Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream (Jer 17:7-8).
There is no faith without grace. In chronological order, the process of human redemption goes this way: grace, faith and good works. One may certainly perform good works from one’s own human will, yet such natural works gain no merit before God unless they flow from the confluence of supernatural charity. One can also have natural faith: he or she can for example have faith in their neighbor, trust in their sports team, in their hairdresser, in their firemen, and in their military; but no one can come to trust in God unless he drinks first “from the stream by the wayside and therefore lifts up his head” (Ps 110:7). In fact, no one can even say “Jesus Christ is Lord” unless he sips from the abundant waters of grace (1 Jn 4:2-3 & 1 Cor 12:3).
In our first reading today, the prophet Jeremiah is making reference to the first psalm of David which contrasts the way of the wicked man with that of the good man, or rather with that of the graceful man. The graceful man is “blessed” as “he is like a tree planted by streams of water” (Ps 1:3). The leaves of this tree “never wither” while it is always prosperous and fruitful. The transpiration of its roots draws water from the fountain of life. The blessedness of this tree commences and remains through it having faith and hope in the Lord God.
In the second psalm (in the Book of Psalms) we are instructed as to what this tree symbolizes. It is Jesus, the “anointed one” (Ps 2:2), the Christ. It is he who comes into the world to stand in the streams of the Jordan, not so he can drain the physical “energy” of that river as some demi-god or superhero, but so that he may plant himself upon the earth as the renewed Tree of Life which drinks eternally from the Holy Spirit. It is from this tree that we (as branches) are fed and prosper unto everlasting salvation (Jn 15:4-6).
Just as the psalmist creates a symbol of grace with tree and stream, so do we on our bulletin cover for this 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The image we have chosen for this purpose is by the French Post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin, entitled By the Stream, Autumn (1885). Gaugin still paints here in the Impressionist style, but one can see in this earlier period in Paris how he already begins to experiment with the flattening of bright, bordered, and compartmentalized color. We still have light and the reflection of light as in Impressionism, but now it is a soaked up light so that even the reflection in the stream has become the color of the trees and field, synthesized as it were in the post-impressionist method.
Yet, we do not want to take our comparison of tree-and-stream with Christ-and-grace too far urging some Zen-like moment, and so be absorbed into a meditation upon nature itself. Our goal as Christians is not nature, but super-nature; always the movement of grace. This comes to us as a free gift of God to all who repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mk 1:15).
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services