A PARABLE FOR THE CHURCH TODAY
A tree in the forest grew great and majestic above all others, so that the birds of the air came and nested in its branches (Matthew 13:32), but then one day the call came down, "Chop down the tree and use the wood for lumber." And so it was done. Many looking on mourned for the tree and followed it to the lumberyard where it was carved up into lumber.
In time, the lumber came to be used in the construction of a billboard, on which was advertised various brands of cigarettes, airlines, and telephone companies, etc. The many who were saddened by this were truly appalled that their beloved tree should be put to such ignoble uses.
Loyally, they stuck by the billboard made from the tree because they believed that the tree could never die, even though the lumber in the billboard showed every sign of being dead.
Yet the tree was still very much alive, not in the part that had been cut off, but in the stump left behind in the forest. Small branches had sprouted out of the sides of the stump, just under the place it had been cut down. These small branches sprouted green shoots and leaves and grew by leaps and bounds.
Because the stump had been so large, some of the branches grew quite some distance from each other. Because of that, some people mistook these branches for distinct little trees with no relationship to each other or to the original tree, but anyone having even a little bit of curiosity could easily look and see that the leaves were the same as the leaves of the original tree, and if only they dug down just a little bit, they could see where the stump was and where each of them was attached to it, growing from it.
At first, only a scattered few dared to leave the billboard to return to the stump. Many at the billboard denigrated those who left it to return to the stump for deserting the tree, but as the health and vigor of the tree at the stump grew, and as more people became aware of that, the small trickle of persons transferring from the billboard to the stump grew into a steady stream and finally into an avalanche as everyone eventually came to realize that the life of the tree is in its roots, and not in the branches (nor even the trunk) which have been cut off.
"For Saint Augustine answers precisely: 'The branch lopped off has the shape of the vine; but what avails the form if it has not the root?'" (Mirari Vos, Paragraph 14). Needless to say, in time the branches grew into an even bigger tree, more glorious than the original had been, and all the stronger for what it had been through.
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