By Deacon John De Gano
The proverb, “the early bird catches the worm,” suggests that the person who gets there first has the best seat in the house and it may, in fact, be true, sometimes…for the bird. It is not true, however, for the worm, nor the first mouse to a mousetrap loaded with cheese.
I share this bit of knowledge because I happened upon a murder of crows (i.e., a ‘gang’ of six or eight) in the front yard of a home during one of our infrequent rainy days.
They were hopping to and fro on the lawn spearing unsuspecting earthworms that had come to the surface (to avoid drowning in the soggy soil). The crows’ precision and eyesight were remarkable. The worms literally didn’t know what hit them.
My heart sank just a bit as I observed the deadly killing field scene, and I had the urge to stop my car, get out and chase the birds off the lawn… but I did not do so.
Apart from the fact that I would be late for my appointment or that the neighbors would think me a fool, or worse, call the police on me, I realized that I was observing the life cycle of nature in action:
Worms live underground and eat the decay in the soil; get eaten by the crows for nutrition; and, when the crows die and decay, become the food for future earthworms.
A neat little eco-system created by God so that plants and edible fruits and vegetables may grow in the rich soil tilled by these humble invertebrates.
This life cycle reminded me of the saying, “We are what we eat.” Or, in our Catholic Eucharistic language, “we are what we are becoming.”
“Take and eat. This is my body. This is my blood.”
These words of Jesus are profound and they are what make us uniquely Catholic-Christians. In the receipt of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus (in what we term the real Presence) – body, blood, soul and divinity – and if done so worthily, we are becoming conformed to him.
Such a gift. Eucharist.
And like the crows we should have a strong desire to receive Jesus with just the same fervor or ferocity.
Yet many of us come to communion without the full understanding or knowledge that we are receiving the Son of God into our bodies or that this action should make a real impact upon the person we are and are becoming.
Heavenly food for a heavenly purpose.
It is truly a foretaste of eternity with God: sweet, filling and available to us 365 days a year (or 366 during leap years).
We should, therefore, pay it more than a passing glance on our way to the next stop of our day but rather, pause from our busyness to be grateful that God invites us to his supper and provides for our needs.
Not everyone, alas, will accept God’s gift of eternal life. Instead of soaring heavenward, they will return to the earth from which they sprung to become the food for worms.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.