A Tree Planted by Water – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Times
There is a connection between vulnerability and trust. I am often naked (figuratively, not literally) when I most grow in the Lord. I come before the Lord without a fig leaf covering my private faults/sins. It’s often the same with family and friends. My experience is that being with another in vulnerability can lead to a deeper relationship of trust.
I recently shared with a good friend about one of the great struggles of my life. I later wondered whether I had been too vulnerable, and whether my friend would reject me. Not so! What about our trust in God? Does God reject us, or think that we are irredeemable? Of course not!
The Prophet Jeremiah uses a beautiful illustration in today’s scripture readings as a way of speaking of the one who trusts in God.
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. That person shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
These words are a paraphrase of Psalm 1, today’s Responsorial Psalm.
Trust in the Lord? It’s easier said than done. Many of us say that we trust God (or a spouse or a close friend). That trust continues so long as all is going well. Then something threatening comes along – an illness, a threat to our lifestyle, economic difficulties, challenges to our relationship, some spiritual drought or fear, or some other interior movement that we cannot explain and don’t understand.
Trust is a tenuous feeling. Jeremiah refers to the fear that comes with heat and the anxiety during a time of drought. If the tree hadn’t been planted by water, it would wither. Instead, it continues to bear fruit.
When we have a firm trust in God or the other, we are able to withstand any tragedies or challenges that come along. Call to mind accounts of lengthy marriages, where partners stay together, regardless of situations that may be temptations to part ways.
I am always moved when I hear of a partner stay with a seriously ill or incapacitated spouse. There have been recent films about people who stay faithful to their spouse with Alzheimer’s. Most of us know of a real life couple like that, or a couple with one partner living with a debilitating physical condition.
The tree’s fruitfulness comes with being beside water. What about our own fruitfulness? How do we sustain ourselves, especially when something threatens our trust? It takes love, courage, integrity, and patience. Jeremiah’s words are an invitation to be unshakeable. Are we able to have peace and hope in the storms of life?
Jesus offers challenging words in Luke’s version of the beatitudes.
“Blessed are you who are poor now … blessed are you who are hungry now … blessed are you who weep now … blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”
Our trust must go beyond good times, good health, security and consolation. Can our trust be so deeply rooted that we still experience gratitude, even when we encounter hunger, tears, hatred and exclusion?