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Anger, Part ii

Fr. Joseph K. Horn
(A Retelling of an Old Story)
5th Sunday of Easter, 1997
St Barbara’s Parish
Santa Ana, CA

At this Mass two months ago I gave a sermon about anger. I got more requests for copies of that sermon than any other I’ve given at St Barbara’s. It seems that everybody knows what anger is like, and so it was a topic that everybody could relate to. Here’s Part 2.

Genghis Khan was a great king and warrior. His armies marched into China and Persia, and he conquered many lands. In every country, men told about his daring deeds, and the swiftness of his sword, and they said that since Alexander the Great there had been no king like Genghis Khan.

One morning when he was home from the wars, he rode out on his horse alongside many of his friends, all carrying bows and arrows, followed by his servants and his hounds. The woods rang with the hunting party’s merry shouts and laughter. They expected to catch a lot of game animals and have a huge feast that evening.

On the king’s wrist sat his favorite hawk, for in those days hawks were trained to hunt. At a word from their masters they would fly high up into the air, and look around for prey. If they happened to spot a deer or a rabbit, they would swoop down upon it swift as an arrow.

All day long Genghis Khan and his huntsmen rode through the woods. But they didn’t find as much game as they expected.

Toward evening they started for home. The king had often ridden through the woods and he knew all the paths. So while the rest of the party took the nearest way, he went alone by a longer path through a valley between two mountains.

The day had been warm, and the king was very thirsty. His pet hawk had left his wrist and flown away. It would surely find its way home; hawks are very smart animals.

The king rode slowly along. He had once seen a spring of clear water somewhere near this pathway; if he could only find it now! But the hot days of summer had dried up all the mountain brooks.

At last, to his joy, he saw some water trickling down over the edge of a rock, one drop at a time. The king leaped from his horse. He took a little silver cup from his hunting bag. He held it patiently so as to catch the slowly falling drops.

It took a long time to fill the cup, and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He lifted the cup to his lips and was about to drink.

All at once there was a whirring sound in the air, and the cup was knocked from his hands. The water was all spilled upon the ground. Genghis Khan looked up to see who had done this thing. It was his pet hawk.

The hawk flew back and forth a few times, and then alighted among the rocks. The king said, “I’m happy to see you too, but I’m thirsty, so let me fill my cup so I can have a drink!” He picked up his cup, and again held it to catch the trickling drops.

This time he didn’t wait so long. When the cup was half full, he lifted it towards his mouth. But before it had touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again, and knocked it from his hands.

The king frowned, and tried again. But for the third time, the hawk knocked the cup from his hands, and the king grew furious. “Stupid bird!” he shouted. “If I had you in my hands, I’d wring your neck!” And he meant it, he was so angry.

Then he filled the cup again. But this time, before he tried to drink from it, he drew his sword from its scabbard. “Now, Sir Hawk,” he said angrily, “this is the last time.”

As he lifted the cup to his lips, the hawk swooped down and knocked it from his hand. But the king was ready. With his famous speed, a sudden sweep of his sword through the air struck the bird as it passed. There was a loud cry of a hawk in pain, a flurry of feathers, and the next moment the poor hawk lay bleeding to death at its master’s feet.

“That is what you get,” said Genghis Khan. But when he looked for his cup, he found that it had fallen deep between two large rocks, and he couldn’t get it out. “Then I’ll have a drink from the spring,” he said to himself.

With that he began to climb the steep bank to find where the water was trickling from. It was hard work, and the higher he climbed, the thirstier he became.

At last he reached the place. There was a little pool of water, but his smile quickly fell. Lying in the pool, almost filling it, was a huge dead snake of the most poisonous kind. Its blood and venom were oozing into the water, and trickling down to the rocks below.

The king stopped. He forgot his thirst. He thought only of his poor pet hawk lying dead on the ground below. “The hawk saved my life!” he cried, “and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I killed him!”

He clambered back down the rocks. He picked up the bird’s body slowly and gently, and laid it in his hunting bag. He mounted his horse, and as he rode home, he said to himself, “I have learned a sad lesson today, and that is, never do anything while blinded by anger.”

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