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God’s way is my way 

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OUR GOSPEL today is about the Kingdom of God. It contains practical lesson especially for those who tend to think that the Kingdom preached by Jesus is a “place with pearly gates.” The twin parables that we hear from Mark’s whole chapter on parables are more about HOW GOD MAKES THINGS HAPPEN, and the challenge for us to learn to do things HIS WAY. 

This has been expressed well by the old song in the Liturgy of the Hours, which we usually sing on Wednesday morning, and which was made popular by Cat Stevens – MORNING HAS BROKEN. 

The song tells about the seeming magic that takes place at each morning that breaks like the “first morning,” and each blackbird that sings like the “first bird.” It makes you imagine the Creator taking a walk, and all creation being refreshed as God passes by. The song praises the sweetness of the wet garden that springs constantly in completeness, fresh from the world. And then he exclaims, “GOD’S WAY IS MY WAY…”

In our second reading, St. Paul is, as it were, warning us that if we think of the kingdom as a place, we might miss it. He says we have to see it with the eyes of faith. We have to learn to “walk by faith, not by sight.”

God invites us to work with him. But first, we have to allow ourselves to be mentored in his style of working. How does God work? The first parable answers that: SLOWLY BUT SURELY. Jesus compares it to the experience of a farmer who stops at some point, after sowing the seeds and doing all the work. While he sleeps and waits, the seeds sprout and grow and bear fruit on their own without his knowing how.

The Visayans have a good expression for this: HINAY-HINAY BASTA KANUNAY. Slowly but constantly, a dynamic that is almost unnoticed. If we want to take part in God’s work of creation, we must learn to wait, we must respect the process, we have to have the virtue of patience, we have to know not just the time but also the proper TIMING for things. You “play it by ear.” “Idaan sa pakiramdaman.” Wika nga ni Kuya Kim Atienza, “ANG BUHAY AY WEATHER-WEATHER LANG.” (My translation for that is, Life is a matter of time and timing.)

Remember the famous words of the Book of Ecclesiastes? “There is a time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” We tend to miss a lot when we cannot find time to sit down, to observe, to listen, to be truly present and attentive. 

One of our problems is when we insist on doing it our way. Remember that favorite but notorious song that mysteriously causes a lot of trouble among people in videoke singing and drinking sprees? That song whose punch line is I DID IT MY WAY! It is a perfect formula for chaos, when each one wants to do it his or her own way. 

We have a problem when we always insist on being in control of everything. In most instances, we can only attune ourselves to the dynamics at work in creation. Only this way can we participate in God’s work.

Back to the question: How does God work? The second parable also answers this. How? IN THE MOST UNASSUMING WAYS. Jesus says, from the “smallest of all the seeds on the earth” it “springs up” into something wonderful. You get amazed how such a great thing can come out of something so small, so seemingly insignificant.

Again, you can miss the kingdom of God if you underestimate things that seem worthless to you at first impression. You have to bracket your first impressions, or even your assumptions or presuppositions. We have to put on check our biases and prejudices. If we want to do things God’s way, we must never belittle even the smallest efforts, the little acts, the little gestures, little initiatives, little things. 

If Jesus had allowed himself to be influenced by the disciples’ attitude towards the five loaves and two fish, we would not have discovered what we now know as the “miracle of the loaves,” which has repeated itself with Ana Patricia Non’s little initiative at the Maginhawa Community Pantry. (Believe it or not, after two months, our own community pantry is still ongoing. It means people continue to give what they can.) 

Would Nathaniel have become the great apostle if Philip had let go of him when he belittled Jesus and said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Who were Peter, Magdalene, James and John? They were nobodies in the standard of the “big shots” in Jesus’ times. Who were Lazarus, Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus? They were good-for-nothing as far as society was concerned. Who were Mary, Joseph, or Jesus? But look what impact they’ve made and are still making on all of us even two thousand years later. 

They say the really good managers in this world do not underestimate little efforts; they are also not easily impressed by big-time projects. There is a song in the movie Bro Sun, Sister Moon that has captured the thoughts of St. Francis of Assisi very well about God’s way. It says,

“If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly
Do few things but do them well
Heartfelt work grows purely
If you want to live life free
Take your time, go slowly
Do few things but do them well
Heartfelt work grows purely”

“Day by day, stone by stone
Build your secret slowly
Day by day, you’ll grow too
You’ll know heaven’s glory.”

(Homily for 11th Sunday in OT, 13 June 2021, Mk 4:26-35)

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