A few weeks ago, I was standing in our backyard at home watching geese flying south on their seasonal journey. They were flying in their familiar "V" patterns in the skies over the wetlands across the highway. A formation of approximately 30 geese flew directly over my head, honking mightily. Suddenly, I saw one entire wing of this "V" formation peel off, circle briefly and land quietly on a pond a half-block away. The other wing continued on for a half-mile or so before finally recognizing the absence of their comrades in flight. They then began to circle widely across the wetlands searching for their missing companions. Because it was dusk and visibility was poor, the birds in flight couldn't see where their comrades had landed. A few moments later, I noticed two geese from the group that had landed on the pond take off and fly straight to the searching birds, circle them once, and then lead them back directly to the pond where they all settled in for a little R&R on the water.
That experience got me interested in geese and what I might learn about them. I didn't then realize that these birds might also teach me some things as well. For instance, I learned that as each goose flaps its wings in flight, it creates a strong uplift for the bird immediately behind. So by flying in this "V" pattern, the entire flock adds a 70-80% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. I also learned that when a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power created by the bird in front.
I learned too that when the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the wing formation and another bird flies point. The larger the "V" formation, the less the stress on any individual bird! I learned that geese honk from behind to support those up front and encourage them to keep up their speed so they can arrive at their destination in a timely manner. Then too, I learned this amazing fact: when a goose gets sick or injured and falls out of formation, two other geese also leave the formation to accompany it down to the ground to offer help and protection. These two stay with the fallen bird until it either dies or is able to fly again. If it can fly again, then all three geese launch out together or with another formation to catch up to their original companions on the journey.
What does all this "goose-talk" have to do with today's Liturgy, with the "holy" family, with your family, with my family, with our parish family? The lessons geese offer us are obvious enough, as are the applications to our lives. If God enables geese to fly so efficiently and to cooperate so consistently in helping and protecting each other to reach their destination, what must God expect of us humans to whom so much more has been given? How well do we cooperate with our family at home and in our faith community? How well do we help, support and protect each other so we can all reach the destination to which Abba God calls us? There is so very much we can learn from all God's creatures : especially geese! But then, who has the time to watch geese in flight on a fall evening? We're all too darn busy, aren't we??