You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
One of the plants in the garden was looking a bit unhappy the other day; it hadn’t grown as well as it should because other plants had grown around it to shade it from the light. The answer was to move it to a position where it would get more light. Of course, there is always a risk in moving a fairly well established plant, since the shock of the move might kill it.
The story Mark tells in his gospel about the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) rather echoes the plea of our poorly plant. Being blind he too needed light to fulfil his potential. Hearing that Jesus was passing he called out to him. When Jesus asked what he wanted he replied “I want my sight back.” Now that might seem a very reasonable request, but as a blind man he had to rely on others to help him to move about. Mark says that his friends carried him to his place. As a fully sighted man he would have to take responsibilities for himself, getting a job to support his family, for example. Nevertheless, that is what he wanted and that is what Jesus gave him. But once his sight had been restored did he go off to the nearest village to celebrate? No, he followed Jesus. (Mark 10:52). No ifs or buts’ he followed Jesus.
These words also find an echo in John’s gospel where Jesus’ last words to Peter – and to us – are “follow me”. Notice that God does not say “Here you are, guys you have finished your three years study, here is your graduation certificate, now get out there and change the world”. He invites us to follow him – to be with him. He will lead us and we are to follow. And we can be sure that he will never lead us astray or desert us. But what does following Him involve? In Matthew 25:31-46 we read that the way to the Kingdom is not saying many prayers or offering many sacrifices but in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the prisoners. In other words we are called to make a difference in a practical way, for as Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) prayed Christ Has No Body but yours. It is up to each of us to speak out against injustice, to do Christ’s work on this earth whilst we are here. For as Matthew says: ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
So what happened to the sickly plant? It is now happily flowering in its new position where it is able to follow the sun. And that is exactly what we are called to do – to follow the Son. That will be reward enough.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years