My cat killed a bird.
The image of the lovely gray quail hanging from Laddie’s jaws, as the cat bounded to the back door to lay the offering inside, shall haunt me for a time. My sweet and loving cat did this?
That’s what cats do, I told myself. Horrified, I reached his strong tabby body in time and forced a release, then cradled the bleeding creature, carrying it to some sod near our back fence, far away from my cruel cat. The quail died quickly, and a profound grief hit me. What a horrible world, I thought, where we eat each other.
Indeed, this was another reminder of the brutality of the natural world, a brutality often hidden by its beauty, by man’s need to create order and life out of chaos and death. Man is a different creature in that regard, having this desire in his heart, the desire of the Creator.
I know we are a fallen world, but it still powerfully affects me when I see such an example, although, to be sure, many examples filled the media this last week and year, and many more will stun us next week and in the coming year.
The incident of the bird occurred a few hours after returning from worshiping God in His church and considering the wonderful parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a season of parables, Trinity Season, a long green growing season in the Church Year when we hear the teachings of Christ and try and be what God wants us to become. Each year, on the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, Anglicans around the world listen to this particular Epistle and Gospel. The Epistle, Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth (I Corinthians 10.1+) warns us against breaking God’s law, that is, of ordering our lives and our world according to our fallen way and not His perfect way of love.
Saint Paul promises that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” So we remain fallen, and we face our sins – pride, envy, sloth, gluttony, covetousness… We know the list. And, as our good preacher explained this morning, God doesn’t remove the temptation, but helps us to endure it, to bear it without succumbing. When this happens, we are infused with His grace and the fallen has been redeemed.
After Saint Paul’s admonitions, we listened to the Gospel, the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11+), the well known story of the young man who leaves home, spends his inheritance, and returns begging for any small place in his father’s household. Not only does the father forgive, he celebrates the son’s homecoming. He throws a party. The story holds many levels of truths, and I have been blessed through the years to hear dozens of sermons preached on various aspects and insights. But this morning I was particularly struck by its relation to the Epistle, and to the ensuing Mass. We are the prodigals, I thought, here and now, confessing our sins and being forgiven in this liturgy by God Himself. Here and now, we are being celebrated by God Himself as we celebrate Him. Each week, each Mass, we appear at Our Father’s house. We sit at His feet. We are home. If we repent, we know he will forgive. So we list our falling-aways of the week and promise to try and change. We repent. And each week, Our Father sends His Son into our hearts and minds and bodies to teach us to love one another better. Just so, each week He celebrates His creation along with His creation.
I am like my cat, hungry for what passes by, instinctually tempted by every fad and easy turn. We are part of this world, but we have been given the chance to be redeemed. We are invited to the celebration, the greatest celebration on earth, in His house, and I am so very thankful.