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Homily for Sunday, June 9, 2024

Updated: Jun 14

The Tree of Life |

[Father Paul]

I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but in the Garden of Eden, there are two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Here's the actual text: 

"Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Gen. 2:9)

God's commandment only concerned one of the trees, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All the other trees they could eat from, no problem: 

“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen. 9:16 - 17)

And yet, Adam and Eve were both tempted to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. I'm going to come back to the Tree of Life for a moment. In the meantime, I'm just wondering what it was about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that so attracted them. I would like to suggest that knowledge of good and evil is not enough for happiness. What is needed for happiness is the Tree of Life. 

“Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the humans have become like one of us, knowing good and evil, and now they might reach out their hands and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever- — therefore the Lord God sent them forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which they were taken. He drove out the humans, and at the east of the Garden of Eden, he placed the cherubim and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gen. 3:22-24)

This is what we long form. This is what we must find. Knowledge of good and evil is not enough. We need life; we need to live. 

This reminds me of the movie “Start Trek—the Motion Picture,” the first feature-length movie based on the old Star Trek series. Under Captain Kirk, the Starship Enterprise encountered a vast and powerful alien space ship making its way toward Earth in a most menacing and threatening way.  As it turns out, at the heart of this vast ship, which called itself "V-ger," was Voyager 6, a deep space probe launched in the 20th century and lost in a black hole, as the story goes. Eventually, Voyager-6 came across a “machine planet” who, recognizing it as one of its own, repaired it and sent it back on its mission to gather all that is knowable and return this information to Earth. It wanted to know everything, including the knowledge of good and evil. Knowing the truth is a powerful motivation, and understanding the difference between good and evil is essential to living in a community. But it discovered in time that no amount of knowledge will ever satisfy its search for the one thing it couldn't understand or grasp: the simple bond of friendship. 

Here is a bit of dialogue from the movie. Spock, played by Leanard Nimoy, had just tried to connect with the heart of V-ger in some kind of telepathic way (the Vulcan mind meld, for those Trekkies out there). He was injured by this encounter and left unconscious, but as he began to regain consciousness, he had a rather tender and emotional moment with Captain Kirk: 

Spock turns to Captain Kirk and says: "Vger has knowledge that spans this universe. And yet, with all its pure logic, V-ger is barron, cold. No mystery, no beauty." And then, clasping Kirk's hand in his own, Spock says, "This simple feeling is beyond V-ger's comprehension. No meaning, no hope. Jim [Kirk], no answers. It's asking questions."

"What questions?" Kirk asks. 

"Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?" 

There is, of course, more. Where do we find it? It's found in the tree of life. Life is not just longevity. Life is friendship. Love, mystery, beauty. All that V-ger is searching for. 

This is what Jesus offers to us: a simple bond of friendship, of community. What we are so desperately searching for is in front of us all the time. Eve is truly the mother of the living, but we have a new Eve who gave birth to a saviour who will show us the path to life, not just knowledge of Good and Evil (although that too). As he says in the Gospels, “No longer will I call you servants but friends, for I have made known to you everything that you need to know.” 

“Who are my brothers and my sisters?” Jesus asks, “Those who do my will.” And what is the will of my father? That you believe in the one whom you sent. 

Jesus is the new tree of life, and its fruit, our discipleship, is for the healing of nations. It's about time we ate that fruit and offered it to each other so that we can live together in happiness and peace. I conclude with a beautiful quotation about community (which may have been falsely attributed to Pope Francis): 

“Rivers to not drink their own water. Trees do not eat their own fruit. The sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is…. Life is good when you are happy. But much better when others are happy because of you.”

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