At times, I wonder if those seven juvenile birds understand just how good they’ve got it.
They live in a chicken coop – at our daughter and son-in-law’s place – that’s really something to behold. “Log-cabin chic,” you might call it: Built of designer lumber, and complete with a human-sized swing door, multiple screened-in windows and a pair of portals exiting to notched running-ramps.
Yes, life is fairly good for this young clutch of feathered fowl. They spend their days in the comparative lap of luxury – with not a care in the world.
Except of course until they put on a pound or two.
Because then will come the inevitable reminder that this coop (like the original Taj Majal) is not so much a palace, but a mausoleum.
Today, the seven chickens are living large. Tomorrow, well…most are destined for a different fate – a place of prominence, you might say, at a future family banquet.
Knowing what lies ahead, it’s easy to see how it’s a blessing for these chickens to each possess a bird-brain. There’s no fear in their demeanor, only the relentless search for chicken-feed – an unchecked appetite that will certainly hasten their ultimate demise.
In the story we hear at Mass today, Jesus seems to notice something similar in the human condition. One of many guests invited to a great feast, he takes note of how some people are vying for a place of prominence.
There’s a danger in being so self-involved, he says. While you might think you’re perched atop the heap…
“A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited … and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.”
Still, ‘ego protection’ doesn’t seem to be the heart of the lesson Jesus is trying to teach during this episode. Curiously, he turns the discussion toward his preference for the least among us.
“…when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
Seems like kind of bird-brain notion, doesn’t it? How in the world are you supposed to get ahead in this life, if you’re not getting repaid for all your good deeds?
But perhaps “this life” isn’t the end of the story. In learning to die to self, Jesus says, we have a chance to become nourishment for others – and to secure our place “at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.