THE SERVANT GENERAL
A FATHER’S DAY REFLECTION
I love trees, especially really big ones. Put me in a forest
and leave me there the whole day. I will just stare at and
study the trees, climb the big ones, and reflect on God’s
work. Some of my favorites are the banyan (balete) and the
really like the way the banyan grows, with its aerial prop
roots that reach into the ground and then grow into thick
woody trunks themselves. Thus an old banyan will spread
out laterally to cover a wide area. The biggest I have seen
is one in Vanuatu, the various trunks of which formed a
somewhat circle with a diameter of about 30 meters! According
to Wikipedia, one banyan tree called Doda Alada Mara is
found in the outskirts of Bangalore, India, and has a spread
of around 3 acres! (I’m adding that to my Bucket List).
I would not mind making my home on a banyan tree, like Robinson
Crusoe (that goes into my Bucket List as well).
other great tree is the cedar of Lebanon. What a majestic
tree. What beauty, especially when blanketed by snow. The
cedar figures prominently in the Old Testament. In November
of 1986, when the civil war was still ongoing in Lebanon,
I went there on mission. Flights were prohibited and we
had to go in by boat from Larnaca, Cyprus. One big bonus
was seeing the show-draped cedars on the very mountains
the cedar of Lebanon so much, later I asked for two cut
branches which I planted in Antipolo. Unfortunately both
perished in a few months. Maybe I should have taken “from
the crest of the cedar, from its topmost heights tear off
a tender shoot” (Ez 17:22a), and planted “it
on a high and lofty mountain” (Ez 17:22b). Alpadi
it seems is not high or lofty enough.
Anyway, on this important day of Father’s Day, I am
happy that the readings are about trees. God created trees
from the very beginning. In paradise, “the Lord God
made various trees grow that were delightful to look at”
is able to accomplish whatever He wants with trees. He can
“bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
(Ez 17:24b). God does the same with us, to suit His purposes.
If we are too high and puffed up, He deflates us and brings
us down, for our own good. If we are lowly and count for
nothing, He delights in using us, thus confounding the world
(1 Cor 1:27-28). God can in an instant turn our lives topsy-turvy.
Making the green tree wither and the withered tree bloom,
God can throw down the rulers and lift up the lowly, and
He can fill the hungry but send the rich away empty (Lk
does God look for in His people? Like the cross, which is
a symbol of our faith, there are the vertical and the horizontal
aspects. There is the relationship with God and the relationship
with people. We are to love God and we are to love our neighbor.
In our relationship with God, we are a people who are “planted
in the house of the Lord” (Ps 92:14a). We are a faithful
people who live our covenant. If we do this, we “shall
flourish in the courts of our God.” (Ps 92:14b).
our relationship with others, we are to be just. Justice
is giving to others what is their due. We live not only
for ourselves, but to serve others and to help ensure that
they enjoy what God has intended for them -- respect as
children of God, an equitable share of the world’s
goods provided by God, justice especially to those who have
less stature in society. If we do this, then we as “the
just shall flourish like the palm tree, shall grow like
a cedar in Lebanon.” (Ps 92:13).
Now one of the most important things we owe other people
is the proclamation of the gospel. As every disciple of
Jesus is, we are given the Great Commission to go and proclaim
the good news of salvation in Jesus to everyone and to the
whole world. Conversion and growth to maturity is God’s
work, but we as human instruments have been tasked to help
plant the seed, as “it is as if a man were to scatter
seed on the land” (Mk 4:26b).
God’s work, “the seed would sprout and grow,
(we) know not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the
ear.” (Mk 4:27b-28). While God causes the growth,
we need to assist with the planting and the watering (1
Cor 3:6). While salvation is God’s divine work, we
assist by proclaiming this good news and helping people
to live out a new life in Christ.
“this is how it is with the kingdom of God”
(Mk 4:26a). And I am delighted that Jesus then compares
the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Mk 4:31). “But
once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of
plants and puts forth large branches” (Mk 4:32a).
Matthew says “it becomes a large bush” (Mt 13:32b).
Other translations say it “becomes a tree” (RSV).
It becomes so large “that the birds of the sky can
dwell in its shade.” (Mk 4:32b).
As we then celebrate Father’s Day, and I rejoice in
being greeted by my blood children and spiritual children,
I also realize that the blessings of covenant often refer
to the blessings on our children’s children. At least
three generations are involved. Fathers are not only blessed
because they have raised up their children well, but they
are blessed as grandfathers because their children in turn
have taken up their way of life, and thus have raised their
own children also well. The faith is being passed along.