In Genesis 2 we read the very human descriptions of the role of humankind: “The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Gen 2:15) Seems as though our first “vocation” is as gardener. Gen 2:8 specifically calls it a “garden.” And the “chief gardener” could be found here and there in His garden: “the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day.” (Gen 3:8)
In today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene encounters a person she thinks is a gardener. Actually, she’s not wrong. St. Gregory the Great in his sermon on this gospel wrote: “Perhaps this woman was not as mistaken as she appeared to be when she believed that Jesus was a gardener. Was he not spiritually a gardener for her when he planted the fruitful seeds of virtue in her heart by the force of his love?”
Indeed, Jesus is the gardener of our shared life. As my friend Fr. Bill McConville points out, he does what gardeners do. He waters us with Baptism and the life of Grace. He nourishes us with his Word and Eucharist. He removes the rocks of our soil and the weeds that strangle us, that is sin, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He restores the health of the plant in the Sacrament of Healing. And He takes delight in the variety and splendor of the whole, while valuing and cherishing each individual in divine friendship.
Throughout all of salvation history God has worked to restore the friendship with humankind that is on display in the Garden of Eden. In the language of Scripture we call that covenant. The explanation of Scripture we often explain it in terms of King and subjects – and that is not wrong. It is just incomplete. This is not a King who would “lord” it over us as do earthly monarchs. This is a king who would prefer to meet the members of his family “walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day.”
The death and Resurrection of Jesus is, in its way, a return to the garden, but more importantly a return to friendship. “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15)
In these days of Eastertide and the era of pandemic, we are given time to renew and enhance our friendship with Jesus, the one who is King and gardener. What will you do with the time given?