The story is told of a farmer who discovered a baby eagle tangled up in a bush in the forest. Too young to fly, the farmer took the eaglet to his farm and placed it in the chickens’ pen. The eagle grew up, scratching the ground for kernels of corn, even clucking like a chicken. One day, a naturalist was passing by the farm and spotted the eagle among the chickens. She was stunned. After talking to the farmer, they agreed that the naturalist would attempt to coax the eagle into flying, and not just a couple feet off the ground. Taking the eagle to the rooftop of the barn, she declared, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly!” Needless to say, the eagle was confused and only wanted to jump down from the rooftop and be united with its friends, the chickens. The naturalist decided she had to try something more drastic. Rising at dawn the next morning, as the sun began to peak above the horizon, she grabbed the eagle in her arms and climbed to the top of a nearby mountain. In such a majestic spot, and far away from the sight of any chickens, she lifted the eagle to the sun, and declared, “You are an eagle.” Sure enough, something came over the eagle, it began to tremble all over, and slowly stretched out it majestic wings, and with a triumphant cry, soared away into the heavens.
If you were blessed to participate in the Ablaze Rally last Saturday with Deacon Keith Strohm, or heard him preach at the Masses last weekend, he reminded us of our true identity. We are more than our family history. We are more than what we do. We are the beloved children of God, precious to the Lord, created in his image and likeness. In the Lord’s eyes, we are delightful. Through the waters of baptism, we have died to selfishness and we have put on Jesus. Each one of us has passed through the grace of these holy waters. Baptism is the sacrament that conforms us to Jesus and all of us receive from him our precious dignity. This dignity is not parceled out in a fashion that some receive more than others. Every human person, whether male or female, whether slave or free, whether baptized or not, whether priest or lay person, whether pope or homeless person on the streets of our cities on these cold days – every person is created by the Lord with equal dignity.
We do not have to qualify in some way to receive this dignity. It is a pure and gracious gift. We cannot earn this dignity. We do not deserve this dignity. The Lord freely chooses to bestow his sacred image on each and every human person. It is this grace-filled dignity that qualifies us to be the Lord’s ambassadors. You do not need a degree in theology or have to be an expert in Scripture. You do not have to defer to the priest or deacon. You do not need ordination to participate in the priestly ministry of Jesus. All that is needed is an openness to growing more and more in intimacy with the Lord, opening more and more your heart to his Spirit of Merciful Compassion.
I believe that if the power of the grace of your baptism and my baptism would be released more fully in us and through us, we would light our parish on fire with the love of the Lord. That fire would be like a beacon drawing more and more people into our parish family. We are called to let the waters of our baptism wash through us and literally propel us out into our families, our neighborhoods, our places of work, even into the grocery stores and hair salons, always bearing Jesus and his Merciful Compassion.
Don’t wait for the ordained to call the shots. Pope Francis encourages every baptized believer to fall in love with Jesus and to participate in the priesthood of Jesus. Jesus was about one thing and one thing only. Jesus was about drawing people into his Heart. Our hearts need to beat with his Heart as we invite people to discover, follow, worship and share Jesus.
Father Bill +