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The Problem with Sparrows

June 25, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

June 25, 2017
Matthew 10: 26-33
Fr. George Smiga

There’s nothing wrong with sparrows. They are cute, little brown birds with a lot of pep. And I have to admit that I enjoy watching them flutter around my bird feeder. But when you compare sparrows to other birds, they do not stack up well. They are not colorful like cardinals or fast like hawks. In fact, in the bird kingdom they come across as commonplace, low level creatures. So this is why I am taken aback when Jesus says in today’s gospel, “You are worth more than many sparrows.” Isn’t that rather back-handed encouragement? If Jesus was trying to tell us that we were worth something, why not say, “You are worth more than many eagles.”

But this is the kind of thinking Jesus is trying to undercut in today’s gospel. He is trying to assert that we find our value not by comparing ourselves to others but by claiming our status in God’s eyes. God has made all things, and God loves all things. God has made some things bigger, faster, and more beautiful than others—and God loves those things. But God does not simply love the things that are bigger, faster, and more beautiful. God loves all things. God loves sparrows. There is something about their “sparrowness” that gives God constant delight. This is why Jesus uses the example of a sparrow in today’s gospel. He says, “Not a sparrow falls from the sky without your Heavenly Father noticing it.” And God notices sparrows because God notices everything that exists and loves each thing in creation for what it is.

How different our lives could be, if we could share in God’s way of seeing things instead of comparing our value and worth to the value and worth of others. We all want to excel. We want our children to excel. But if we are constantly measuring our worth and their worth against that of others, it is possible that we will miss the particular goodness that God has placed in us and in them. You can see this when you overhear fathers talking about their sons in the grade school football program. They do not use these words but one father will say, “You know, my son’s like a cheetah. No one runs faster than him.” Or another father will say, “My son is like a bear. He never misses a tackle.” But often there is a father who says, “My son. . . my son is like a sparrow.”

It is difficult being a sparrow on a football team. Yet God sees the value that is there. So should we. We cannot all be Supreme Court justices, or Hollywood celebrities, or multibillion-dollar entrepreneurs. But God has given to each one of us a goodness that allows us to love and serve others. What today’s gospel calls us to do is—instead of comparing our goodness to the goodness of someone else—to claim the goodness that we are and to use it. This is what God does. God is noticing our goodness every day and loving it. And God loves it not because it is better or less than someone else’s goodness. But because it is our goodness. The goodness that God created and in which God never fails to take delight.

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