Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
The Color of Our Thumbs
Picture: cc Phoney Nickle

Sisters and brothers, what color are your thumbs? This may sound like a strange question, but it’s also an important one. It’s important because the color of our thumbs can affect the spaces in which we live. I know someone, for example, who has green thumbs. Every time I visit this person’s home, it seems like the yard looks lovelier than ever. The grass is neatly trimmed. Different colored flowers are blooming beautifully. And fruit might even be seen hanging from branches.
In contrast, my thumbs are of a different color. Instead of green, they’re black. Although I don’t have a yard of my own, I have attempted, several times, to care for potted plants in my room. But never with much success. I either give them too little or too much water. Expose them to too little or too much light. Or I may get careless and allow the cat to sink its teeth into them. As a result, my room looks less like a lovely garden than a barren wilderness. All of which goes to show that the color of our thumbs affects the physical spaces in which we live. Green thumbs make for beautiful gardens. Black thumbs, barren wildernesses.
Something similar can be observed in spiritual spaces too. As we may recall, in the book of Genesis, when we first meet Adam and Eve, they are both living comfortably in a beautiful garden. But later, because of their disobedience of God’s command, they are driven out. Their living space is transformed. Where once they could eat from the trees in the garden, now they have to work for their food by the sweat of their faces (2:16, 3:19). Where once they were at ease in the company of each other and of God, now they feel shame. They learn to conceal their bodies with leaves, and their true feelings behind lies. Through the black thumbs of their selfishness and greed, Adam and Eve transform the space in which they live from a beautiful garden into a barren wilderness.
And what we celebrate today is precisely the reversal of this terrible transformation. This can be seen most clearly when we consider how John’s account of our Lord’s Passion – which we’ve just read – both begins and ends in a garden. It is in a garden that Jesus is arrested and taken to trial. It is also in a garden that his broken and lifeless body is laid to rest. And, in between these two gardens, Jesus allows himself to be driven cruelly through the wilderness of Pilate’s Praetorium and of Calvary’s Cross.
Except that, unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus’ suffering in the wilderness is not the result of his own sin. As the first reading tells us, it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. And by allowing his body first to be broken on the wilderness of the Cross, and then buried in and raised from a garden, Jesus reverses the effects of Adam’s sin. As the second reading tells us, in Christ we have a high priest who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. As a result, we may now confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. What we see in the Lord’s Passion, sisters and brothers, are the powerful effects of the Lord’s love and self-sacrifice. Like the effect of green thumbs, the power of Christ’s love transforms the barren wilderness back into a fertile garden. And it is this power that we will honor in a few short moments, when together we come forward to venerate the Cross.
But in addition to venerating the Cross, we also need to exercise its power in our world today. In recent times, we have witnessed how the black thumbs of corporate greed have turned the watery garden of the Gulf of Mexico into an oil-soaked wilderness. We have seen the terrible effects of clergy sexual abuse on our church. We continue to experience the toll taken by broken marriages on the development of children, not to mention the scourge of abortion on the the lives of the unborn.
Today, as always, our world continues to cry out for people who are willing to wield the power that Christ wielded when, with great love, he walked the Way of the Cross. Today, we need people who are willing to use the green thumbs of loving self-sacrifice to transform the barren wilderness of our world back into the beauty of God’s garden.
Sisters and brothers, how willing are we to wield this power? How ready are we to take up the Cross? What color are our thumbs today?

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