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April 30, 2021 – Friday the 4th Week of Easter

Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO

Friday the 4th Week of Easter

Acts (13:26-33, Jn 14:1-6)

I usually try to base my homilies on the Mass readings for the day. But this morning I’m going to choose instead another theme that we’ve been listening to the past four to six weeks. It’s been a constant theme running through all of our daytime liturgical gatherings — maybe even a little too constant. Can you guess what I might be referring to? Maybe if I’m quiet long enough our trusty robin friend will oblige us. He’s been valiantly doing battle with his own image in the soffit windows of our church. After so much pecking and banging you can’t help wonder if some brain damage has been exacerbating the problem! Really, sometimes it sounds like he’s flying into the window at full force!

As Fr. John Vianney’s note explained, the male robin thinks the image is a competitor and he’s protecting his territory. Even before this one, another had been going at it with one of the windows of the old dentist office right outside my room. He’s got the bottom part of the window and the sill all covered with bird crap and saliva. You wonder why they seem to be worse this year. Maybe the Covid restrictions are getting to them too!

Quite often God puts object-lessons in our path to teach us some point. After listening to so much banging and bonking I thought there might be a homily somewhere in it. It seems so silly to us that this robin would be fighting a reflection of himself in the window. He’s expending vast amounts of time and energy on this task — not to mention the headaches — and it’s all a figment of his imagination. It’s all wasted time. He could have been helping momma bird hunt for worms and feed the kids.

But we can probably look back and see times when we were guilty of the same thing. As the prophet Nathan told King David, “That man is you!” How many times can we remember being all worked up about something, only to find out that it was all in our head and didn’t correspond to reality? Our imaginary enemy turned out to be a projection of our own issues.

Sometimes the things that bug us so much about another person are actually things about our own character that we dislike. On an unconscious level we’re annoyed that this trait still has a hold on us. So when we experience it in another person our reaction becomes super-charged. We fail to see that this person might be a mirror that God is holding up for us to see what it looks like when we do the same thing.

Or, sometimes we assign negative motives to neutral actions. “He wouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t trying to hurt me.” Going on that assumption, and building a major case on it, we fabricate a whole scenario about how he’s out to get us and is plotting to cause us harm. Only to find out later that, like the robin, it was all a figment of our imagination and we were doing battle with imaginary foes. I think that’s why the story of Don Quixote has had so much appeal through the years. He seems like such a crackpot jousting with windmills and other imaginary competitors and enemies, but we can all see a little bit of ourselves in him.

When we have one of these strong reactions to someone else it is often revealing to dig a little beneath the surface and try to discover why this has so much significance for us. Why is this getting my goat? Someone else experiencing the very same thing might not be having the same response. Do I have anger issues? What am I really angry about? What is this circumstance triggering? It can be revelatory. God wants us to be at peace. And when something is disturbing our peace it is quite often an invitation to grow in some area of our life.

That being said, though, it doesn’t mean that we should never judge anyone and that truly appalling things never happen that have nothing to do with our imagination or inner issues. It just means that we need to be wise and cautious about perceiving another person to be our enemy, and kind of tap on the window a little bit to make sure it’s not a reflection of ourselves. Who knows? Maybe it’s a Joan of Arc moment. Maybe it’s a Don Quixote moment.