Like the Magi l Worship
Last updated 4/3/2019 at Noon
Editor’s Note: Father Bill Mobley was a Worship columnist for The Beacon in the early- and mid-1990s until his death in 1996. A few times this year, we will be revisiting his columns. This column ran Jan. 6, 1993.
Flannery O’Connor wrote a short story called, “The Turkey.” In it, an 11-year-old boy named Ruller is our playing one day when he spots a wounded wild turkey. The bird has been shot; it cannot fly, but it can run.
Ruller begins to think what a hero he would be if he could catch it and bring it home as a prize for the family.
“Wouldn’t everyone be so impressed?” he muses. So Ruller tears after it and he sees himself “edging nearer with his arms rigid and his fingers ready to clutch.”
He keeps his eye on the bird and he runs after it through the field and thicket and hedges. He gets scratched and rips his shirt and, even when he has to get on his hands and knees to get under the fence, he still keeps his eye on the bird.
In fact, he is so focused on “the catch” that he runs smack into a tree and gets knocked down as the turkey scrambles off into the woods, to cover lost for sure.
Ruller is angry now. All that running for nothing. Why would God go around sticking things in your face and making you chase them all afternoon? He begins to curse and to conjure up bad thoughts, figuring he is a bad person so why not?
When he finally gets up to go home, he walks into the woods and sees the turkey lying there dead. He cannot believe it!
After all, God showed him the turkey. With the bird comfortably over his shoulder, he heads home, the long way through town so everyone can see and admire his amazing catch.
The townspeople are impressed. Men whistle at the bird, the women gather close to have a look, and a group of boys follows behind. Ruller is so proud, he could burst; and now he figures God must be wonderful, so he wants to do something for God.
He has a dime in his pocket and he decides to pray that a beggar will happen along so he can show his generosity. So he prays, “Lord, send me a beggar, please, right now!” And no sooner after he has prayed but there she turned the corner, and he almost felt as he had when he ran into the tree.
“Here!” he gives her a dime, and he is full of a new feeling like being happy and embarrassed all at the same time.
Now, at the edge of town, the boys who had been following him ask to see the turkey. Ruller begins to tell them his hunter’s tale in full, heroic detail. But before he can react, the boys have grabbed the turkey, and run off, leaving Ruller to stand there alone, empty-handed.
Noticing that it is dark, Ruller decides to run home. “He ran faster and faster, and as he turned up the road to his house, his heart was running as fast as his legs and he was certain that Something Awful was chasing behind him with its arms rigid and its fingers ready to clutch.”
I think that a lot of us only understand Epiphany like Ruller: God shows himself in the prize catch that we decide is important the “thing” or “lifestyle” or “whatever” that we decide we want, what we are after. God is to be avoided. One does not really seek out God. God is Something Awful that is ready to get us, ready to catch us being bad.
Watch the television prophets of gloom: “You need to be SAVED because the spirit of evil is rampant in this age!” And we in turn become the Something Awful that is ready to clutch what we want, what we are after. Only on those occasions when things do go well, we figure, “Well, maybe God ain’t so bad after all.”
The story of epiphany is a switch. These travelers from the East actively seek out a God who shows himself. Like Ruller, focused on that turkey to the exclusion of everything else, these foreigners focus on the star that will show God manifested.
But, unlike Ruller, it is not their decision what the picture of God’s goodness should be. In fact, the king they seek shows himself as a child in the least likely place.
Salvation is not because we are so bad. Salvation is because we are so loved. God is not Something Awful that is ready to catch us. God is Something Good who wants to break into our world, Something Incredible who wants to break out of our hearts.
God is not out to catch us because we have been bad children.
We, like the Magi, should be out to catch God because he loves us beyond all telling!