Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an avid bird watcher. Not a person who goes out looking for birds they’ve never seen before, but just an admirer of the ones that come into our yard. And I like them all…from the little Wrens and Chickadees to the Red-Tailed Hawks and the occasional Eagle that flies over. From my favorite spring visitors – Baltimore Orioles and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks – to my fall favorites – Dark Eyed Juncos and White Crowned Sparrows – I just enjoy watching their pretty colors brighten up the yard.
But one bird that has always been pretty close to the bottom of my list…through no fault of its own…is the dove.
I’m not really sure why I never warmed to it or got excited to see it. It may be overfamiliarity. They were around when I was growing up and they always appeared to be plain…common. They were just there…part of the scenery. I hardly gave them a second glance.
But not so for my friend, Josh. Josh once told me that his favorite bird was the turtledove. I called him this morning and asked him why. He told me that they reminded him of summers when he was growing up. He would lay in bed and hear their “cooing.” He also told me that there is an old wives’ tale that if you hear a dove cooing, rain is on the way. For Josh, doves invoke good memories.
I thought about Josh yesterday at Mass. Yesterday was the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During the scripture reading, from Luke 3, Jesus comes to the river Jordan for John the Baptist to baptize him. After Jesus was baptized, it says that “heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.” Fr. Robert referenced the dove coming to the Noah also and it made me think about the two scriptures and the similarities.
I reread the scripture from yesterday and the verses in Genesis. One thing I found interesting was the reversal of certain events. The forty days of the flood were followed by the dove flying and not returning, indicating dry land and the end of God’s destruction of mankind. Jesus, having the dove descend upon him after he was baptized, was followed by forty days in the desert, to begin his work of restoring life.
The end of the flood represents a new beginning, with Noah and his family bringing new life to the earth. The baptism of Jesus also marks a new beginning. He begins his ministry to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy and bring about new life for all believers.
In the flood, God destroyed corrupt human beings to destroy sin. But in the Gospel, Jesus is destroyed by corrupt human beings in order to destroy sin. As we know, mankind quickly returned to its sinful nature after the flood, but through Jesus, death was conquered, and eternal life secured for all who believe.
Through the waters of the flood, sin was washed from the earth; through the waters of our baptism, sin is washed away, and God adopts us as his own. Co-heirs with Jesus. This doesn’t mean the end of our challenges…no, our lives are no different than Noah and his family. We still face obstacles and sin still comes into our lives. But what the flood failed to accomplish, Jesus finished with his life, death, and resurrection.
For the people of Israel, doves were also used for sacrifices. In Leviticus, doves were used by those who couldn’t afford a lamb. The significance of a dove descending on Jesus wouldn’t have been lost of the people gathered there at the river Jordan. God could have chosen a majestic eagle or any number of more spectacular birds. But a lowly dove, an animal used for sacrifice, was used to represent the sacrifice that was to come.
So next time I look out my window and admire the cardinals, blue jays, and all the beautiful birds in the yard, I think I will pause to take a second glance and appreciate the doves.