Apples, Emmaus, Twenty-Two Lives

It wasn’t until I read the readings for this Sunday that I fully appreciated why I was so moved by the arrangement of the newspaper one day this past week.

Naturally, the pages have been full of articles about the devastating events of last weekend…timelines and questions about procedures; photographs, obituaries, and tributes to the victims…

Yet, on Wednesday, within the first several pages of the front section, nested among news of the rampage, there was a long-ish bit and photo about a woman who was giving away cuttings, or scions, from a dying yellow transparent apple tree. The tree can trace its lineage to around 1850 in Tsarist Russia. The fruit is valued for being hardy and among the first of the season.

The idea of cutting the scions and grafting them into a slit on an existing apple tree is to see that the fruit continues… The seed of an apple will not produce a replica of the fruit of parent trees.

It could seem out of place to have had this in Wednesday’s newspaper—but in fact, I found it quite a tender accompaniment to the sadness. Those in the province—and across the country, the continent, the world—have, in some ways, had twenty two cuttings newly grafted to our hearts. We have become the roots to see that the good fruit, the best qualities, of those who died, are replicated and live on.

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus listened to the two he encountered walking on the road to Emmaus. He listened to them question how it was that He had no idea what was going on, he listened to them recount the events… And he reminded them of what was foretold, reminded them of their faith. Intrigued and wanting to know more about who exactly this person was, because as yet they did not see clearly, they asked him to stay on with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Jesus broke open the bread…By clipping young apple shoots, Raven Jackson is breaking open a 170 year old family line…twenty two innocent people have had their lives broken open…

Jesus disappeared—yet lives on, spirit grafted to spirit. Soon the yellow transparent apple tree on a Pictou county property will vanish from sight…and yet live on.

The victims from last weekend will live on too…In the hearts of all who have heard their stories; in the people who knew them and will see that their best fruit continues; in the sea and in the land who sit at table together in this beautiful corner of the Earth.

(Thank you to Aaron Beswick, author of the article, New life from an old apple tree on the Heron Road , 22 April, The Chronicle Herald.)

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