What Biologists Struggle Grasp

What Biologists Struggle to Grasp

Have you ever had a moment when you hear someone talking and they say something erroneous that you know is obviously incorrect? What do you do? Do you shut down and stop paying attention? Do you interrupt? Do you not interrupt and just enjoy the social dissonance?

I tend to interrupt and try to correct the individual, but I wonder if I would have done so if I were with Jesus during his ministry. During the Gospel at this weekend’s Masses, Jesus tells us a parable about “seeds growing in a field” and suggest that no one knows how a seed grows into a plant, bears fruit, and is harvested. If I were a mere casual biologist or a lover of science in general, I would probably hear Jesus’s trope and need to resist the temptation to interrupt. I would want to jump in and say, “Germination! It’s called Germination! It’s not a mystery at all! We understand on the cellular level how mitosis moves through the stages of prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase to create an enduring photosynthetic factory for long term energy storage.”

I think Jesus might have felt like I was a buzzkill, and I would above all, be missing the point.

If we use our common sense, we know that if you plant a seed, it will grow and you can harvest the fruit. If we use more than our common sense, we can be even more specific. Our vault of knowledge has advanced to the point that a scientist can tell us, “If you use a certain kind of seed, with a certain kind of herbicide and pesticide, and have “x” number of sunny days, and “x” amount of rain, you will yield “x” bushels of produce give or take a statistical average.” But all of that information wouldn’t necessarily yield even an ounce of appreciation for the bigger picture.

Jesus is teaching us something and it isn’t about biology. It is a poetic explanation about the experience of gratitude. The parable is meant to help us enter into a disposition which reveals to us the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s important for that singular statement to “sink in” because every time Jesus tries to explain the Kingdom of Heaven, he resists the urge to be direct. He uses parables.

Parables are a lens for seeing the world and while many of us struggle to understand parables, they might be a better fit for viewing the deeper values of life than our typical pragmaticism. To understand a parable, you have to enter into a way of thinking that isn’t built on either/or propositions but rather propositions that unite everything together.

All the understanding in the world of facts and numbers, details and mechanical flow charts are important for the everyday functioning of life, but they don’t help us “tie it all together.” They don’t help us assemble what it all means.

Jesus does.

Jesus helps us make sense in ways that sometimes don’t make sense. To understand him we have to let go of the urge to interrupt and assume that we know it all. We have to find the greater unity. We have to let generosity find its inner emergence so that it may radiate through our entire self, for that is what the Kingdom of Heaven feels like.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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