Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2017 – Year A
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16A / Ps 89 / Rom 6:3-4, 8-11 / Mt 10:37-42
by Rev. Salvador Anonuevo, Pastor
A story is told about a very wealthy man from India, who used to go to Africa to hunt rare wild animals. During one of his hunting trips, he went to a remote African jungle where he found a sanctuary of birds, of a rare species. The birds not only had beautiful feathers, but for some reason they could talk. He captured one of the birds, put it in a cage, and brought it back with him to India. Once home, he took good care of the bird. He talked to him every day and gave him all the food he wanted.
About a year later, he told the bird, whom he by now considered his good friend, “I am going back to the jungle in Africa, where you used to live. Do you have a message for your family and friends there?” The bird said, “Yes, just tell them I am very happy here in my cage. I can eat all the food I want. I couldn’t ask for anything more in life. Just tell them that.”
When the man went back to that African jungle, he told the birds there, “I have a message for you from your friend who now lives in India. He wants me to let you know that he is really happy there in his cage.” As soon as he said this, a bird in one of the branches keeled over and dropped dead. The man figured he must have missed his friend so much that it triggered his death.
When the man went back to India, he told his friend in the cage, “I relayed your message to your friends in the jungle, but as soon as one of them heard it, it dropped dead.” Immediately after he heard this story, the bird in the cage keeled over and dropped dead.
The man was shocked that it had happened, but what could he do? So he opened the cage, took the dead bird out, and got his shovel so he could bury him in the ground. As soon as he put him in the path so he could start digging, the bird flew to a branch. The man said “You tricked me. I thought you were dead.” The bird answered, “My friend back there in the jungle, by his action, sent me this message: “If you want to get out of your cage and experience freedom, you have to die while you are still alive.”
My dear friends, this is a very ancient story that has been in existence for hundreds of years. But this gives us an idea of what God’s words in sacred scripture are telling us. If you want to experience life in all its fullness – if we want to be free in the complete sense of the word – we have to die to our sins while we are still alive.
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul said, “You must think of yourself as dead to sin, and alive in Christ.” Then he continued, “Do not present your bodies to sin but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life.” While writing this letter, the apostle Paul must have had at the back of his mind the words of our Lord in the gospel we have just heard, for he said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, will find it.”
Two days from now, we will be celebrating Independence Day, and it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the religious meaning of our freedom. For we Christians, freedom means being free from sin, or as St. Paul puts it, being “dead to sin.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus said “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. But if the Son of Man sets you free, then you will truly be free.”
This is the kind of freedom we all long for. This is the kind of freedom we should celebrate every single day. As we continue to pray together in this Mass, let us ask our heavenly Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to give us the strength that will enable us to always be dead to sin so that we can always be alive in Christ.