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.