St Thèrése of the Child Jesus tells how, on day when she came upon a hen with her brood of chickens, she could not restrain her tears. That familiar sight reminded her of how intimate and complete is the love of Jesus for us, which enfolds us to himself. The words of Jesus cane vividly to life for her at that moment.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:27)
So many deep and consoling truths are presented by the familiar image of a hen and her brood of chickens.
The love of Jesus, so all-embracing. St Augustine says that there is no bird which conveys so completely the idea of an all-enfolding care. Her wings gather her whole brood till they are totally covered. Such is the spread of the love of Jesus for his whole flock.
The caring gesture of the hen is constantly repeated—an unending gathering. How often does Jesus extend his arms in a universal embrace; yet how often is his gesture rejected!
St John Chrysostom describes the pathos of that moment. “Even the killing of the prophets could turn not my love away from you. And, not once but often, he shows the greatness of his love through the example of the hen.”
John Moloney, The Time Is Now: Thoughts for the Day