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Deacon's Homily, Thursday 30th week Year 1

Thursday, October 27, 2011
Rm 8:31-39, Ps 108:21-22,26-27,30-31, Lk 13:31-35

In today's Gospel, two animals are mentioned – a fox and a hen. Now there's another well known story which features a fox and a hen, Henny Penny, also known as Chicken Licken. In the story of Henny Penny, an acorn falls on a hen's head, and so she goes around telling the other animals 'the sky is falling in, the sky is falling in; join me on my quest to inform the king.' Eventually this band of animals comes across a fox who says to them 'I will lead you to the king.' Of course he's lying. Instead the fox leads them to his lair and eats them all. End of story. So the moral of the story is don't be like a hen. Such are the ways of the world.

Now this story is turned on its head in today's Gospel. Jesus the hen goes to the fox's den, Jerusalem fully aware of the inevitable outcome. He doesn't quite preach that the sky is falling in – it's more like the Kingdom of heaven is coming down. Nevertheless, Jesus relentlessly goes on towards Jerusalem. From a worldly point of view, what Jesus is doing is totally futile. There can only be one outcome when a fox and a hen come across each other.

In our Gospel story, mother hen wants to gather her brood under her wings, but they won't let her, and perhaps this isn't that surprising. If you're a chick in a fox's den, you'd be deluding yourself if you felt nice and snug under mother hen's wings - she's not going to provide much protection against a determined fox. The result is inevitable. But if you're a chick, what's the alternative. If the moral of Henny Penny is 'don't be like a hen,' that doesn't really help, because if we're chicks then we can't help but be like hens. We may run away from mother hen, but that won't stop the fox from thinking we're tasty. The fox will still get us.

Putting aside the analogy of Jesus the hen and we the chicks, it seems that on the human level we have two alternatives – either we die with Christ, or we die without Christ. Either way, on the natural level, there doesn't seem to be much hope. But we don't just place our trust in nature. The good news of the Gospel is that there has been a dramatic reversal of roles. Victim has become victor. On the natural level, it may look like the powers of violence and hatred triumph over gentleness and love, but on the supernatural level, it is gentleness and love which have triumphed over violence and hatred. The natural level is thus transformed. Calvary is where this victory is won.

So the moral of this fox and hen story in the Gospel is as St Paul puts it in the letter to the Romans:

neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Robert Verrill OP


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