How can one identify a tree?

tree in grassy field

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Readings: Is 52:13—53:12; Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1—19:42

All of us can identify some trees. Living in the Black Hills, most of us are familiar with the Ponderosa Pine tree. And many of us can identify other trees such as an Oak tree. But for many trees, the only way most of us can identify them is by their fruit. When we see apples on a tree, we know it is an apple tree. When we see peaches on a tree, we know it is a peach tree.

In the Passion, we just heard from the Gospel of John, it begins in a garden. And it ends in a garden. And if you recall six weeks ago, on the First Sunday of Lent, the first reading was from Genesis. In that reading, it told us about God planting a garden in Eden. And in this garden, God made various trees grow, with one tree being the tree of life, in the middle of this garden. And it is in this garden, that God places the man he created.

God’s original plan for man, was for Adam and Eve to walk with God, to interact with God. God wanted to be near them, and near us. Our purpose in life is to be with the Creator and the Creator with us. God invited Adam and Eve to this real life. All they had to do, in order to participate in this life, for all eternity, was to eat from the tree of life, in the middle of the garden.

But that is not what they did. Instead, they wanted to be like God, and chose instead to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They chose to separate themselves from God, and as a result, they lost access to the tree of life.

Even though Adam and Eve chose to separate themselves from God, just like we do every time we sin, God still desired to be with them, and with us. So, God created another plan. Throughout all of salvation history, God prepared man to be reunited with him.

On the Third Sunday of Lent, we heard a reading from Exodus. While we didn’t hear about it that weekend, we are all familiar that it is in Exodus, where we learn about the Passover. In the tenth plague, where the first born in the land of Egypt die, God instructs the Israelites how to celebrate the Passover. They are to take an unblemished lamb, sacrifice it, put its blood on the doorposts so the angel of death would “pass over” their house and none would die. And the Israelites were to eat the lamb. They did all of this in order to be freed from slavery and death. The Jewish people celebrated Passover every year. They were all very familiar with the celebration, and clearly understood its meaning. When they celebrate Passover, even today, it is NOT about how God freed their ancestors, but how God frees them.

In John chapter 6, we hear Jesus telling the crowds that He is the bread of life. Those who eat his body and drink his blood, will have eternal life. This was to help prepare the apostles, his followers, and even us, for what was to come. At the time of the Last Supper, the apostles would have recognized it as a Passover meal. But there is something different about this meal. When Jesus says, “this is my body, eat” and “this is my blood, dink”, they would have known this was no ordinary Passover. This was something new. There is no mention of an unblemished lamb.

And so, as we return to the gardens in the Gospel we just heard, in the middle of the story, we hear about Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, a tree. It is Jesus who is the unblemished sacrifice, his blood running down the wood of the cross. The fruit of this tree, it is the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, we receive at every Mass. It frees us from slavery and death. It reunites us with our creator. The cross is the tree of life, God wants us to choose to eat its fruit, so we can be with God, and God with us, for all eternity.

So, as we continue to celebrate the Triduum, and into the Easter Season, spend some time reflecting on God’s desire to be with you, and prepare yourself, hopefully soon, to eat again, the fruit of the tree of life.

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