19 Jun 2012
Homily for Father’s Day – June 17, 2012
June 17, 2012
By Father J. Daniel Atkins, Holy Family Catholic Church, New Albany, Indiana
‘To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.’
The poet William Blake penned those words to help us understand the paradox, the seeming contradiction yet profound truth, that the glory of God is hidden in the smallest things. If you know what to look for you will see heaven in a wildflower; you will see the tenacity of grace in a mustard seed. The possibilities of the Kingdom are salt and peppered into life with the simplest, most everyday tasks, like planting seeds and going to bed at night and rising in the morning, and trusting that God’s at work.
Today we hear two stories about the Kingdom of God, the Commonwealth of Heaven. In the Hebrew Scriptures God tells us that the Kingdom in full flower will be like a tiny sapling which, when planted by his hand, grows taller than all mighty cedars of Lebanon. In the gospel Jesus tells his disciples that the Kingdom is like the tiny mustard seed which, once it is planted will become a bush big enough for birds to nest in.
Jesus did not offer his disciples a vision of the Kingdom that would impress his audience and take away their breath. Instead, he compared it to a simple, tiny seed that could be held in the palm of one’s hand. A seed that falls to earth unnoticed and grows under the watchful eye of God as the world eats, sleeps, and goes about its daily business. Jesus invited his disciples “To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower.” If we have ears to hear we find out that our great God is humble, choosing to remain in the background but always bringing his plan to completion.
Remember when we used to boast, “My dad is bigger than your dad.” Human nature looks for great things. It looks for self-importance, esteem of fellow men, pride and grandeur. Not so Jesus. In the parable he is telling us, “My daddy likes to start small. He likes to watch things grow. My dad likes to do things when no one else is looking.”
I am thinking of Howard Stiller whom we buried last week. Howard’s kids told me that took a breakfast sandwich and drink every Friday out to the sanitation workers when they came to pick up the garbage. He took a bowl of soup to the lady who worked at the counter at Swifty’s each time he would go to put gas in his car. These are the kinds of stories that get told when dads go home to God. Mustard seed stories.
Can we see heaven in a wildflower? It’s hard. Not because God has made it difficult but because our eyes are not accustomed to seeing eternal things right under our feet. Listen to what G. K. Chesterton says about the Kingdom of God and daisies grow side by side…
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
? G.K. Chesterton
May our fathers be blessed with youth of spirit until they go home to God.