“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream; It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green. In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.”
I have always loved this image of the tree by the desert stream. We see it in several places in the scriptures. It is such a powerful and perfect metaphor for a life of faith and trust. When we read the Scriptures we know that the area that the events of the Old and the New Testaments took place in is, for the most part, desert and very dry country. Water is a necessity and, therefore, a precious commodity. We also know that water is the most basic and absolute necessity for life.
We also know that the desert is a metaphor for sin and death. Sin desiccates our souls, just as the lack of water will dry up a plant until it dies. Knowing these things, we see how “planting” ourselves near the stream of God’s love and mercy, we are like that tree that is planted by the water’s edge in this beautiful, prayerful metaphor that Jeremiah uses here. We too are able to “stretch out our roots” to the “stream” of God’s love and mercy. In doing so, when the heat and passions of temptations come, we will have the grace to avoid them, and the leaves of our faith will stay green and healthy. We will not succumb to those temptations. When times of drought, (which can be compared to doubt) come (and they do), even the roots of our “little” faith will be able to receive enough of God’s grace to prevent us from being stressed to the point of death.
Life is difficult. This we know by experience. But in our faith we also know that we are not alone in our struggles to remain true to God. This is why God gave us the Church. This is the power of Christian community. The Church community is like that stream. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth. It is the stream through which so much of the grace of God flows to all of us. It is the stream by which we are baptized into the life-giving and supporting Christian community. It is this community of faith in Christ Jesus through which God works his miracles among us today. As Jesus promised us, he is present wherever two or more are gathered in his name. And whatever we ask for in his name will be given to us. Let us sink our roots near this stream then, so that we will always be able to draw on God’s nourishing, life-giving grace and never fail to produce good fruit in his name.
Jesus, help us to see the wisdom of putting down our roots in your life-giving stream of grace. In you alone do we find the strength to live, and to live abundantly, in the midst of this desert. We pray, as always, in the holy name of Jesus. Amen!
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