Last Sunday, John’s Gospel used the metaphor of shepherd and sheep for Jesus’ teaching that God cares for all people. A walk in a field today came upon two dead lambs. All shepherds are not great at taking care of their sheep.
The teaching of Jesus in today’s Sunday Gospel (John 15: 1-8) uses the metaphor of the tree and the branches. While few people nowadays know much about sheep, people both in cities and the countryside are never far away from a tree.
Trees do not need people to look after them as much as people need trees. They provide wood for our fires that heat our homes, grow food for our tables, give shelter when we need it and act as lungs of the earth purifying the air we breathe. The oak tree, a symbol of the spirit of ancient Ireland supports the life of some five hundred types of feeding insect and thirty six fungi.
Trees teach us to stand tall looking up at the stars with our feet firmly planted on the earth. They teach us also that new life emerges out on a limb in the midst of diversity. They have the wisdom to let go when the time is right and know how to rest and wait during difficult experiences until the time comes to begin again.
The tree in the picture is the ash. Behind it is the ruins of Trinity church which was built in the eleventh century. Belief in the Trinity of God fits beautifully with a fundamental principle that at all levels of life there is differentiation, subjectivity and communion. In simple language that means that everything is different, everything has a presence and everything is related to everything else. At the heart of belief in the Holy Trinity is the divine DNA of the communion of love. Looking lovingly at a tree and its branches at this time of the year is almost guaranteed to bring about a better understanding of a fundamental principle of universal life and the depth of God’s love.