SFX Bulletin, 17th June 2012: Today's Liturgy of the Word with its rich imagery of the great Cedar of Lebanon and the astonishing mustard seed brings to mind a delightful children's DVD called “The Legend of the Three Trees”. The story revolves around the grand ambitions of an Olive, an Oak and a Pine. The Olive wanted to be made into a beautiful treasure chest to hold precious jewels; the Oak wanted to be a grand ship fit for a king; and the Pine wanted to grow and tower over other trees.
Eventually, the Olive was made into a feeding trough, the Oak, a fishing boat and the Pine was struck by lightning and lay on the forest floor as a log. Years later, a baby foretold as the King of Kings was born and placed in the Olive manger or trough. When this King of Kings began his public ministry, he showed himself to be the Son of God when he quieted a raging storm that threatened to overturn the Oak fishing boat that he and his disciples were in. Condemned to crucifixion, this King of Kings carried the Pine log as the crossbar of his cross.
When the King was resurrected three days after his crucifixion, the three trees were at once humbled. They realised God had used them for the greatest saving event in mankind's history. The moral behind this tale is that God's plan for us is always greater than what we dream for ourselves. In his own unique way, God is always working to fulfil his good plans for all of us and if we can learn to trust in his goodness, we can always live in hope for good outcomes.
The quiet but amazing way that God works is highlighted in today's readings. The Cedar is a fast-growing tree that can rise to over 120ft with trunks of 46ft around. Its aromatic hardwood was sought after in the ancient East and it was used to build the first and second temples of Jerusalem (2 Ch. 2:7-8 & Ezr 3:7). The mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on earth...grows into the biggest shrub” (Mk.4:31-32). The magnificence of these transformations is God's work. Jesus tells us that man cannot fully grasp God's unique way of working but God's presence can certainly be discerned in the natural order of creation, “Night and day...the seed is sprouting and growing...how, (man) does not know”(v.27).
In the same way that our created natural world has an orderly daily cycle for millions of years that is still beyond our full comprehension, the Church as the mystical body of Christ has a life and vitality that rises above human actions. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic church has grown from Jesus' band of disciples to thousands on Pentecost. In the 1970's, there were over half a billion Catholics and this has swelled to over 1.17 billion today.
Our Holy Father reminds us that this vitality comes from the Spirit, “The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Without him what would she be reduced to? She would certainly be an important movement in history, a complex and solid social institution, perhaps a sort of humanitarian agency. And to tell the truth, she is considered such by those who do not see her from a perspective of faith. Yet, the reality is that in her true nature...the Church is ceaselessly formed and guided by the Spirit of her Lord. She is a living body, whose vitality is, precisely, the fruit of the invisible divine Spirit.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli, 31 May 2009).
This vitality is also represented by the luxuriant, verdant branches of the cedar and mustard shrub that provide shade and shelter for the birds: “It will sprout branches and bear fruit...every kind of bird will live beneath it, every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches...” (Ez.17:23); “...it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.” (Mk. 4:32). True believers who offer Christ to others in word and deed are these branches of hope and consolation. If we are always in prayerful union with our tree of life (Christ) through the liturgy and sacraments of the Church, then we will be evergreen as the Psalmist sings in his song today, “The just...planted in the house of the Lord...will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just” (Ps. 91).
SFX Bulletin, 17th June 2012