“Finding rest, shelter and protection under the wings of the Lord, our Mother Hen!”
(Based on Eph 6:10-20 and Lk 13:31-35 – Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time)
As children, we have often heard short stories…
One of the famous stories we have heard is about the Fox and the Hen.
The Fox tries his level best to kill the hen and it almost succeeds, until, the hen, by its cleverness, escapes through the clutches of the fox!
The fox is described with dominative and oppressive characters.
The hen is described with a defenceless and subjugated character.
Yet, the hen with its cleverness and adeptness manages to escape through its grasp.
The Gospel of the day presents such similar images of the Hen and the Fox to deliver a powerful message for our spiritual lives.
The passage begins with some Pharisees giving a warning to Jesus to leave that place since Herod wanted to kill Him.
Firstly, we encounter an unusual image of the Pharisees…
Usually, they are a group who present a very opposing and critical attitude.
The thought of a Pharisee, usually, brings an image of people who are knowledgeable, yet judgemental and disapproving in their behaviour.
But here is a welcome distinction…
These Pharisees display a concern towards Jesus and warn Him of the dangers posed by King Herod.
Why did these Pharisees do so?
…In malice, to further trap Jesus?
…In jealousy, to keep Jesus away from the crowds?
…In concern, to help in His mission?
We can’t say for sure.
We can’t ascertain what really their motive behind warning Jesus was.
But it does allows us space to think that all people cannot be judged as wrong all the time!
At least an inkling of goodness exists in all, even in the midst of thick evil!
The answer of the Lord to the warning is a strong one…”Go and tell that fox…!” (Lk 13:32)
The image of the fox appears….King Herod.
Why does Jesus call King Herod as a fox?
The fox was an unclean animal for a Jew.
More than the slyness of the animal, Jesus was perhaps referring more to its uncleanness.
Herod always had issues with respect to being a clean and credible Jew…
After the death of his father, King Herod the Great (the one who had killed the many innocent male children at the birth of Jesus), this Herod Antipas had been put in power by Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, in 4 BC.
History tells that in 17 AD, to honour his Roman rulers, he build a grand new capital city named Tiberius, after the current emperor, only to discover that it was built on top of an old Jewish cemetery.
No pious Jew ever entered it, and was occupied exclusively by the pagans.
Herod also had his moral issues…
He divorced his first wife, in order to marry Herodias, the wife of his brother, Philip.
John the Baptist had been a persistent critic of Herod for this dubious marriage.
Herod had John killed because he had promised his daughter anything she wanted if she danced for him, and John’s head on a platter is what she wanted.
True, that King Herod Antipas was a powerful man and a person of great influence.
… But Jesus, the King of Kings and the God of all, fears him not and calls him “a fox!”
When one is filled with the mighty Spirit of God, no earthly forces can cause fright or scare!
When one fully trusts in the strength of God, no worldly might can cause anxiety or dread!
When one is committed to one’s convictions and missions, no power can deter away from it!
This leads Jesus to give another image…
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how many times, I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…“
The image of a mother Hen appears…Jesus Christ
It is one of the most overtly feminine references to God in all of scripture.
Jesus will be the mother hen who stands between the chicks and those who mean to harm.
She has no pointed fangs or rippling muscles.
But all she has, is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body.
If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first.
This is the image that Jesus for Himself… a Hen.
It lays bare God’s vulnerability.
Here is the contrast…
King Herod, presented as a Fox…powerful, rude, forceful
Jesus, presented as a mother Hen…protective, sacrificial, shielding
This mother Hen, Jesus, invites each of us, His chicks, to find shelter under His wings.
Am I willing to take shelter under the wings of Jesus, the mother Hen?
St Paul exhorts us to remain firm and strong in the Lord and to put on the armour of the Lord:
“… be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil!” (Eph 6:10-11)
The Gospel has a sad note: When the mother hen tried to gather her chicks underneath her wings, “they were unwilling” (Lk 13:34b)
The chicks are unwilling to remain under the shade of the hen’s wings…
Maybe they wanted more freedom…
Maybe they just wanted to have their own way of living life…
Maybe they did not find the mother hen too exciting, whereas the active fox attracted them…
We too are sometimes so…
We fail to come under the shade of God’s wings…
We become unwilling.
The story of the fox and the hen continues…
Do I get attracted more to the energetic and tempting fox…
Or do I find rest, shelter and protection under the wings of the mother hen?
The choice is before us…
God Bless! Live Jesus!