By V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.
Today’s Gospel, as we return to Ordinary Time, includes the passage from Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples about their true value. A sparrow cannot fall from the sky without the Father knowing it, Jesus says. And as for us, “even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (MT 10: 30-31).
I was going to start this reflection with the observation that the sparrow is a common, humble bird, of little worth in our lives. Few people hang out a bird feeder to attract sparrows. But a little research reveals that a sparrow may have more going for it than we think. Because sparrows flock together in large numbers, some people see in them the protection we find in community. Others admire the sparrow for its strength; it is small but mighty, and will chase off larger birds. In Indonesian folklore, a sparrow flying into your house will bring good luck.
All this may bring new respect for the sparrow. I wonder if Jesus’ words gave the disciples new respect for themselves. How must they have felt to hear their Teacher talk to them in this way? Maybe before they encountered Jesus, their lives had been mundane. For most there were surely no hints that their names would be known to people living 2,000 years later. Yet Jesus sought them out. He taught them many things, one of which was that they are the beloved sons and daughters of God. He teaches us the same thing.
Jesus followed that thought with another, as he often does. It is not enough to know that we are beloved by God; we have to claim and proclaim that relationship. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father” (Mt 10: 32-33).
So even a humble sparrow, which may not be so humble, claims its place in the flock. It works for its own survival and that of its offspring. It is known to be busy and productive in supporting its own. We are a part of a flock too. Our family, our parish, our school—in my case, my religious congregation, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Through our words and actions, and through our very lives, we acknowledge Jesus. We claim our place at the table and help others find theirs. The eyes of the Father are on us, and from that we draw strength and peace.
The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.