Birds of the air

In 2012, I had read the book, “Messages From Heaven.” There were so many stories where a person was in need, prayed and then felt God’s presence through some signal in the natural world around them. These incidents to the atheist are superstition; to the agnostic — interesting coincidences where human nature leads one to wonder why; but to the Spiritual — God’s presence. For myself, there have been times in my life when I have directly felt God’s loving touch of peace and joy. Thus, as I had read those tales, I wondered why God might use such outward signs. 

After much reflection, the glimmer of understanding that I gained these past few years is that God can use something outside of us as a tool to assist us in keeping focused upon His message especially when God’s plan, answer, or timescale cannot immediately be envisioned. Those are the times we might be tempted to doubt or turn away. When we look to that external signal, we are reminded that we truly are where we need to be. 

Mark Nepo describes such external signals as quiet teachers. “The quiet teachers are everywhere. When we think we are in charge, their lessons dissolve as accidents or coincidence. But when brave enough to listen, the glass that breaks across the room is offering us direction that can only be heard in the roots of how we feel and think.” — “The Book of Awakening,” page 275. 

One example of a quiet teacher is birds. Birds are plentiful in our world. We might go so far as to say they are always there. Yet, at times of worry or distress we find ourselves looking to them perhaps noticing things we have never seen before. Have you ever seen the calming effects of a simple birds’ nest? 

Scripture challenges us to look more deeply at birds as quiet teachers. Birds are a symbol of love given to and received from God. When Jesus was presented at the temple, Joseph and Mary offered a sacrifice of two turtledoves (Lk 2:24). This sacrifice was in thanksgiving and to consecrate their first-born Son to the Lord. In His public ministry Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet none of them has escaped the notice of God. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows” (Lk 12:6-7). Jesus also said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt 6:26). 

The challenge is to reflect deeply then act upon the wisdom brought to us by such quiet teachers. That thought process brings us into deeper dialog with the Lord. Our fears are lessened. The question of whether the message was there already and we could not understand it, or whether the message was somehow conveyed by the quiet teacher fades to insignificance. What is important is that we are ready to hear and accept God’s peace and love. Even if we are amidst earthly turmoil, we know we are comfortably resting in God’s Hands.

A young friend shared a miracle tale with me. She was doing some cleaning in her garage. The door was open. A hummingbird had entered. The bird could not find its way out. My friend tried laying down some flowers to lead the bird out. The bird could not use the flowers in this way. My friend used the Internet to find other ideas. When the bird tired out, she carefully and gently carried it outside. However, by then the hummingbird was too exhausted to fly away. She gently brought the flowers to the bird. The bird drank from the nectar. She could see the bird watching her. After nectar from a few flowers, the bird was strong enough to fly away.

The true miracle is not the rescue of the hummingbird. Rather, the true miracle is the change within my friend as she watched the bird go on its way. She was thankful to have been able to help, but there was a deeper peace that settled into her heart. That inner peace gave her the eyes to see just how much love others had shared with her throughout her life. She realized the difference it had made in her life. She was moved to say thanks. She took the time to let others know what they had done and how much their help had meant to her. She felt the presence and love of God. Then, she shared that experience with those who had previously brought God’s love to her. 

Wouldn’t our world be a much nicer place if we all did that for each other? Those quiet teachers are there for each of us. Who can we bring God’s love to or share God’s love with this week? Let’s each do so.

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer and a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River.

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