We are just getting back to work as Ohio slowly lifts its “stay at home” orders.  We continue to pray for you and yours–asking for Our Lord’s protection and healing.  It is strangely quiet at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center where our office is now located.  As we clean and dust our office, we are cheered as we see the garden outside our office bursting with color and new life.  Just as the CCL staff has been working diligently to keep our classes going online, the master gardener, Hector has been cultivating this beautiful corner of creation.

Most of us, I am sure, are experiencing a range of emotions in this very strange season.  How do you get your bearings when the world seems to have turned upside down?  I am reflecting on how the disciples felt after the crucifixion, their confusion and even their inability to recognize their beloved Lord.      “Mary Magdalene turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus…supposing him to be the gardener.”
–John 20:14, 15.

A gardener?  Why would Mary think of Jesus as a gardener?  G. K. Chesterton offers his reflection:  “On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways, they realized the new wonder; the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of a gardener God walked again in the garden, not in the cool of the evening, but in the dawn.”

Jesus as the master gardener of the new creation: cultivating, nourishing—not hesitating to put in the work and get his hands into the dirt—all the while guiding creation toward fruitfulness.   

Fruitfulness—specifically men’s fertility is the subject of this issue of Family Foundations.  The alarming decline in men’s fertility is a subject, like NFP, that is rarely discussed, but as a wife and mother of two boys, it is of great concern to me!  My husband, Tom and I are deeply grateful that our training from CCL guided us in a lifestyle based on respect for God’s design—that, like gardening, helps us cultivate creation in a way that promotes health and fruitfulness in our families and our world.  We laughingly say we were “green” before “green” was cool!  In this jubilee year of Laudato Si, we have the opportunity to underline how NFP is part of creation care.    

In contemplating the artwork of Mary encountering the risen Jesus as “gardener,” I can see that he is pictured holding a gardening tool.  While God simply “breathes” life into creation—we can reflect that Jesus, following his Easter resurrection does not come in blaze of glory demanding obsequiousness, nor does he exact revenge, but instead he continues to work among his people.  Quietly.  Lovingly.  Even when it takes a while for those he loves to recognize him.

As we work to make order out of our world this year, let us pick up our tools and reach out to our brothers and sisters knowing that Christ works beside us as we labor in his garden to witness to the beauty of God’s plan.

Katie Zulanas, Executive Director