One morning last week I witnessed quite an extraordinary spectacle.
I was sitting having a cuppa at about 10.30 am, gazing at the tree which sits in the middle of an area of lawn outside my lounge.
The tree is naked of leaves at the moment, so the branches are very obvious.
There alighted onto one of the branches a Tui.
Now for those who may not know the Tui is a boisterous medium-sized bird native to New Zealand. It is blue, green, and bronze coloured with a distinctive white throat tuft.
This white tuft has given rise to it being named ‘the parson bird’.
The Tui is also known for its distinctive song type.
As I watched the Tui and was listening to its song, two smaller birds alighted onto tree branches near to where the Tui was.
Suddenly the Tui melodious tones stopped, and the bird’s attention turned to the newly arrived birds.
Tui are very territorial and they can become aggressive. They vigorously chase other birds away with loud whirring wings and Tui was no exception and this is exactly what happened.
The Tui chased the birds away! “This is MY tree!”.
The melodious song had become a noisy warning,
“Stay away, go and find your own tree!”
Reflecting on this Sunday’s First Reading and Gospel, the “Tui incident” became a strong metaphor.
In the first reading (Numbers 11: 25 – 29) we see how Moses regarded the ‘opposition’, and in the gospel reading, we see Jesus.
In the Book of Numbers, we read “The young man ran to tell Moses: ‘Look,’ he said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.'”
Moses’ response showed a wonderful generosity of spirit: “If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!”
The situation in the gospel reading is an exact parallel, and Jesus’ response is just like that of Moses.
In Mark’s Gospel we read, “John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
The response of Jesus, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.”
There is room on the tree for more than one bird! To frighten away I need to stop singing!
In the document Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council stated: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions.
“She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all people.”
This is not a sell-out, as some have claimed; it is in the spirit of Christ, who praised the “faith” even of a pagan Roman centurion (Matthew 8:10).
Only a truth that is very unsure of itself feels always compelled to make an enemy of the other.
There is room on the tree for more than one bird. To frighten away I need to stop singing!
I have a choice, I can be like the aggressive, territorial Tui, vigorously chasing everyone else away; or I can add my voice to the others gifted with the spirit of proclamation, and the song we make is the song of our world awakening to the absolute beautiful sound of our world awakening together and singing praise to God.