In thinking back on this past year, yikes! such a difficult one, I reflected on the New Year as the opportunity for healing for all—recovering physically, emotionally and spiritually from this pandemic: the grief of loss and loneliness, the anger and division in politics, the economic and justice issues that have surfaced, the awful inequality of lives being lived all around us. We are all God’s children—and today we hear how Jesus came as a light to all nations and peoples. In considering our myriad differences and diversity, I thought about what it is that connects us to other peoples—whether families or foreigners, various denominations and non-sectarians, the sacred or secular, the haves and have-nots… Is there an underlying, but present, connection of all humans?
I read an article recently called “The Social Life of Forests” where I learned that in any forest the trees and fungi underground form partnerships called mycorrhizas—threadlike fungi that envelop and fuse with the tree roots helping them to get the water and nutrients needed for growth and survival. It has been discovered that fungal “threads” link every and all trees in any forest—even trees of different species! Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass through these underground circuits—resources flow from the oldest and biggest to the youngest and smallest trees—and even in death a tree may bequeath a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors. Wow. Sound familiar?
Trees form a vast, ancient, intricate society—sometimes with conflict, but also “negotiation” and reciprocity. Trees are so co-dependent that some scientists describe a forest as a superorganism. And these mycorrhizal networks are found in prairies, grasslands, chaparral and Arctic tundra—anywhere where life exists on land. God is so great that He has connected all living, created beings together in one great symphony of cohesion and unity, bond and connection—that is the gift of the Spirit.
Trees are found to be codependent, like we are dependent on each other, also. This is what creates families and Communities. We need each other to heal, we need other to grow, we need each other for living and dying. We see this clearly in all the readings for this Feast of the Holy Family. We are all part of holy families, and a larger Holy Family, too. We just need to remember that this is so, that this is what we are called to evince, and that this is how to maintain and live a holy life in Christ. Today we celebrate all the families of which we are part: our personal ones, our communal ones, our sacred and secular ones—all families created and connected by God and Spirit. Happy Holy Family!
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: I also learned that trees have always been symbols of connection (take a look sometime at our “Tree of Life” in the atrium). In Mesoamerican mythology, an immense tree grows at the center of the universe, stretching its roots into the underworld and cradling heaven and earth in its trunk and branches. Norse cosmology has a similar tree; and the Japanese have a Noh drama that tells about wedded pines. You can find trees as a symbol for life and connectedness in all cultures and ages of the world.
And if you remember, we sometimes also refer to the cross that Jesus died upon as a “Tree of Life.” Food for thought…
Google: Youtube Tree of Life by Aaron Thompson