Olive Trees

Tuesday Reflection from Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
readings from: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010224.cfm

As we pray for peace in the Middle East, we can learn from an old Palestinian story that goes like this:

An elderly grandfather took his young grandson to show him how to plant olive trees.  While he was digging a hole in the ground, his grandson asked:  “Grandpa, how long will it take for these olive trees to start producing?”

  The old man replied: “At least 5 years, grandson.”

         The grandson was happy and said: “So you’ll live at least 5 more years to see the fruits of these trees?”

         “Maybe not”, said the old man.

The boy became sad as he watched his grandfather sweating and working and asked:  “Why are you working so hard then, Grandpa, when you may not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of your hard work?”

         Looking affectionately at him, he replied: 

“My dear grandson, you see those other olive trees?  Our forefathers planted them; we have been picking and eating from them.  Now, I am planting new olive trees so that you will pick their olives and eat.  And I pray that you will be planting additional trees, like I am doing, for your children and grandchildren.”

I could relate to this story because last week in Chicago, my 6 siblings, their spouses and I celebrated my mother’s 102nd birthday at a lovely restaurant having a great feast.  She enjoyed it immensely.  As a family, we know how blessed we’ve been; we’ve been reaping much fruit from the values she and our Dad planted in us many years ago.  And now we are passing them on to the next generation of the Finnegan Clan.

Today we honor John the Baptist who went before Christ and who sowed the seeds of faith for us.  The name John means ‘gift of God’ and he loudly, proudly and boldly proclaimed God’s ways. We sit here today as the recipients of his labors.  He saw the Lord’s hand in his life and believed his role was to announce and prepare the way of the Lord, and he did.

Throughout history God has chosen certain women and men for very special tasks which are seeds for the next generation of Christians.  Such were Bishops Basil and Gregory who lived in Turkey in the 3rd century and were actually life-long friends, first as university students in Athens, and later as monks.  Both were deeply involved in opposing the Arian heresy which denied Jesus’ divinity.  And it was St. Basil’s teaching which helped revise the Nicene Creed of 325 AD, which we still recite today.

Who in our past has shared their faith with us and nurtured our relationship with God?  To them, we are grateful.  Who is in our life now who needs our witness of faith, either in words or actions?  For them and for us, we pray for God’s guidance.

St. John the Baptist, Saints Basil and Gregory, and all who have planted the seeds of faith in our lives, pray for us this day.