I have a small tree in a pot on my terrace. It was large at one point, but nearly withered. Then it grew back, but something happened a few weeks ago and the whole top of the small tree broke off. I thought it was dead, but I left in out and even watered it when there was no rain.
The tree is growing back.
While preparing for preaching this weekend I ran across the last verse of the first reading, Ezekiel 17:24:
[I, the Lord,] make the withered tree bloom.
But I first read it in a Spanish version:
…reverdezco el árbol seco.
“I make the dry tree green again.”
There is so much going on to dry out our souls these days – not only the news about separating families of immigrants in the US, the deaths of so many from violence and poverty, the war on the poor that is happening in so many places in the world. How many are feeling dried and drained by worries about their children, by trying to make ends meet, by so many squelched dreams? And then there is the personal dryness – Where is God? Why do I feel so helpless about all this? Is there anything one person can do?
In the midst of this, God promises to make the dry tree green again, to refresh our thirst-plagued spirits.
And we are reminded by the parables that God works through little things, like grains of mustard.
As Pope Francis writes in Gaudete et Exsultate (16), “This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures.”
And we can remember the wise advice of Dorothy Day:
“Young people say, ‘What can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we can only lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform these actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”
I remember especially these words from prison of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant martyred in 1943 for his refusal to serve in Hitler’s army. cThey can both challenge and sustain us, to be resilient workers in the Reign of God:
“Today one hears it said repeatedly that there is nothing any more that an individual can do. If someone were to speak out, it would mean only imprisonment and death. True, there is not much that can be done anymore to change the course of world events. I believe that should have begun a hundred or even more years ago. But as long as we live in this world, I believe it is never too late to save ourselves and perhaps some other soul for Christ. One really has no cause to be astonished that there are those who can no longer find their way in the great confusion of our day. People we think we can trust, who ought to be leading the way and setting a good example, are running along with the crowd. No one gives enlightenment, whether in word or in writing. Or, to be more exact, it may not be given. And the thoughtless race goes on, always closer to eternity. As long as conditions are still half good, we don’t see things quite right, or that we could or should do otherwise….
“If the road signs were stuck ever so loosely in the earth that every wind could break them off or blow them about, would anyone who did not know the road be able to find his way? And how much worse is it if those to whom one turns for information refuse to give him an answer or, at most, give him the wrong direction just to be rid of him as quickly as possible?”