Saturday, June 28, 2014


On Friday, June 27, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it was my turn to preside and preach at mass. As I looked at the readings of the day I was struck by Matthew 11:28-29:

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me..."

These words of Jesus reminded me of the legend of the birds, which gets retold in various forms. Here's the way I used it in my homily. I hope you enjoy it.


Among all the creatures that God created, the birds were feeling sad and disappointed. They felt as if they had been gypped: they couldn't run as fast as the dogs, nor could they climb trees like the squirrels nor even jump the way the frogs could. The problem was that each bird was weighed down by these two big useless things on its back; its wings made it the clumsiest and most awkward of all God's creatures.

So the birds got together and walked in a big group to God to complain. They presented their case: they'd been treated unfairly by being weighed down for no reason with these stupid wings that kept them from running and jumping and climbing like the rest of the animals. When he heard their complaint the Lord smiled and said: "Ah! I see you haven't yet figured out how to make use of your wings!"

So the Lord patiently taught the birds how to stretch out their wings and flap them up and down; in no time the birds caught on and were soaring through the air and filling the skies with their cries of praise and thanks. Far below them the other animals gazed up enviously at their friends who now could do something that none of the rest of them could do. The birds had turned their burden into a glorious gift.


This was the legend that came to my mind as I read Jesus' invitation to to people who are "heavy burdened." You go to the Lord and complain about the burdens on your back that are weighing you down. The Lord smiles and says "Ah! I see you haven't yet figured out how to make use of your wings! Those problems are my unique gift to you. If you learn how to use them well you can use them to fly to the heights. They can take you to places you can't even imagine. The choice is yours: Are your troubles going to remain simply woes or will you use them as wings?"

All of us have experienced being weighed down by grief, disappointment, physical pain and so on. In some cases it takes a long time before we figure out how to use these terrible struggles as wings. But our faith assures us that this is what they are meant to be, and that sooner or later through the merits of Jesus' own suffering and death we will be saved by them. We will be "lifted up" just as the Son of Man was lifted up through his sufferings.

So the next time you're feeling heavily weighed down by the burdens of life, try checking your shoulders - you're probably sprouting wings.


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