December 5, 2020

The Homily

Tree-of-Life2-11_5x14Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 15-17, NASB)

The promise given to Abraham and his children, that one day they would inherit the world, did not come because he followed the rules of the law. It came as a result of his right standing before God, a standing he obtained through faith. If this inheritance is available only to those who keep the law, then faith is a useless commodity and the promise is canceled.  For the law brings God’s wrath against sin. But where the law doesn’t draw the line, there can be no crime. This is the reason that faith is the single source of the promise—so that grace would be offered to all Abraham’s children, those whose lives are defined by the law and those who follow the path of faith charted by Abraham, our common father. (Romans 4: 13-16, The Voice)

I would like to continue a thought from last week, that of the results of our choosing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As we discussed last week, when we plucked the forbidden fruit, it was as if God said, “If that’s how you want to play, so be it.” For hundreds of generations after, we had to follow rules if we were to follow God. An angel with a flaming sword was placed in the Garden to keep us from the Tree of Life, the Tree we were meant to eat.

And to reinforce the consequence of our decision, God gave us very specific laws so we could fully taste of the fruit of right and wrong. “You chose your way over my way,” said the Lord. “So here are the rules.” The Garden became a desert of regulations that covered every aspect of life down to the finest detail. And, being the contrary people that we are—thinking we know better than our creator how to run creation—we constantly ignored the laws we had chosen to live by.

Then in the fullness of time, God reopened the Garden. At the incarnation, the angel with the flaming sword joined the heavenly host in proclaiming the Tree of Life was one again open to us.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” Jesus is, and always has been, our Tree of Life. Jesus was crucified for our sins before the world was created—the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If we had but eaten of LIfe instead of desiring to know right from wrong … And now, that offer is once again extended. Jesus is still the Tree of Life, and he invites us to eat of his fruit, the only fruit that leads to life everlasting.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.

Yet we continue to dine on what cannot satisfy. We prefer law over faith, even though we know that the law leads to death. We insist on understanding right from wrong rather than simply trusting God, leaving all to him.  We keep going back to the forbidden fruit after all this time. Why is it we think that after thousands of years, this time we will get it right? This time, we will be satisfied with the knowledge of good and evil?

All is forgiven. The Garden is once again open. We are once again invited to eat from the Tree of Life. Come to the table of the Lord, eat and drink and live.

Let us pray.



  1. Christiane says

    Hi JEFF,

    For Catholics and for the Orthodox, perhaps also for the Lutherans and for the Anglicans,
    this strange encounter in the Gospel of St. Luke 24 has always had a very special meaning:

    “28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, 29 but they constrained Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.”
    So He went in to stay with them.
    30 When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.
    31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight.

    32 They said to each other,
    “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?”
    33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

    35 Then they told what had happened on the road,
    and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

  2. “Then in the fullness of time, God reopened the Garden. At the incarnation, the angel with the flaming sword joined the heavenly host in proclaiming the Tree of Life was one again open to us.”

    That is amazing. Thank you. I will be sharing that with someone soon, I think.

  3. Just a thought that runs maybe counter to the standard thinking or maybe in parallel to it…

    The more I study Hebrews and meld it with the gospels and OT law, the more I think it’s not so much God gave us rules to know right and wrong and turned the Garden into a desert of regulations as some sort of burden, but rather to signify how separated we are from Him because of the Fall. He certainly didn’t create us for us to live under such burdensome regulations, but wanted us in a close father/child relationship with Him. To me, God’s “if that’s how you want to play it” response isn’t so much to penalize or burden us, but to say, “This is the seriousness of the rift that is now between us, and it’s so great a chasm that here are the things that must be done even approach me.”

    The beauty, then, of Jesus Christ is that God says, “Okay, now that you who believe in Me know the seriousness of the rift, I’m going to do what YOU usually have to do to close the rift – via sacrifices and regulations – in a once-for-all sacrifice. And to show you again how severe that rift is and what it would normally take to close it, I’m going to pay that price with My own Son.”

  4. Excellent, Jeff. The kind of sermon I like. Powerful, simple, biblical, and points to Jesus.

  5. Nice job, Jeff.

    In Christ Jesus, “the Garden is once again open.”

    I love it! A lot!

  6. Comment/question – hope it is not off topic. We read this passage recently and something I noticed is that before Eve took and ate, she believed the lie the serpent told her. First she encountered the snake, listened to it and then went to the tree and ‘saw that the fruit was good’. To me, it seemed to indicate that until she believed the lie told about God, she wasn’t interested in the tree and willing to ‘follow the rules’. It just brought home the idea that often our seperation from God is not about the ‘rules’ but about not holding onto the truth about God and His love for us. So often believing the truth of His forgiveness and grace keep us cowering like Adam and Eve in their leaves.

  7. Daisey former Missionary and Carmelite says

    Thank you Jeff. Great thoughts to ponder and digest. The one thing that came quickly to mind after I read this was the phrase I’m sure many have heard. Sung on the night of the Easter Vigil ;

    “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam
    which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

    If mankind had never sinned then how could Mercy : the never-ending, always extending, all-embracing Heart of God ever be truly known and glorified ?Misericordia di Dio, … The Divine Heart which embraces the human person’s misery, in all its forms, to transform it into the image Jesus and unite that person forever with Himself. It is only when we know, that we know, the depths of our own personal misery that we can become vessels to Glorify Merciful Love = Our Creator God……… this forever leaves me in a place of awe and humility