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Tree of Love

Publish in the Largs and Millport Weekly on Wednesday 29th September 2021


Autumn has a way of evoking more poignantly the sense that time is passing. From my office window, I have the joy of contemplating my neighbour’s majestic sycamore trees as they change across the seasons. They are now beginning to shed their golden leaves. Gradually, their majesty is stripped of its glory and, mid-winter, the bare bones of trunk and branches are revealed.


And yet, the very majesty of the tree is in that stark, sturdy skeleton. Without it, there would be no foliage at all. The sturdier the root, trunk and branch, the more glorious the foliage will be.


“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone”, wrote St. John of the Cross. Life can so often be played out at the level of mere appearances, of pure foliage, you might say. But appearances often deceive. People can ruin their lives in the pursuit of superficial and fleeting joys. But truth will out. When the glamour fades into the shadows, we will be seen for who and what we are in truth.


It is love alone which gives life to the root, trunk and branch of human life. Not so much the dreamy love of cinema and song, beautiful and enthralling though these may be. I refer rather to the gritty love of self-sacrifice: the vigilant love of a parent for a sick child whose love is proven in sleeplessness, worry and self-denial; the enduring love of a spouse for her beloved who is deteriorating physically and mentally before her eyes; the faithful love of a parent rejected by a son or daughter, but patiently waits and prays for their return home.


Loves like these, though harsh and unrewarding in the winter of life, produce the invincible strength of heart and soul which blossoms in spectacular beauty when springtime comes.


“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” Who is the arborist who will judge the quality of each human tree? Who else but the One who hung upon a Tree and whose infinite self-sacrificing love taught us what love is?