hope of resurrection. There’s much to look forward to in the new year but we do need to prepare for it through our remembering and reflection.
We realise that we all have the potential to soar like the young eagle. Some may just be discovering their wings while others are already testing themselves with first flights. As long as we’re able to look at our past, present and future with a reflective attitude, we will be able to deepen our understanding of God and us. Then we can all soar and go beyond the ordinary.