I don’t recall the day exactly, but you can be assured, it was a day when our golden California sun brilliantly bathed our garden in its life-giving light. I must have been collecting the crop of my recently planted kale plants, or gathering our blue-green, dirt-brown, and crystal-white eggs from our chickens. That was when I saw it: a cluster of baby green growth sprouting up from the soil. Even through the lens of an amateur, I could discern this was no weed.

I think it’s a tomato plant! Excitement mounted in my soul.

closeup photo of sprout

You see, I am the only person in my family who likes tomatoes. That is the mystery of preferences, is it not? How could anyone deny the splendor of the warm shiny red smooth skin and the pop of juicy goodness? Alas, among my husband and children, I remain the only one (at least at the time of writing this reflection – since then, I have won at least one to my side).

And so when I realized that I had not planted this beautiful little blessing, I immediately recognized it as a gift from the hand of the Lord. To this day, I do not know how it got there. Perhaps He sent a little bird to snatch up and drop a tomato seed from another garden. Perhaps some little chubby fingers from the neighbor’s toddler dug into my soil when I wasn’t looking. But let me tell you, that tomato plant is thriving! It burst through its tomato cage and required stronger support to keep it standing upright! It’s branches have stretched high and wide, threatening to consume my entire garden space. I have never possessed such a proliferating plant!

As I harvested my first crimson crop, I could not help but wonder at the simplicity of God’s gifts. If you’ve ever read the children’s story, The Little Red Hen, you know that if you did not “plant the corn”, if you did not “cut the corn”, if you did not “cook the corn”, then you “shall not eat the corn”. It is a work ethic ingrained into us in childhood. And yet here I was, I who did not plant the seed, I who did not till the soil, I who did not cause the growth, sumptuously scouring down a savory gift I had done nothing to earn.

Is this not the nature of all God’s gifts, most especially the gift of communion with Him? From the beginning of time, since the gift of that first garden so long ago, God has never required penance for His blessings. No. It was not His gifts that required wages but our sin. Our God is a generous and gracious God. The difference between the Garden of Communion so long ago and the Communion of the Church today is that the Garden cost God nothing, but our Communion with Him in the present cost Him everything.

If then God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31.

THIS, not just my tomato plant, is God’s free bounty – the abundant blessing of beholding Him, breathing Him in, in all His beauty. And it is most fully a gift to be received, not earned; a gift that dispels the lies that I could ever earn His favor on my own. A gift that is mine, and that today, I could enjoy just a little more of through the flavor of a free tomato plant.