In his village, Zacharias served for many years as a catechist and elder of the parish. After a long life of service to his church and the people of Lundazi, in Eastern Zambia Zacharias was laid to rest.
After the funeral, another catechist speaking to me about Zacharias said, “We will miss him like a bar of soap.”
“Like a what?” I asked thinking that my language skills had deserted me and I misunderstood what his fellow catechist was saying.
“Like a bar of soap,” she repeated. “You know. In the house, the bar of soap sits next to the basin, available morning, noon and night to all — children, adults, the elderly, family and guests alike. It never discriminates or complains of being used and reused. It is taken for granted as it slowly disappears, until someone exclaims, ‘Gosh, the soap is gone!’ Zacharias was that kind of man.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus exalts the humble and generous “soap-like” service of faithful ministers like Old Zacharias who take on the selfless work of the gardener in today’s Gospel. In their unconditional service to others, they mirror the unconditional love of God; in their generosity of heart and spirit, they are sources of grace and hope that enable us to restore the “fig trees” of our lives.
Christ calls us to embrace the hope of the fig tree and the determination of the gardener, to remember that God’s endless grace enables us to experience the promise of resurrection in every “death” and Good Friday we experience. May the “gardeners” and “bars of soap” like Old Zacharias who bless our lives inspire us to be similar sources of peace and grace to the struggling and broken among us.