By Fr Martin Sirju
Coping with the seesaw lockdown experiences has sent me into my garden on many occasions. My garden has taught me a lot about grace. Grace adds colour to the world – beauty and delight: purple and orange bougainvilleas, red and pink ixoras, as well as other assorted flower plants – purple, white, orange – whose names I do not know. The liveliness of the garden on a sunny day elevates one’s spirit like grace elevates nature.
But the garden has also taught me many lessons about sin. It has done so through a cucumber-like weed that I am told eventually bears fruit like a cucumber that people eat.
The first thing that the weed taught me is that sin is attracted to beauty. Its intention is not to enhance beauty but disfigure it. Sin is at the base of violence in all its forms and violence disfigures beauty.
Like this weed-plant, sin has a big fat root. The root itself looks like a cucumber. I can understand St Augustine’s statement on Original Sin: “All men sin in Adam as in a root.” The metaphor is uncanny. Root implies depth and deep sin has deep roots.
If we don’t examine ourselves spiritually every day then sin takes root in us and before we know it, it develops a big, fat root in us from which it derives its daily nourishment.
To get rid of sin, we must get at its root, as I had to do to get this weed off the flower plants.
I did not notice the root until I dug into the soil, and so to discover the root of sin we must dig into ourselves. There we find it, in proud reign beneath the surface where we cannot see it.
Sin also grows on us, like this creeping vine. If we do not keep an eye on it, it creeps into every aspect of our private and social life, our morals and etiquette.
A few weeks would pass when I would not look for the vine thinking it was not there; but it was there, growing more and more each week. Hence the need for regular confession, I would say quarterly. Before we know it, the vine can creep into unsuspecting places.
Sin is also deceptive, like this vine. We think it is not, but there it is. It blends so well with the greenery that we don’t see it, like the imposter, posing as truth when he is in fact nothing but lies. We must have an eye (a capacity to see) for grace, for when we do, we can discern the subtle deceptions of sin.
Finally, we must be careful in rooting out sin. We must be patient with ourselves or else we will do great self-damage. In removing the pestilent vine, I had to be careful less I damage the tender branches around which it wrapped itself. I had to carefully disentangle it.
Similarly, we need to carefully disentangle ourselves by God’s gentle and patient grace lest we damage ourselves. We must first love ourselves and see ourselves as worth loving and saving before we do the de-weeding.
God loves you and me, eternally and unconditionally. His love is prior, even before we are aware we are loved. Tend to the garden then that is yourself. The garden was the first place of grace. It was also the first place of sin.
Tend then to your garden every day so that you will be like a little Eden, at the centre of which is that “pearl of great price” (St Augustine); that Tree of Life that is Christ.