Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time
Of Headless Chickens and Two-Headed Snakes

Readings: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22b-27; Psalm 84:3, 4, 5-6, 12; Luke 6:39-42
Picture: CC Mary Witzig

Run so as to win… I do not run aimlessly…

These words of St. Paul in the first reading conjure up a couple of images that express well the situation in which many of us, myself included, often find ourselves. The picture that Paul himself sketches is that of a well-trained and focused athlete, straining for the finish line. Many of us can probably identify with this metaphor. Throughout much of our busy lives, don’t we often find ourselves focused upon various long and short-term goals? Aren’t we brought up to train and strain ourselves towards them? And yet, quite ironically perhaps, precisely in the midst of our busyness, don’t we sometimes also feel a little like we’re doing what Paul professes to avoid? Don’t we sometimes feel like headless chickens, aimlessly running about, without a proper end in sight? We’re busy with many things, and yet something often still seems painfully missing. There remains a void within us waiting to be filled, a deep hunger that all our many activities don’t quite seem to satisfy. Which are we then: finely tuned athletes or headless chickens?

Jesus’ words in the gospel help us to further deepen our reflection. Again, a couple of images come to mind. The first is taken from the Lord himself. If we do sometimes feel like we’re running about aimlessly, perhaps it’s because we are blinded to varying degrees by a beam in our eye. But what might this mean? What could this beam be? Could it be that our difficulty has as much to do with having too many goals as with having none? Perhaps our predicament is not just that of a headless chicken, but also that of a two, or even many, headed snake. We find ourselves torn between competing ideals, conflicting desires. We wish, for example, to be both spiritually and financially well off. Of course, these aren’t necessary inconsistent desires. Until, that is, our relentless quest for the latter leads us into the murky waters of greed and even crime. Here, it’s so easy to be blinded and to lose one’s way. Attracted in opposite directions the two-headed snake either ends up paralyzed or aimlessly crawling around in circles.

Thankfully, the beautiful words of the responsorial psalm come to our rescue. Here we find the solution to our difficulty. It lies in coming to see – in allowing the Lord to show us – on a regular basis, that among the various things that we want, among the many hungers that we experience, there is one desire that surpasses them all. My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God… It is this clear-sighted realization that enables someone like Paul to continue racing to the finish, forsaking all else besides. Or, to be more accurate, with God’s help, Paul strives continually to relate and to subordinate all other yearnings to this one, all encompassing desire.

How might the Lord wish to remove the beams from our eyes and help us to continue racing to the finish today?


  1. This morning, I was about to run out to do one of my morning routines. Reading this reflection has made me rethink about my really packed schedule today, from early afternoon to the night. Eventually, I decided not to do the usual. Now, as I draw near the end of day, I thank God and thank you, Fr Chris. I've been saved from a madder rush and a much more tiring day. Talk about headless chickens!

    How might the Lord wish to remove the beams from our eyes and help us to continue racing to the finish today? Looks like I may need to bring all my needs, wants, plans, to-do lists, etc. to the Lord often and ask Him to help me set priorities right from His perspective!

  2. With a team of salesmen in my charge, we use several expressions to stay the course. One is: Don't be "busy for nothing" - ostenibly working hard and yet not achieving the desired result. The other is "do it right the first time" since trying to patch up shoddy work is more time consuming. We refer to this as time management or simply "plan to work and work to plan".
    Chicken without a head, chasing after one's own tail bring back memories of setting objectives and trying to excel for the company. It is creative energy of the secular kind.
    How may I apply these thoughts to my spiritual well being? Do I truly know and really discern what is required when it comes to the way of the Cross? Running straight ahead and not noticing the person needing help, which I just passed? Do I have to have a good reason to stop?
    Everyday struggles like these and the awareness of what is required; being confronted with choices - the forces within me that keep pulling in different directions. Is that my Ego surfacing?? When will I know it is God who is leading? Sigh!!


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