Reflection for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
We are clearly not trees. As to form, our species may have diverged quite early from the simple-celled organisms of the most ancient epoch, that we are too dissimilar for any apparent similarities in substance to exist.
Not only in external structure are we different, but also in the internal systems that maintain life – supporting framework, digestion mechanisms, relative kinetic capabilities, etc.
Hence, in undertaking the science of understanding ourselves, we easily relate much more to the lives of animals than we do to the lives of plants. Aside from having an extensive knowledge of the healing benefits we can obtain from plants, their solitary yet “dynamic behavior” within a seemingly inanimate actuality is still much of an enigma.
Yet much can be reflected upon and learned from the sturdiness and silence of trees, from how it passively receives the providence of God, to how it quietly bestows its gifts to the other creatures that live around it.
Does it not stand in sharp contrast to the weakness and noisiness of our human nature, to its disturbing inclination to spurn faith and selflessness for pride and self-centeredness? It is not surprising for the more erudite to see trees as an appropriate symbolism of the human struggle to overcome concupiscence.
In today’s readings, the cedar of Lebanon stands out. Cedrus libani, a tree species indigenous to the Mediterranean region, is known for its impressive height, huge trunks and massive heads of spreading branches. Used extensively in early cultures for building and medicinal purposes, especially in the construction of Solomon’s Temple, it is a figurehead for endurance, steadiness, prosperity or immortality.
The 92nd Psalm however renders it for us today as a perpetual metaphor for a righteous servant of the kingdom of God, a unique approach to fully comprehending who we are and who we should become.
May I now share an intimate letter which I hope to dedicate as a lasting admonition to my children to persevere in being good and just in the eyes of the Spirit. May this prayer be fulfilled in mine as well as in yours:
My children, be like a tree. May the Spirit bless you to become a pillar of justice and peace.
Savor the sweetness of being nourished by the Mother that cares. As she selflessly gives from the abundance of her nature, nurture others as well by selflessly giving back.
Reach with unassuming joy for the heavens, as a child reaches for its Father’s embrace. Stay rooted though, firmly in the earth from where you came and to where you will return.
Treasure nothing for yourself and take only what you will need for the day. The sun and the moon will always be there among the stars, the rains will always come at the proper season, and the soil will always be rich with the humus from trees past. Tomorrow will always take care of itself.
Learn nothing for yourself and understand only what you will need for the journey of your existence. There is only too much noise, too many wants, too much confusion, too much anxiety. Learn simple simplicity; it is only in having nothing that we will possess everything.
Remain hidden in the shadows of the endless war of pride. Happiness will never come if everybody is just trying to be somebody else. Always relish in the tranquility and solitude to contemplate who you really are, and who you are destined to become.
Be strong and unwavering in the gentle breeze of trust and charity, but bend with the winds of hatred and greed. A soul that tenaciously clings to the God of forever, will never be torn down.
Stay silent, hear and heed the cries of a lost generation, and caress them in the comfort of your everlasting shade. The loudness of your mind matters not, only the wisdom that listens; the charisma of your heart matters not, only the generosity that sustains.
Bear and share the fruits of the Spirit whose mysterious breath brings you life, that these fruits may also bring life to the forsaken. Hence, its seeds will be scattered through different places and times, will grow into new trees and will stand as testaments to your unforgettable compassion.
Be at peace and enjoy the beauty and grace of your Mother, even if only from where you are. Though the years may fade, and your branches strewn with lonely, empty nests, be content from where the Father wants you to be.
Wither and quietly pass away. Let the wicked among you who desired to be unworthily remembered, scream in terror as they too pass into the dimness of memory, for eternal is the goodness upon the lowly and the afflicted.
Let what remains of you be consumed in the fire of a final sacrifice, with your dying embers giving warmth and consolation to the tears of the living. And may your offspring emerge from your ashes cradled once more in the bosom of the Mother, cultivated once more with the Light of our Father.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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