First off, a question from our first reading to see if you were paying attention:
How many trees did the Lord God plant, by name, in the Garden of Eden?
Who thinks one? Who thinks two?
The latter are correct: they are the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil was also mentioned.
Now, which tree were they originally prevented from eating?
In the Garden of Eden, there were three gifts that God gave to humanity: infused knowledge, freedom from concupiscence, and immortality. All three of these gifts were lost when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
After that event, we have to work for our food, instead of the land freely giving of her produce; there is now discord between husband and wife; and we are eventually doomed to die, as Eve knew. (The serpent pulls the standard trick of the evil: not an outright lie, but at least a partial one…)
Adam and Eve are escorted out of the Garden because they can no longer eat from the tree of life, but what happens to it? Is it destroyed?
No. At the very end of this chapter, Chapter 3 of Genesis, the Lord God stations a cherubim with a ‘fiery revolving sword’ at the entrance to the garden of Eden ‘to guard the way to the tree of life.’
What I would like to introduce to you today is that the whole of the rest of the Bible, from Genesis three until the very end of the Book of Revelation, is about the Tree of Life. The whole point of the book is to get back to that tree, to be able to once again eat freely from the tree of life and have that lasting relationship with the Lord God that was lost by Adam and Eve.
The key question, then, in this run of questions is how do we get there? How do we get back to the Tree of Life? St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans which is presented as our second reading today, gives us an insight into this process. ‘Through one man, sin entered into the world, and through sin, death.’ Yet, the gift of Jesus Christ is the gift of salvation, through Him, redemption, justification, restoration enter into the world. His obedience undoes the disobedience of Adam! Where Adam’s action led to brokenness, the action of Jesus leads to unity and wholeness!
And where does this take place? Where does this restoration happen? But on the cross. The Cross becomes the new Tree of Life, the cross, meant to be a sign of torture and shame, becomes the sign of new life for those who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ. For the Cross is the doorway from earth to heaven. It is by staring down the temptations that face us every day, as Jesus did, it is by boldly embracing the Cross that Jesus gives us, that we find life, and we find life to its fullness.
And lo and behold, what do we then find once we achieve the glory heaven? Let’s turn to the end of the Book, shall we… There in Revelation 22, the vision of the new city of Jerusalem, not an earthly city, but the heavenly one, there is a tree in the center. Verses one and two of that final chapter of the Bible read:
Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.
In Christ Jesus, in his victory on the Cross, in his defeat of sin and death; and in our baptism into that; which brings about our own triumph with Him; then are we able to again eat freely from the tree of life, as Adam and Eve were once able to do.
Why do we do what we do here? So that eventually we can be there around God’s throne in heaven to be nourished completely by the new Tree of Life: Jesus Christ.