When the beautiful swan alighted by the banks of the water, it came upon a crane wading about seeking snails.
The crane viewed the swan in stupid wonder and then inquired: “Where do you come from?” “I come from heaven!” replied the swan. “And what is heaven?” asked the crane. “Heaven!” said the swan, “Heaven! Oh! It is awesome! Streets made of gold, gates and walls adorned with precious stones, streams pure as crystal, trees with healing powers, stunning angels going around…” The swan went on and on.
And yet, all this electrifying description did not manage to arouse the slightest interest in the crane. Its only question was, “Are there any snails there?” “Snails! Snails!” repeated the swan! “No! Of course there are not.” “Then,” concluded the crane, as it continued its search along the slimy banks of the pool, “you can have your heaven. I want my snails!”
As I journey through the last lap of my life, I really believe that this legend has a deep truth underlying it. How many a young adult to whom God has granted the gift of a Christian home, has turned his back upon it and searched for the snails of ‘fun’ and drugs! How many a married man will sacrifice his wife, his family, his all, for the snails of adultery or gambling! How many a girl has deliberately turned from the love of parents and home to learn too late that heaven has been forfeited for the snails of an early pregnancy!
I often wonder whether we have ever understood Christianity! I am positive that the kind of answers I will get from the average Christian if I asked what the Church is all about, would be something like this…going to Church, do good, obey the commandments, try harder, do not fall into sin, respect the Pale’, obey… All about laws. All about doing chores that contain no excitement at all.
While being a Christian is something else. It is all about knowing, and sometimes feeling, that you are loved. It is not law related. Not even achievement related.
When I say I am a Christian, I am not implying that I am OK, I am just saying ‘I am lost; this is why I choose this way’. I am admitting that I have failed and can never make it on my own. A Christian stumbles constantly and needs a Big Shot doggedly to guide him.
A Christian is not the perfect guy. His flaws are too visible but He knows that God still cares for Him. He is keen on me, would utter Saint Paul in wonderment. He loved me and He died for me not when I was good but when I was wicked and mean! For Saint Paul, God is the love to the enemy because He is the love for me, a sinner.
Analyzing deeper the way we live our faith, perhaps the problem is that we have never given Christianity a real chance. We learnt something at CCD or at school, we found it boring or too demanding and we just shelved it on the side while we occupied ourselves with the more important things in life – study, finding and securing a good job, getting married and raising a family…
We never soared higher! When the wild goose, wounded by a hunter, landed safely in the yard, he was welcomed by the startled turkeys and chickens. They asked him all kind of questions. They wanted to know what it is like to fly…
And the goose recounted one story after another of his flights and how breathtaking it is to soar ‘in the wild blue yonder’. All the chickens were impressed. Yet the strangest thing happened. Or shall I say, never happened! While everyone enjoyed the stories about the glories of flying, no one ever tried to fly! And the wild goose himself, even when his wings were healed, continued to talk about flying but he actually never flew again.
This parable is scary because it hits too close to home. How easy to speak about being a Christian and never being one. How easy to go to mass and never actually feeling the love of God! How easy to talk about ministry without actually never serving!
It is true. It may be more secure to stay in the barnyard. But the truth is that to enjoy the thrills of flying we must start flapping our wings! Time to start?
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.