Starting Point
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Issue Date:  September 1, 2006

Starting Point


I like watching birds fly: how they soar and dip, riding the winds. Though flight is innate, there must be a time in the early life of any bird, the first few flights, that entails some learning.

There is no set pattern to any given day. The wind constantly changes direction and intensity, and yet the birds not only meet these changes head-on, they literally ride with the winds. They are also smart enough to seek shelter when the winds are too strong, too destructive. Jesus encouraged his disciples to learn from the birds of the air and how God cares for them, cares for all things.

It is said that the church has been given the Spirit to help realize itself and its mission in the world. There are individuals and groups whose lives testify to the heights that the Spirit can bring life. Lives of truth, compassion, fortitude and patience have handled many unpredictable and at times violent winds of change.

These days, the church seems to have a hard time, in some quarters, taking flight. Has tradition weighed us down so that we cannot rise to the wind? Do we sense an uncomfortable weight -- extra pounds due to possessions, self-concern or whatever -- that makes flight unthinkable?

But with God, nothing is impossible. Jesus said that, too.

The wondrous thing about birds is their variety. There are all kinds of species out there and up there. Their habits are fascinating and make for good watching and study. Most learn to fly -- a few stay close to the ground. The sky is for all of them and there is plenty of room, plenty of wind, marvelous currents for the birds to catch and use.

If birds were religious, there would be Catholic birds and Buddhist birds and on and on. All flying, all moving with the same Spirit of the times, change and winds.

There are no such birds. We humans call ourselves religious and yet often seem stuck to the ground, unable to take flight. For God, nothing is impossible. See the birds of the air, learn from them.

Fr. James Stephen Behrens is a monk at Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, September 1, 2006

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