by Father Mark Goldasich
Let’s start with a disclaimer: I’m not an ornithologist, chiropterologist or apiarist. Therefore, what follows below may not be scientifically accurate with regard to buzzards, bats and bumblebees. But since I found it on the internet, it must be true!
It’s said that if you put a buzzard in a pen that’s 6 feet by 8 feet and entirely open at the top, the bird, despite its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard usually begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it won’t even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner in a “jail” with no top.
Similarly, the nimble bat that flies around at night can’t take off from a level place. If placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle helplessly until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air.
Finally, if a lowly bumblebee is dropped into an open tumbler, it will be there until it dies, unless it’s removed. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but tries to find some way out through the sides near the bottom.
It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.
The anonymous author of these observations notes that people are like the buzzard, bat and bumblebee. We struggle mightily with the problems and frustrations that surround and overwhelm us, and never realize that all we have to do is look up to find consolation, strength and help.
Jesus clearly understood this need to look up. Here are a few examples:
- In the Gospel of Mark, he encounters a deaf man. After taking him off by himself, Jesus “put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’)” (7:33b-34).
- In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sees a hungry crowd and orders them to sit on the grass. Then “taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds” (14:19).
- And in the Gospel of John, as Jesus approaches the end of his earthly life, “he raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you” (17:1).
It seems to me that if Jesus looked to heaven for assistance, we would do well to do the same.
But notice what happens after Jesus looks up: He’s moved to action. He didn’t just sit back and expect God the Father to do all the work. Instead, Jesus went on to cure the sick, multiply the loaves and undergo his passion and death on the cross.
We hear about “looking up” on the feast of the Ascension. You know the story from the Acts of the Apostles. The disciples witness Jesus being “lifted up,” and then they hang around, “looking intently at the sky as he was going.”
They probably would have remained that way, had not “two men in white garments stood beside them” who said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” (1: 9-11a).
In other words, the strangers subtly reminded them that there was work to be done now: They were to head back to Jerusalem to “be baptized with the holy Spirit” and, with that strength from heaven, go out to all the world and announce the good news.
That’s good advice for all of us. When we encounter sickness, hunger or fear in our lives, we should first, like Jesus, look up and pour out our hearts to God. Our second task is to do whatever the Spirit directs.
The only time it’s not wise to look up to the heavens is when you’re out walking. Then, it’s best to “look out” . . . but that’s a topic for another column.