Macbird is based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and as all those who have been grade 10 English students remember fondly, both plays are about ambition which overpowers compassion in the lead character. Macbird is tempted by power, the ability to control other people, and their desire leads to violence which spirals into his destruction. The play prompts us to ask and to wonder: when have we been tempted to put aside compassion and pursue what we want ruthlessly?
Why these plays are so important is because they show us the reality of power. By the bloody end of the play, it is clear what the consequences of violence are. Macbird tries to seize power through violence, but in doing so makes himself powerless. He tries to rule through fear, yet he is the one most afraid. When he intentionally erases his compassion for others, he also loses compassion for himself, and submits himself to pain and violence.
This morning, we have a chance to think about how we want to live.
We only ever have happiness when we have compassion for others. When we close off our natural concern for each other, we become locked up in ourselves like Macbird, afraid and alone. When we try to gain power to make others do what we want, we become enslaved to a thinking that only includes being controlled or controlling. God always clarifies the choice for his people: you can choose a life of peace or you can choose death by violence. In the end, it’s the only choice.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” I’m pretty sure that Jesus walked in the world so confident of his Father’s love because he shared peace with everyone he met. The human life of Jesus was the most happy one ever, and the saints who found him lived happy lives, peaceful within even if surrounded by violence.
On January 19th, the church celebrates St Agnes, who was a virgin like St. Kateri Tekakwitha. She lived in the 3rd century in Rome. She affirmed she had the right to live without a man, and to choose her own faith, and the Romans sentenced her to death at the age of 12.
St. Agnes, meet Macbird. Macbird, meet St. Agnes. One of you wielded the sword, the other was pierced by it. One of you prayed for your enemies, and the other could not pray when you wanted to. One of you had no choice but to control others, and the other had perfect freedom to be herself.
Let us pray.
you know our weakness and
you know we want power.
Help us to see clearly that we can only be happy when we love others.
Set us free from the violence we inflict on others
in our words, thoughts and actions.
Show us your love and your peace
so that we never want to hurt others.
Give us the strength that 12-year-old St. Agnes had
to stand by the truth about ourselves.
We ask this with Jesus, your son,
and your daughters Agnes and Kateri Tekakwitha,
in your Holy Spirit.
St. Agnes pray for us.
St Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.