The beauty of nature – especially the trees – has been quite stunning this autumn – perhaps it is the result of the beautiful summer and autumn weather we have had. Walking around the garden these past weeks I have watched the leaves change to various hues of green, gold, brown, yellow and red. As I watched their beauty increase day by day I was drawn to reflect on the example of the tree. At the very moment when its beauty seemed to be at its zenith, and one would wish it to remain so for ever, I noticed that the leaves gradually began to fall to the ground.
The trees did not resist but allowed their beautiful garments of leaves to fall one by one to the ground – to wither and die in the soil which in turn will nourish the new growth which will blossom in Spring. If we look closer we will notice that this new life is already in a tiny bud – hidden and well wrapped which pushes the leaves off the branch. The tree seems totally detached and is prepared to stand in its nakedness to face the cold frost and snow, the wind and rain of winter confident that this new life will spring forth in all its beauty with the warm rays of Spring sunshine. And so the cycle repeats itself.
Can I learn something from the example of the tree by being prepared to let go of all that I cherish and that I cling to whether it be real or illusory and be willing to expose my naked being to the “Sun of Righteousness” who shines lovingly on me with “healing in its rays?” Just as the sap hidden and at work in the tree brings about this rhythm of growth and transformation – of dying and rising again – so the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, living in us since our Baptism is always at work within us – even in the midst of all kinds of difficulties, of war and natural disaster, hatred and deception as described in this morning’s Gospel.
This pattern of new birth, growth to full flowering and decay is renewed year after year in nature, and in the process the tree grows in strength and beauty. Does something analogous to this happen in our spiritual lives if we allow ourselves to be disturbed and guided by God’s Holy Spirit in our day to day lives, confident that we are in His hands and that “not a hair of our head will be lost” as He promised us in this morning’s Gospel.