Walking along Cape Elizabeth, south of Portland, Maine, I recently encountered up close a friendly sea gull. It wasn’t afraid because it had grown accustomed to visitors feeding the bird the leftovers from their lunch.
In nature, sea gulls eat live food or scavenge for crabs and small fish. Gulls are resourceful and gifted birds. They use intricate methods of communication and live in a highly developed social structure. Like the one I encountered, many species of gulls have learned to coexist successfully with humans.
The sea gull I saw reminded me of the story of a small fishing village where, for many years, a flock of sea gulls fed on the scraps the fishermen left. They thrived in the seaside village until eventually the fishing was depleted and the villagers moved down the coast where fish were plentiful. The sea gulls did not follow the fishermen. Since they had lived off the scraps of the fishermen and had ceased to labor to feed themselves, the entire flock of birds died.
Isn’t this story reminiscent of those among us who have no real sense of purpose? Instead, they rely only on what others impart to them. That’s what misled the sea gulls in my story to be unable to fend for themselves and survive. They no longer had the determination to scavenge for food. Their continued existence depended solely on what others threw their way.
Recently, I watched the fairy tale, Alice in Wonderland with my young granddaughter. In a conversation between her and the Cheshire Cat, Alice asked, “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.
Christians who cease to care about their spiritual journey or who neglect to seek out God’s will resemble Alice in the fairy tale. Likewise, they bear a similarity to the ill-fated sea gulls in my story. When others hear our messages and witness how we live our life, do they see examples of faith, love, and service in Christ’s name? Are we committed to live a life of obedience to Him and help others share with Him and each other the ultimate reward… the crown of eternal life?
In the New Testament Epistle of James, we are encouraged to be patient and persevere during trials and temptations; to live consistently with what we have learned and say we believe in Christ.
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved. Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:12-17)
In closing, let us never forget our calling as God’s children; in fact, let us reinforce with our families and friends St. Paul’s word to Christians: “Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us….Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.” (Philippians 3:17 and 4:1)
The Apostle Paul offers the ultimate assurance to those who reject the scraps of this world in favor of the Source of eternal life: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
[Photos by Fr. George Tsahakis]