On my last visit in Ecuador I had the chance to visit some people I hadn’t seen in a while. One of those places was a small village where I and some Franciscan sisters had gone every week for about a year to preach and have a communion service. I prepared a lot every week for the preaching there, first listening to the Gospel reading, bringing it into what was on my heart for the people, brainstorming and turning over and over the message inside until finally I got to an “Aha!” moment. And when I finally preached, I really found a great acceptance and responsiveness from the people – I always looked forward to going and offering the message that I had been inspired to share.
Well, the last time I had visited was over a year ago, and so when I came back there was a little reunion of sorts, and we had the celebration and the communion service. Afterwards, the man who is the lead catechist in the community, Don Daniel, asked me if I could give him a ride home. It was the first time he had ever asked for a ride. So, I said, sure, and of course there were about 8 other people who needed rides so we all piled into the landrover and headed off.
As we dropped off people along the way, I began to realize how far Daniel had to walk every time to come to the services – about 2 hours each way. And since the services start at 4pm, that means that in the rainy season, he’s walking in the rain on the way home.
We finally arrived at his house and we greeted his wife and we chatted for a few minutes. Before I could go, he said, “can I give you some mandarine oranges?” OK. He owns a farm with animals like chickens and he grows some fruits and probably some yucca. We walked over to where the orange trees are and he picked up a really long stick.
I know how that goes. Usually, you have a really long stick that has a hook feature on the end of it to reach up to a branch that has a few fruits on it. Then, you hook the branch with the stick and between to rotate the stick, so that the branch starts to twist and eventually breaks off. Then, you have a piece of a branch with some fruits on it. I’ve seen it with oranges, limes, passion fruit – I know the procedure.
So he reaches the hook up, but instead of hooking it around a small branch with a few oranges, he hooks a whole limb. And then, he starts shaking the limb and practically the whole tree is shaking and it’s raining oranges. Everywhere on the ground and on my head, too. I couldn’t believe it! But he wasn’t done. After that, he went over to another big limb and started at it again, and it was raining oranges again. And then, he did it a third time.
After that, we went around and picked up all the good oranges we could find, and he filled a large bag with them. And he gave them to me. Just then it started to rain, and it was time to go. We said goodbye, and as I drove away, seeing him standing there in the rearview mirror, it came to me. I mean, I wondered why he had shaken the whole tree for me, and in the moment I was driving away, I could see why.
Because I had given him and everyone else in the village my best fruits for a whole year.
I had shaken the tree for them.
There can be a lot of reasons not to give your best to others in need. We have a lot of needs ourselves. We have bills to pay to keep the house going and food on the table, we have hopes for a happy family situation or a cool vacation, for the well-being of our children, or for friends. The list goes on for each of us. I think that we can be afraid to give our best, because then we worry what will we have for ourselves, who will take care of us?
When Jesus died on the cross, God had given us His best. He didn’t hold anything back. And do you know how I know? Because in the Gospel, it says that there was an earthquake when Jesus died. Why was there an earthquake?
God shook the whole tree.
That’s what gives us the freedom to give our best to others in their need, and not worry so much about our own. The next time you find yourself thinking about giving your best away and you feel hesitation and the million good reasons come into your mind to just move on, remember how generous God is when He gives back to us.
He shakes the whole tree.
“Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Lk 6:38-39)