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A Garden Called “Heart”
By Yousif Elias :: Friday, August 8, 2008 :: 38157 Views :: Religion & Spirituality, Opinion and Editorials

After a long bitter winter, spring finally begins to peek into Michigan.  In anticipation of the warmer temperature, I drew up my 24-point list of things to do, many of which involve outside activities; garage clean up, light home renovations, etc.  I am positive that many of us who are avid gardeners have probably started exercising their favorite hobby.   

Indeed, when I stood in the middle of my garden, I could count many things that needed attention.  Things such as trimming trees, picking up dead leaves, spraying fertilizer, and the most important of all, grass cutting.  That same day I was listening to my favorite radio station, the Catholic Radio, and the commentator was comparing our spirits to a garden.  That comment left a deep impression in me, and I started thinking to myself: If we spend so much time, money and energy cleaning up and beautifying our gardens every year, do we lend the same attention and spend the same amount of time and energy cleaning up our hearts and strengthening our faith and spirits? 

Just like my home garden needs all that work every spring, followed by a routine and rigorous maintenance throughout the year, then so does my spirit.  Old and molded thoughts and ideas need to be trimmed to allow for better healthier thoughts to be successfully established.

Similarly, as I cut down and throw away dead and unwanted weeds and leaves, I’ll have to do the same with the garden of my heart.  I need to cut down, throw out or burn corrupt ideas, which make me unclean and polluted, therefore affecting my relationship with Jesus. 

He’s looking for a beautiful, clean, and well maintained garden, thus I’ll have to take down all the walls of insecurity and suspicion which surround my heart and choke the good plants and take them over.  To help my garden grow strong, healthy and good looking I will need to weed and fertilize to kill off that which harms the beauty of my garden.  So too must I work on  my heart’s garden.   I will need fertilizer in the form of prayers, meditation, confession and acts of mercy to make it grow strong in the faith and gradually become closer and closer to my Savior. 

Once all this is done, I now start planting flowers, beautiful colorful flowers, of different colors, shapes and fragrances.  These same flowers I will plaint represent my good deeds; love, mercy, hope and trust in the Lord.  I will care for them and make them grow beautiful and strong for all people to see.  Not to bring forth envy, but to encourage them to imitate or be better. 

As we all know, this is not a one time chore, just as a systematic and routine maintenance is required to stop the weeds from growing in my house’s garden, I, too, must fend off the evil one from attempting to pull me into temptation by planting the seeds of evil in my heart’s garden such as bad thoughts and ideas, anger, despair, laziness, and greed.  These seeds will grow to plants of contempt and disrespect for my Savior’s Pascal sacrifice, which he freely accepted on my behalf in the garden of Gethsemane. 

I owe him that much; to clean up my heart’s garden and make it a clean and beautiful place for Him to dwell in.  The euphoric feeling of him being there is unmatched with little sacrifice and work I’ve put into the garden of my heart.  Think about it, which is more important: the garden in your backyard or the garden of your heart?

The Bible tells us that Jesus too compares himself to a vine in a garden in the books of John and Luke, when he said:
 
“I’m the real vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does not bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit.” (John 15: 1-4)
 
“I am the vine, and you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” (John 15: 5)
 
“A healthy tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a poor tree bear good fruit.  Every tree is known by the fruit it bears.” (Luke 6: 43-44)

So there you have it brothers and sisters: Let’s get going and start cleaning up the gardens of our heart, and get them ready to bear good and blessed fruit. 


 

Yousif J. Elias is a husband and father of five living in Michigan. He is a devout member of Mar Addai Chaldean Catholic Church in Oak Park, Michigan and the church’s publisher of the Mar Addai Monthly.  Mr. Elias is also the founder of the Mar Addai Group; a community foundation that provides services to Chaldean immigrants and the needy.  The ever active entrepreneur and community leader also serves as district representative for the Chaldean Caucus of Michigan and was recently elected as a community author on Religion and Spirituality for www.Chaldean.org.  

St. Joseph, MI USA

St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church
2442 E. Big Beaver Rd.
Troy, MI 48083
Tel: (248) 528-3676
Fax: (248) 524-1957

Congregation Organizer:
Rev. Michael J. Bazzi

Church Constructing Pastor:
Rev. Sarhad Y. Jammo

Current Pastor:
Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Ayad Hanna

 Current Pastor: Msgr. Zouhair Toma

Msgr. Zouhair Toma (Kejbou) was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1947.  He was ordained a priest in Baghdad, Iraq in 1968, and accepted his first assignment to serve the community of Baquba.  The Monsignor’s leadership skills and organizational talents along with his mastery of theology were immediately evident.  He later assisted Sts. Peter and Paul in Al-Salehia, and St. George in New Baghdad.

In August, 1978 Monsignor Toma was called to serve the growing community of persecuted Chaldeans finding refuge in Australia.   Being the fist Chaldean priest to arrive in Australia he quickly established a parish for the Chaldeans in Sydney to serve their social and spiritual needs.  The parish was named after St. Thomas the Apostle and built a rectory. 

In 1989, for his incredible work he was granted the title of Monsignor, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar for Australia and New Zealand.  Continuing his passionate work to serve the Chaldean community the Monsignor moved the Parish Center to a more accessible location and built a large church campus featuring a modern community center, residence quarters, and administrative offices in 1995. 

In 2003, Monsignor Toma added a magnificent church to replace the previous one in order to serve the fast growing community and also opened two other centers.  The first was Our Lady Guardian of Plants in Melbourne, and the second was Mar Addai the Apostle in Auckland, New Zealand.  Mar Addai in New Zealand included two very large churches along with rectories and community centers.  Overseeing the Patriarchal Vicariate for 28 years, he managed to inspire six more priests to help minister to the fast growing Chaldean community. 

In August 2006, Monsignor chose to assist the St. Thomas the Apostle Diocese in the U.S. as more Catholic churches were being built in America and address the growing need.  On October 2006, Monsignor was incardinated and appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Troy.