Francisco delivered his homily for the Third Sunday of Easter flanked by two banners. One read, “ברוך הוא מי שבא בשם השם” and “,הושענא” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Personal Name,” and “Hosanna.” The other banner read, “נשלום” and “היום אתה תהיה איתי בגן עדן.” The literal translations are, “It is finished,” or “It is shalom,” and “Today you will be with me in the Garden of Eden.”
The context of the first banner is Palm Sunday. The crowd waves its palm branches as they parade through the city. The context of the second message is Jesus on the cross with the two criminals. One condemned Jesus, and in reference to Jesus’ temptation by the Great Accuser in Matthew where the Great Accuser says: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.”
The second criminal argues, Jesus did nothing wrong. Jesus says, “It is Shalom,” “Tranquility has come.” Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in the Garden of Eden.” The Greek reads, “Paradise.” The Hebrew literally translates, “The Garden of Eden.” Jesus tells us heaven is like where we started. We started in the Garden of Eden, tending a garden, and when we finish, “נשלום,” we are in a garden.
Father Francisco mentioned, “In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” He also mentioned, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” The article, “What separates Catholics from Protestants discusses how “Holy” means being married. When Jesus states, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” he is using marital language. He is the groom and goes to prepare a place for his bride, us/the church.
Several years after most weddings, children run around. They climb the apple tree, knocking down branches and the father puts tar on the tree to help it to heal. The children jump on the end table, breaking it, and on the daughter’s toy chest of drawers, smashing it. The children track mud, and they eat and wear mud like the rich wear expensive cloths. When they go to bed, the parents look around their devastated home and say, “There was life here.” The yoke is easy and the burden is light.
Some try to have the sweetness of their fruit, without having the fruit. We go for the candy instead of the fruit and end up fat and sloppy. We go for the love and the life, but miss the broken items inside and outside of the home. We end up with no home.
I Corinthians 6:16 argues, “Do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For ‘the two,’ it says, “will become one flesh.” St. Paul argues from Mishnah, “A woman is acquired in three ways… She is acquired through money, through a contract, or sexual intercourse.”
There is no such thing as pre-marital sex. One consummates the wedding, not at the church, but in the bridal bed. When we forget this, we end up married to dozens of spouses, with dozens of mothers-in-law, but we miss the joys of the fruit. We miss the broken end table, and the snapped tree branches filled with tar. We are like the men in the Bill Cosby routine who snap that they live for the weekend, hunched over the toilet bowl, sick from their drinks. For them, there is no life, or at least no life they remember. The yoke is hard and the burden, heavy.
In Hebrew, there are three key words, “Abba,” “Habbah,” sic and “Ahabbah,” sic. “Abba” of course means “Father.” “Habbah,” the one who is to come, is Jesus, the groom. “Ahabbah” means love, accepting people into our hearts, warts, and all. There is no squeezing out the sweetness and doing without the tartness of each other. True love means accepting the whole person, warts, and all.
Love is like a baseball game. While we play the game, we do not worry about rules, or which ball, bat, and glove, goes with which player. When we take time to do this, the game ends, if only for a moment. Baseball is by nature a very boring sport. When we become totally engrossed in a game, a game of the World Series is one of the most exciting games in all of sports. To become an exciting game, we must become lost in the game, no room for looking for the sweetness and trying to do without the rest of the game. If we ignore the rest of the season, the World Series has no reason. That is why the priest asks at our weddings, “Do you give yourself freely?” Do we throw ourselves into the game with our whole hearts?”
We are not going to some pearly city where we play harps all day. We return to the Garden of Eden. We return to that web which is the Garden of Eden, the world. We must live as if we are part of that world, because we are. How can God expect us to tend his garden in the world to come, if we do not tend this one?
If we are only half-hearted in the way we tend this garden, our families, and our world, how can God expect us to do any better in the next one? We must be fruitful. In English, we have two key concepts, “Professional” and “Vocation.” We are professional in that we profess our faith by the way we live in the world.
We represent our Catholic faith, our families, and our extended family/our nation by the way we live our lives, whether we like it or not, or know it or not. Professional does not mean being an impersonal machine looking out only for the names of unseen stockholders. Professional means being very personal, seeing all people as equal members of the same extended family and the world as our home. Which person hanging on the cross next to Jesus are we, the one meeting Jesus in the Garden of Eden, or the other one?