The Tree of Gratitude: Part IV

This is the fourth and final part of a series of meditations designed to help you enter into the love of the Holy Trinity.

In meditations I-III, you planted a seed of gratitude in good soil and watched it grow. In this meditation, you will examine what kind of fruit your tree yields and which birds make their nest therein.

You will need a piece of fruit for this meditation. As always, a you may want to share your experience with spiritual director.


O my sister doves, simple, chaste, and innocent, why did you let yourselves be caught? Now, you see, I want to rescue you from death and make nests for you so that you can bear fruit and multiply at your Creator’s command.
— St. Francis of Assisi

IV. Blossoms and Nests

I like to watch birds. So I put up a bird feeder to attract them--thistle for finches, suet for woodpecker, peanuts for blue jays and flickers, and sunflower seeds for cardinals and doves. Over time, these birds have come to call the honeydew in my backyard home.

Such is our spiritual life. We are like a tree that produces fruit. If we produce good fruit such as generosity, humility, gentleness, and kindness, then we know that the Holy Spirit has descended upon us.

But even dead trees--trees that are barren, trees that produce no fruit--can attract birds, (woodpeckers, in particular). Likewise, even when we feel our soul is dry and barren--when we think we are no good, worthless, or hopelessly corrupt--the Holy Spirit still dwells with us.

The question is, do you take the time to notice?

Gaze

Collect a piece of fruit--an orange, an apple, or maybe even a banana.

Examine this piece of fruit. What is it's shape? What color is it? Run your fingers along the piece of fruit. What is the texture of its skin? Is it soft in some places, hard in others? Lift the piece of fruit up to your nose. What does it smell like? Does the scent of the earth still linger with it?

Now, imagine everything that went into making this piece of fruit: the nutrients from the soil the sunlight and water. Imagine the hands that picked it, held it, washed it, transported it, and delivered it. Notice how this piece of fruit connects you to the world.

Finally, bite into the fruit. Taste its goodness, and eat it slowly, with gratitude.

Read the following Scripture passage, with the same attention and awareness you ate your piece of fruit.

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)

Consider

Imagine yourself a tree. You germinated from a seed of gratitude; were planted in the soil of love. Watered by hope, you sprouted a seedling of faith, and continued to grow, nurtured by patience.

Consider your roots. Roots serve to keep the tree stable, help it grow straight and tall, and draw in nutrients that help the tree grow. What keeps you stable and sturdy? What helps you grow straight and tall? What do you absorb from the world around you--love, peace, and harmony? or cynicism, despair, and fear?

Consider your leaves. The leaves of a tree convert energy into food. What gives you energy? What gives you hope? What gives you a sense of dignity befitting a creature made in the image and likeness of God? Or do you notice an absence of hope, an absence of a sense of your own worthiness, as if the leaves have wilted and fallen from your tree?

Consider your bark. Bark protects the tree, but it also serves as food for other species. Where do you find safety and security? What nourishment do you provide others? Is it a healthy, symbiotic relationship, or do they consume you to the point that you no longer flourish, but whither?

Consider the flowers the blossom and the fruits you bear. These blossoms allow the tree to reproduce. What fruits do you generate? Is is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23) What is the quality of this fruit--is it healthy, or is it rotten with worms and other pests, such as arrogance, self-righteousness, dishonesty, or vanity?

Finally, consider the birds that dwell in you, that call you home. Birds help trees grow by eating the parasites that may hurt it. Where do you feel the Holy Spirit at work in your life? Where do you feel the need to do penance--that is, what graces do you need to help you be Christ in this world?

Contemplate

Rest in the shade of your own tree. Look for the fruit you produce. Taste it. Is it sweet? Is it rotten? Listen for the birds. What songs do they sing? Do the songs fill you with consolation or desolation? That is, are the songs life giving and affirming, or do they drain you of your vitality?

Continue to sit under this tree, not judging the fruit you taste or the songs you hear. Just sit, knowing that the light of God's love shines down on you.

Slowly return your attention to your body. Wiggle your fingers and toes; roll your head slightly. Fill in your lungs with a deep breath, and return your attention to your surroundings.

Close with a prayer of gratitude.

Imitate

Throughout the week, spend some time praying this examen at the end of every day to see what fruit you produce and which bird make their nest in you:

  1. Recall that you are in God's presence by saying a prayer or by reading a short verse from Scripture.
  2. Were were created to be free of the distractions that make us forget who were are in God. Pray that the Holy Spirit remind you that you were created in the image of God--in love, out of love, in order to love.
  3. Identify the bird songs you heard throughout the day. What graces did you receive today? When did you you experience God's love? Give thanks for these moments.
  4. Walk through the your day, moment by moment. Specifically, identify times when you produced the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Was this fruit sweet or bitter?
  5. Imagine sitting under a tree with Jesus. What would you like to share with him? Is it a particular question? Is it the need for forgiveness? Or do you just want to share your presence with him and sit under the tree with him in silence? How does Jesus respond?
  6. Finish the prayer with a prayer of gratitude. Give thanks for the grace God has shared with you, and resolve to make those changes necessary to grow into the person God imagines you to be.

May the Lord bless you with health, harmony, happiness, and peace.