Jesus Christ, the Tree of Life

“Jesus Christ, the Tree of Life”
A prayer inspired by Mark 4:30-34 
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
©2022 by Gloria M. Chang

He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Mark 4:30-34

Jesus Christ, the Tree of Life sprung from a mustard seed, opened the easterly gates of Paradise for all creation (Genesis 2:8). Adam’s expulsion necessitated clothing, shelter, and food foraged by toil. The shoot from the stump of Jesse provides all three by gratuitous grace: a robe of glorious light attained by Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection (Transfiguration; Revelation 6:11); shelter or shade in the boughs of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1; 121:5; Song of Solomon 2:3; Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6; Daniel 4:7-9; Matthew 13:32; Mark 4:32); and life-giving fruit (Revelation 22:2). 

In the passages from Ezekiel and Daniel, the resemblance to the tree of the parable is striking:

On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Every small bird will nest under it,
all kinds of winged birds will dwell
in the shade of its branches.

Ezekiel 17:23

In its branches nested
all the birds of the sky;
Under its boughs all the wild animals
gave birth,
And in its shade dwelt
all the mighty nations.

Ezekiel 31:6

These were the visions I saw while in bed: I saw a tree of great height at the center of the earth. It was large and strong, with its top touching the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, providing food for all. Under it the wild beasts found shade, in its branches the birds of the air nested; all flesh ate of it.

Daniel 4:7-9 (4:10-12 in various translations)

The New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to Mark 4:32 informs us that these prophecies foretell “the universality of the kingdom of God.” Ezekiel and Daniel, in fact,  denounced the corrupt kings of Egypt and Babylon who aspired to be the universal tree for all nations but were cut down due to pride. By contrast, the true king of kings humbled himself in obedience to the point of death on a cross, which became for us the Tree of Life.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crushed and transfigured into the bread of life and mystic wine for the wedding feast of the Lamb. 

The fruit of the unlawful tree produced fear and alienation, but the fruit of the Tree of Life produces beatitude and filial love for the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

O Christ, Tree of Life, Thou art light and shade:
Fruit for the journey eastward, unafraid.

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Song of Solomon 2:3 (RSV)

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