The creation story in Genesis speaks about God placing Adam and Eve in a garden. Like humanity’s first parents, God has entrusted us too with “gardening” duties. We may not have been given a literal garden to oversee, but we have been given responsibility for the “garden” of our own life.
Our own personal “garden” is composed of three separate plots: our physical bodies, our relationships with others, and the natural world that surrounds us all. God expects us to tend each of these plots.
The Garden of the Body
Sometimes, we forget that our physical body is a gift given to us by God. St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. However, we often abuse or neglect them. Do we nourish our bodies with nutritious food and a balanced diet? Do we receive enough sleep, or does sleep deprivation make us less productive at work and in our interactions with others? Do we get regular check-ups and take any prescribed medications? Have we unnecessarily exposed our bodies to harmful substances? Have we exploited the body of another for our own selfish purposes?
The Social Garden
Our relationships also are precious gifts that we fail to nurture as we should.
Do we make it a priority to spend time with our families? Sometimes, the people we are closest to are the very ones we take for granted. Do we prioritize our relationship with our spouse over all other commitments except our relationship with God?
Are there friends and family members with whom we should spend more time? Are there any unresolved issues that are seriously interfering with any of our relationships? Are there people that we need to pray for, even if they have hurt us? Cultivating our relationships means being attentive and communicating our love, commitment, and concern.
We must also ask, are we willing to take the risk of reaching out and welcoming newcomers into our social circle?
Matthew 25 reminds us of our obligation to server others, when Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food…a stranger and you welcomed Me.” In today’s world, immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome—and the Bible makes it clear that doing so is indispensable to our faith.
The Ecological Garden
The Bible tells us that God has entrusted the earth and all its creatures to us, so that we might be good caretakers. St. Francis of Assisi made us particularly aware of God’s mysterious presence in all of creation.
Have we been wasteful or careless in the use of the material goods entrusted to us? Do we make an effort to recycle or re-use these materials wherever possible? Do we allow concern for the environment to influence our purchasing decisions/ Are there any steps we could take to reduce the impact that we have on the environment, such as buying re-usable shopping bags, lowering our thermostats, or reducing our use of plastic water bottles? Do we truly understand that stewardship of the earth and its creatures is a way of honoring God, our Creator, and it will lead to a great respect for our fellow human beings?
All of this can feel like a lot to consider—and even more to actually do. But with a series of small steps, each taken in succession, we can live out the call of Isaiah 1:17—”Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
By Manny Aguilar, Director of the diocesan Office for Stewardship