Animals in the Forest

27 September 2009: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Numbers 11, 25-29; Psalm 19; James 5, 1-6; Mark 9, 38-48

Once upon a time, the animals decided they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world. So they organized a school.

They adopted an activity curriculum of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming; in fact, better than his instructor, but he made only passing grades in flying, and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to drop swimming and stay after school to practice running. This caused his web feet to be badly worn, so that he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable, so nobody was worried about that --- except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because of so much make-up work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher made him start from the ground up instead from the treetop down. He also developed a nervous twitch from overexertion in running and thus got a C in climbing and D in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was severely disciplined for being a non-conformist. In climbing, he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way...

The moral of the story is simple: each creature has its own set of capabilities in which it will naturally excel --- unless it is expected or forced to fill a mold that doesn’t fit. What is true of creatures in the forest is true of Christians in this present jungle. God has not made us all the same.

The first reading and the Gospel tell us that we are all born with gifts or charism by the Holy Spirit. In the first reading, the Lord bestows his Spirit to whom He wishes. Moses reprimanded Joshua who complained that the Lord has given His Spirit to two others, Eldad and Medad, who were not with them in the tent of the Lord, but outside in the camps. Similarly, Jesus in the Gospel recognizes those who are also exorcising demons in His name who are not formally “disciples of his”. “For whoever is not against us is for us.” We can say that the Lord recognizes people outside of the Church fellowship, whose activities are genuine witness to the work of the Spirit.

In other words, we should rejoice and thank the Lord that His Spirit is given to all people, not just to a select few. Thus, lay people have with them the Spirit and his gifts. Each of us can contribute to the well being of the Church. And the priest should also recognize that there are many gifted individuals who are more capable than him in many ways and thus can help in the building of a community.

And thus, we are to respect and appreciate the gifts we have and that of others, even if their gifts are so diverse from us, their ways of doing things are unusual to us, and perhaps, their personalities are poles apart from us. So, stop comparing! Ducks don’t run. Rabbits don’t fly. Squirrels don’t swim. Enjoy your capabilities! Develop whatever you have. Cultivate your own style!

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