Palm Sunday and Holy Week

The Tree of the Cross

cross signTrees are central to the story of our Salvation.  From the very beginning “God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, from the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden” (Gen 2:9).  This symbol of immortality and the knowledge of Good and Evil introduces us to God’s plan for us.  This tree is to be central to our relationship with God.  Its fruit is to communicate immortality.  But its forbidden fruit will not give knowledge of Good and Evil – only God can give that to us.

If we misuse this tree, this knowledge, this instrument of communication from God, life will be ‘cut from us’.  Jesus promises that “those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life set in God’s paradise” (Rev 2:7)

It was through the Burning Bush (tree) that God got the attention of Moses, so as to communicate with him.  Sometimes there has to be a fire before we actually get the message!

Later in the Gospels we read how Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree so that he could, on the one hand, get a better view of Jesus and, on the other, observe Jesus at a distance.  The tree is a prop for him so that he comes to know the Lord.

Jesus, himself, used trees to put across his message to us.  By using the image of the fig tree that is not bearing fruit, Jesus shows how given another chance and getting the proper nourishment will help it to bear fruit.  What is the tending and care that we need if we are to bear fruit for the Lord?  Even the smallest of us with the least of talents can become stalwarts of the Kingdom of God, like the tiny mustard seed which grows into an enormous tree!

Of course, Jesus, when describing the Kingdom of God called himself the Vine and called us the branches.  This vine tree, drawing strength and inspiration from the Lord is to bear fruit that will last.  The sap that Jesus gives to the tree which is the Church is what gives us Faith, Hope and the same Love that He has.

Sometimes in Scripture the tree is the sign of a curse.  In Joseph’s interpretation of the dream of Pharaoh’s baker it is on a gallows that he will be hung and there are also trees used for hanging in Joshua 8:29 and Ester 2:23.  But Jesus took this curse upon himself: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since Scripture says ‘cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Gal 3:13)

So, the tree which has been a symbol of our condemnation, our contact with God, our talents and Faith, which was a sign of a curse, in becoming the Tree of the Cross of Christ, is now for us the sign of Redemption, of God’s Love and of New Life.  All who take it up will be called disciples of the Lord and ‘all who look on it will be saved.’