One aspect of Jesus that has always attracted me to Him has literally been His “down to earth” manner. He frequently spoke about sowing seeds, caring for crops, watching plants grow mysteriously, and gathering the harvest into barns. He understood that the size of the harvest depends not on the seed itself but on the quality of the soil, and He valued high yields.
Jesus was also keenly aware that people, as creatures of the earth, need to nourish their bodies. This led Him to rebuke those who complained about His disciples eating ears of corn as they walked through cornfi elds on the Sabbath, as well as to show compassion to His hungry followers by feeding them with loaves and fi shes on a number of occasions. He understood the “fruit of the earth” as a blessing to be shared with others and an important building block of community life.
Furthermore, nature provided Jesus with insights into His own vocation, destiny and Among the more striking images that He used to convey to His followers the meaning of His suffering, death and resurrection, is that of a grain of wheat that must die in the earth in order to yield a rich harvest.
Recently, the experience of starting a community garden here on the grounds of St. Columbans, Nebraska, awoke in me a fresh appreciation of my own and other’s relationship with the na tural world. The twenty gardeners who lovingly tend their plots of vegetables and herbs are deepening their bond not only with the earth, but also with one another, and with their Creator. They are growing in their appreciation of the web of life that embraces everything and everyone.
However, as we come to a greater understanding of the complexity of the web of life, we are also becoming aware that some of its strands are either damaged or broken. We are noticing that God’s magnifi cent tapestry of creation has become faded and worn in places, and that parts of God’s Great Garden have become dilapidated and despoiled.
Among the many parables of Jesus is one about a vineyard that the owner had tended to with diligence and devotion, but, because of the gardeners’ indifference and ingratitude, became dilapidated and despoiled. This gave rise to the necessity of fi nding new gardeners. But, who will they be? Perhaps, the answer is to be found in the gospel story about Mary Magdalene, who, on fi rst meeting the risen Christ, perceived Him to be a gardener. This story seems to indicate that, even after the resurrection, Jesus maintained His “down to earth” manner, which He wished to pass on to us, His followers and fellow stewards of God’s Great Garden.