In the beginning, “God planted a garden in Eden… and there he put the man that he had fashioned. God took the man and settled him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:8,15) Today, God calls all of us to the same vocation: our families, schools and communities are the flower beds sown with the seed of the Word of God by Christ himself, and we are the gardeners of the souls entrusted to our care, tasked to nourish and nurture them so that our they can grow and bloom into the human persons clothed with the dignity graced them by the One who gave them life.
We know it is not so easy to get a single plant, much less a whole garden, to flourish. Its cultivation and maintenance requires not just the gardeners’ specialised knowledge of the needs of the different kinds of plants, but involves back-breaking work in the sun and rain, loosening the earth, planting, fertilising, watering, pruning, weeding, protecting from pests and finally, picking the flowers or the fruits of their labour. Maybe that is why “the harvest is rich but the labourers are few.” (Luke 10:2)
What if we have never really tried our hand at gardening before? What if we have, and found we don’t really have green fingers? If we feel we are not worthy gardeners for God, Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16) Jesus, who is not only the First Advocate and the Master Sower, but also the Head Gardener (no wonder Mary Magdalene mistook Our Lord for a gardener in John 20:15!) sends us another Helper, the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost, which the Church celebrates on the 50th day after Easter, was originally a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot. It was celebrated 50 days after Passover, when the spring barley harvest, the first of the year, was offered to God as thanksgiving for his providence. This Pentecost Sunday, if we surrender and offer ourselves wholeheartedly to the Holy Spirit, just as the early Church did in the Acts of the Apostles, He will come, fall afresh on us, and help the seeds of the Word sown into our hearts by Christ to take firm root and bear fruit. The fire of the Holy Spirit will burn away the deadwood in our souls, his living water will make us bloom and grow, and his wind will pollinate our flowers so that a rich and bountiful harvest can be reaped and offered up to the Lord.
Then we will be able to:
1. Remain steadfast through trials and difficulties with prayer, patience and perseverance
A wise man once said that reapers of souls must first be weepers for souls. “Those who went sowing in tears, now sing as they reap. They went away weeping, carrying the seed; they come back singing, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 125:6)
2. Support, collaborate and cooperate with one another in mutual trust in the Lord
We are all mere instruments in his hands, and unity is a gift of the Holy Spirit. “Neither the planter nor the waterer matters; only God who makes things grow. It is all one who does the planting or the watering… we are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)
3. Never give up hope – on ourselves or on our garden
The Master assures us that our efforts will never be fruitless no matter how futile they may seem. To one of us, he may say: “One sows, another reaps.” And to another: “I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for.” (John 4:37)
So this Pentecost Sunday, let us offer ourselves up to the Holy Spirit and pray that he will fall upon us like the dewfall – silently, mysteriously and imperceptibly but certainly, surely and powerfully – to transform us and grace us with the wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord that we need to know, sow and grow the Word in our families, our schools, our communities and our Church for the common good. And on the following Trinity Sunday, let us praise and thank our Triune God for putting his faith in us as sons and daughters of the Father, Christ’s gardeners of souls, and temples of his Holy Spirit.