Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You have poor people with you always. But you won’t always have me.” ~John 12:7-8
Not only is a group of crows called a murder, crows appear to have the ability to investigate murders. When a crow is killed, it is common to see other crows gather. While easy to sentimentalize the birds, imagining them grieving, it is just as likely that rather than a funeral, it is a crime scene investigation. Crows are one of the most intelligent bird species, so it is reasonable to conclude that they would look for signs of danger at the scene in order to avoid it in the future. That theory is supported by research studying other birds that apparently fake their own deaths. When researches noticed small birds laying feathers on their nests instead of weaving them in for insulation, they were intrigued. So they created and watched dummy nests that they placed feathers on. They observed other species show up and instead of immediately trying to take over the nest site, cautiously check out the area for a while. Apparently, the stray feathers were a sign that something bad had happened to the nest builder. With that information, the intruder would look for the predator that created the problem. This gives the true owner of the nest time to return and run off the intruder.
Our natural inclination tends to be like those small birds who are careful around death, trying to avoid it when possible. Our emotions make us fragile, and that is not bad. If pain, suffering, and death didn’t frighten or sadden us, we would have less motivation for compassion. Still, we could use some of the courage of those crows in the face of death. Jesus showed that he was aware that his death was near during his final week on earth. Mary’s act of compassion, lavishly anointing him with expensive oil associated with the care of dead bodies, showed her willingness to show love despite fear. Jesus accepting that attention shows us that sometimes the gift we need to give is a willingness to allow someone to care for us. And the fact that Christ’s passion is told at length in the Holy Week narratives in each of the Gospels teaches us the importance of accepting that the one prerequisite for resurrection is death. Often, in the face of death, we scatter like a flock of startled birds. But if we can find the courage to sit still in the troubled times, we will find that we are not alone. That is the nature of Spirit.
Prayer: Creator of the most distant star, thank you for being as near as our next breath as we face the troubles and fears of these moments. Amen.