What comes to mind when pigs are mentioned? For most of us, it is probably food. Lechon and chicharon are always part of our celebrations, and we can prepare so many dishes out of pork. Think of sisig and crispy pata. We share this preference for pork with many other cultures. Think of sausages, hot dogs, pork chops or ribs. In popular culture, think of Miss Piggy, Porky Pig, or Peppa Pig!
On the other hand, following ancient Scriptures, there are members of other religions who do not eat pork. Pigs are considered unclean. Even during the time of Jesus, the lowly pig was not considered very important. Recall that exorcism story when Jesus drove out a whole legion of evil spirits from one man, and these spirits asked that they be allowed to inhabit a herd of pigs? Then all the pigs went into the river and drowned.
Pigs, therefore, are always at the mercy of human beings who use them for food and other functions, or avoid them because they are considered somewhat evil and unclean. And yet, the pig is always there, always available, always ready to be sacrificed.
In business education, the question is sometimes asked, what is the difference between a chicken and a pig when investing in a restaurant? And the answer given is that while the chicken is involved because it has to lay eggs, it is the pig who is committed because his contribution is always to give up his life and become ham, bacon, lechon, or a variety of other dishes.
We are very familiar with pigs. We are used to seeing entire pigs being roasted. They are around to be utilized, and they provide much joy. But what is not too well known is that pigs are actually intelligent creatures.
In the last few years, scientists have carried out experiments to find out if pigs have self-awareness, if they have a good memory, feelings and emotions. It may come as a surprise that the answer is yes.
In one experiment, different animals were placed in a room with a mirror in the middle. The mirror was placed horizontally, and a small divider was placed vertically. The animals were placed on one side, and on the other side, a bowl of food.
The animals were observed looking into the mirror to see if they will realize that they are looking at themselves, and the evidence would be their reaction to the food.
Some animals charged towards the mirror because they thought the food was there, but the pig took only a few moments to understand the concept of a mirror, and then went to the other side of the divider, to find the food. The pig’s strong sense of smell was probably a factor too.
Other experiments showed that pigs can remember humans and recognize up to 30 other pigs.
Another story that shows the intelligence of pigs is the familiar story of the three little pigs. Each one built a house using different materials – grass, straw and bricks. When the wolf came, the first two houses were so flimsy that the wolf easily got to the pig and ate it up. But the third pig built its house with bricks, and was able to overcome the wolf by making it go down the chimney, straight into a boiling pot of water.
God created the pig to be a very intelligent creature, and though humans use them so much for food, in the world of nature, pigs have very strong survival skills. They are always able to find their food. That is how God takes care of them.
One of the Gospel passages recommended for the lunar new year is from Matthew (6:25-33), where we are given a reminder to trust God and not to worry because God is in charge.
Look at the birds of the air, the beautiful flowers, the grass that is here today and gone tomorrow – they seem to do nothing, yet, God takes care of them. So, Jesus reminds his listeners how useless it is to keep worrying about what we need in life, or the problems we face.
Many of us feel we are working hard to make things better, not just for ourselves and our families and communities, but for the country as well. Yet, there are systemic problems that none of us can solve alone, and we are driven to despair when evil seems to triumph.
Today and throughout this new year, let the words of Jesus give us strength. We will continue to work hard and do our part, but let us also learn to trust more.
Trust that God is also at work in the heart of every human being. Trust that God is working through all the decisions made by people and leading all of us towards His kingdom. Trust that in some mysterious way, God is at work in the world, and we just have to keep journeying in faith.
This is something we can lose sight of when we become too dependent on our own abilities, when we become too practical.
Trust in the Lord. Labor as God labors in the world. Recognize the God who is always with us and journeying with us. Do not worry, because God is in charge.