Awe and Wonder
17 June 2012. 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 17, 22-24; Psalm 92; Corinthians 5,6-10; Mark 4, 26-34
Parables are stories taken from ordinary life to explain a truth. Jesus uses parables to explain not just a truth, but a greater reality - that of the Kingdom of God. He uses parables in order for people to understand the Kingdom of God.
The parable of the farmer who throws seeds on the ground and wonders how the seed grows is a story unique in the gospel of Mark. The point to reflect on therefore is what we are losing in this day of science and empirical thought: the sense of awe and wonder.
The imagery of the farmer sowing seeds is a familiar image. My dad was an agriculturist who would give lectures to farmers during the time of President Marcos’ Masagana 99. He would bring home huge sweet potatoes, new varieties of rice, and sacks of peanuts. I would watch rice paddies turn into gold and delight in the harvest. Every time I listen to Sting’s “Fields of Gold” I would remember my dad.
At a very early age, I wondered about life itself and the processes involved in growing. I love science. I took up Marine Biology in college, until I was told to shift to Philosophy because it was an ecclesiastical necessity. But the priesthood did not kill my interest in biology. It was wonderful to learn about life forms.
When everything is almost explainable with science, we lose that sense of wonder. This sense of wonder blinds us from seeing the mystery that is happening between every cell division that contributes to the re-shaping of the seed to the tree that allows the birds of the air to nest on it.
Walt Whitman puts it nicely:
When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts, the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I, sitting, heard the learned astronomer
Where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
On Father’s Day, we have to re-claim our child-like sense of wonder. “To look up in perfect silence at the stars” - Today, those stars are our fathers. We honor all fathers, including those who have functioned as fathers to us. We stretch its meaning, and not be constrained by gender, into all those, including women, who single-handedly care for children in many “father-like” ways. I would like to think that the commercial celebrations of both Father/Mother’s Day are only two ways to honor our parents.
We know that our parents are not perfect. They commit a lot of mistakes. They hurt us, and some, even inflicted more than just a gash, but a deep-seated wound. But somehow, even in their flaws, they have raised us to what and who we are. Like the seed, the father wonders how it grows and he does not know how. Even as you peer into the microscope and see how cells multiply, you often wonder what makes them move. Isolate the nucleus and mitochondria of a cell, the basic structural unit of life, and then put them all together, you can’t bring the cell back to life.
On Father’s Day, we re-claim this sense of awe and wonder. Wonder how your dad has raised you. Wonder how your mom has brought you to who you are today. We sleep and rise and go on our daily routines, and then suddenly and especially when milestones happen like a birthday, a graduation, a wedding or even death, we wonder what happened: how our children has grown, despite or because of us.
To me, as a priest, I often wondered how one student, with all of his mischief, suddenly calls me to officiate their wedding; and to see how they have grown is to me one of the most rewarding moments of priesthood -- you can say, my fatherhood.
When I was a child wondering how rice paddies turn into gold, I would sometimes catch my father looking at me. I would like to think and I believe that he was wondering too how I was maturing so fast.
Now, it is my turn, looking at my students in high school, and wondering what they would be in the future. That business of the future, is ours and not ours.
The parable says, it is also God’s. We do what we can now. And then we entrust to the Lord what we can’t.