In today’s reading and gospel, we are told the story of the time when the Lord God made heaven and earth. In what was a barren landscape, a stream “welled up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground.” Man was then formed out of this clay. The Lord God then “blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” This first living man was placed in a garden, infamously known as the “Garden of Eden.” To me, this garden seemed to represent heaven on earth. Whether it is correct or not, I picture a lush green tropical garden, filled with trees which provide food. In this garden, there is also water and animals. The sky is blue and there is harmony amongst all creatures. However, in the middle of the garden resided “the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
This first living man was settled into the garden and his job was to cultivate and care for its residents. The Lord God gave man an edict, “you are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat.” We all know how this story ended.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the parable that “nothing that enters one from the outside can defile that person, but the things that come out from within are what defile.” We are told it is what comes out of the heart that defiles, not what is put into the body. As an addictions treatment provider, I am painfully aware of how the body can become “defiled” by the substances that are used by those struggling with addiction. However, with those struggling with addiction, was the heart “defiled” first in some way? (Though trauma, poverty, crime, violence, etc.) But I digress…
I envision this first man wandering around and tending to a beautiful garden. How the beauty of this place, risen up out of clay must have filled him with joy and nurtured his soul. Jesus tells us that our heart is sacred. I suggest we must carefully cultivate it like it is our own personal Garden of Eden. We must be constantly vigilant and know the difference between good and evil. We must act from a place of GOOD. In nurturing ourselves, we have the capacity to nurture others. Love creates love.
In this day and age of divisiveness, there is so much hatred and ugliness in the world. When we watch the news, we are inundated with horrible things happening daily in our neighborhoods and across the world. In timeless lessons imparted upon us thousands of years ago, Jesus notes if our hearts are defiled, “evil thoughts, theft, murder, adultery, greed, deceit, envy, arrogance, folly” comes out of us. When I think of what is going on in the world today, have our hearts become defiled? Have we lost faith in ourselves and in those around us? Have we gotten so caught up in the pace of life and keeping up with our neighbors that we have strayed from our own garden? For me, today’s gospel reminds us that even more so now, we need to nurture the garden of our hearts, know the difference between good and evil, resist temptation and stay grounded in our values. Trust, humility, zeal, compassion and simplicity are good places to start to when we start to stray.
—Lisa Schott P’20