Fr, Francis Ongkingco
“POEMS are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” (Joyce Kilmer) This line ends a poem we once memorized back in high school. I was so touched by the imagery it contained, but even more when dad –who knew the poem by heart—explained why the last line was important: the power to create belongs to God alone.
As children power was like a magic word! We adored superheroes who flaunted varying degrees of undreamt of ultra-human powers: iron muscles, flying, x-ray and heat vision, breathing underwater, running faster than a speeding train, etc. We couldn’t resist thinking about the wonderful (or harmful) things we could do if we had such ‘gifts’. I don’t think it was common back then the present-day adage: “With great power comes great responsibility!”
Kilmer’s words reminds us that man can indeed compose, paint, sculpture, design, build, invent, and what else have you…but only God possesses the power to create. And it is one power that doesn’t come with great responsibility, rather it comes with great love.
Today, the verb to create is often taken lightly. It is usually considered synonymous to ‘make’, ‘fabricate’, ‘design’, ‘invent’ and so on. The word has totally lost all awesomeness and tremendousness! It has become one more expression referring to how things are ‘produced.’ But this is not so.
Peter Kreeft says, “To create a thing is to give it existence. To make a thing means to give new form to matter, to something that already exists. What is created is not just changed but made to exist in the first place. (Catholic Christianity)” Maybe the reason why people today may not understand the beauty contained in the word creation is their own lack of appreciation of what existence is in the first place.
Kreeft adds that probably the closest we could come to ‘creating’ would be ‘pro-creating’ or our cooperation with God to bring to life another human being. “When God creates a new human soul out of nothing, he does so only when a man and a woman make a new body out of their previously existing matter and genetic form by sexual intercourse. That is why sex is holy. (Ibid.)”
To bring something out of nothing is not something we can humanly experience because we are and can only accustomed to being. It’s like a chicken trying to imagine how it was like to be an egg. Thus, we cannot conceive anything new beyond the knowable reality—except those supernaturally revealed to us by God– of our material world.
The most ‘amazing creations’ by Hollywood or imaginative writers are mere compositions of already existing parts rolled into what seems like a new being. For example, the characters of Star Wars seem to be out-of-this-world, but they are still familiar to us because we can still recognize their eyes, mouth, arms and they communicate through some language.
To create from nothing can be described like coming out with a totally new color, a new number other than those from 0 to 9, a new shape and even a new taste. Imagine what it would be like to describe to someone without the sense of taste what chocolate is like? Well, this is how difficult it would be to grasp what nothing is, and how God –the source of all being– could bring something out of nothing. This is to create.
Besides ‘showing off’ that God is all-powerful, creation also reveals He is all-knowing because His designs are so wonderfully perfect and beautiful! Moreover, He is all-good because He could have chosen not to create at all. But He created to give us a gift of existence which we now enjoy. Kreeft says, “…he must also be a great artist, with a great sense of beauty, to have invented, all by himself, the stars, the sea, the snow. (…) God is the Creator; therefore God must be infinite in power, wisdom, love, and beauty. (Ibid.)”
Now where’s the F.U.N. (Faith Up Now!) in this wonderful truth about creation? We can live our daily lives interacting more with God and creation. Here are some ‘P’ points:
a) Piety. We must pray creation, or express our gratitude to God for all that He has made for us (i.e. life, friends, good, etc.) and for His own glory. How often do we thank Him for everything, as St. Francis of Assisi sang praises to God for all Creation.
b) People. They are God’s most wonderful creation, created in His image and likeness! Before and above all other created realities, let us resolve to go out of our way to help our neighbor, pray for them, forgive, understand and cheer them up. Let us also constantly love and defend the gift of life from conception to death.
c) Places. We must take care of the places we belong to (i.e. home, office, school, etc.) and all the materials good entrusted to us. In this we must also take our respective duties –in the office, family, community– to heart.
d) Pets. Let us take care of some living creatures, or at least to know how to respect them. They aren’t as valuable as people, but God gave them to us to care for and also to provide us for our needs.
e) Plants. This means caring for all other living things in our ecological sphere. Whether we till to eat or to decorate, let us learn to sow and reap God’s love through them.