Today, Jesus continues His teaching on trees and fruitfulness, only this time He’s talking not so much about the trees but those who tend them. In the beginning, God placed man in a paradisiacal garden for Him to tend. He created a good and beautiful place for man to live and work with the understanding that man was but a steward of all that God had given Him. All that man had, God had given him, and He had given him all that he needed.
The rest of history has been one long, sad story about how man has defied and denied God and attempted to take the Garden for himself. In the process, man found that he was pretty good at taking gardens and turning them into deserts.
And so we see the story of Adam and Eve repeated for us in the life of Israel, and we see our own story as well, for we are Adam and Eve, and we are the Jews who have defied God and taken His Promised Land for ourselves. God has planted us all in His Garden, even in this fallen world. He’s given us all that we have that’s good, and He’s asked us to take care of what He’s given us.
Yes, He’s allowed us to see for ourselves that the world He created is good, but in tasting and seeing that the world is good, we’re supposed to taste and see that the Lord is good. God is supposed to receive some of the fruit, just like the owner of the vineyard in the parable, but we want to hoard it all for ourselves.
We usurp God’s garden and kill off all the guards God placed to keep us on track. We live as if God doesn’t exist and as if the world exists in its own right and we are the rightful kings of the earth. We confuse the creation and God’s good gifts with God Himself and enjoy the creation but not the Creator. We especially confuse the best part of creation, man, with God Himself, who is far greater.
We are like the chief priests and Pharisees who were afraid that because of Jesus the Romans would take away their place and nation. Like them, we put our trust in the wrong things: in the creation or especially in ourselves. We forget that the true Promised Land is not Israel but God Himself and Heaven; that our Temple is not the non-existent one in Jerusalem but is Jesus Christ Himself and His Church; and that the vineyard in which we labor, and all of its fruit, belongs to God.
God has not left us without reminders. We also have a parade of God’s servants coming to us reminding us about God the Owner and our place before Him. They are our parents and teachers, pastors and mentors, our friends and relatives, who speak the Good News to us. We have not only the Law and the Prophets but also the Gospels and Epistles.
And we have the Owner’s Son Himself in our presence.
We have more than enough reminders about God, His Garden, and our place in it. In this way, let us not be like Adam and Eve or the Jews, but instead let us remember that we are stewards of God’s Garden and His fruits. Let us labor joyfully in His Garden, enjoying the kindly fruits of the earth, but especially enjoying our Lord through those fruits. Let us dedicate ourselves to being fruits ourselves, that we might continue to receive God’s blessing and not be cursed.
Life is indeed a garden, but it’s God’s garden, and in that garden we are to be trees of righteousness and trees of life.
Prayer: Lord, we ask that that it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, so that in due time we may enjoy them; and that it may also please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. In what ways you have been stealing from God by using His fruits without giving back to Him; by taking credit for producing the good things He has given you; or by not properly using His good gifts?
2. Sing some hymns thanking God for His good gifts or celebrating His good gifts, such as “For the Beauty of the Earth,” “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, etc.
Resolution: I resolve to make one specific occasion today in which I consciously acknowledge God to be the giver of the good things in my life, and having so acknowledged Him, to be thankful.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson