While our world is gripped by the crushing tragedy and frightening uncertainty of the global coronavirus pandemic, God’s creation continues to hint at the constancy and magnificence of the creator as a sign of great hope.
“No matter what, the cherry blossoms are still there,” the tree’s caretaker, Sidafumi Hirata, told NPR.
At more than 1,000 years old, this Japanese cherry tree has lived through wars, famines and disasters. Last week, it started blooming again.
“No matter what,” says the tree’s caretaker, “the cherry blossoms are still there.”https://t.co/suOwtGXKNt
— NPR (@NPR) April 14, 2020
Indeed, the tree is a testament to strength and resilience throughout disasters both ancient and recent.
The millennium-old tree is located only about 30 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was the site of a 2011 nuclear disaster after an earthquake and its subsequent tsunami damaged the plant.
The tree was unharmed, but the tourists largely stopped coming. As visitors were just beginning to return in recent years, travel to it has come to a grinding halt this year again due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This perennial beauty’s blossoms will remain unseen this season by most people, save for by the locals who continue care for the tree as their ancestors have for centuries — pulling its weeds and fertilizing its soil, even without scads of other revelers.
The beauty of the tree remains unchanged, no matter what is going on in the world around it or how many people witness that beauty in person.
In a way, it’s a microcosm of the phenomenon that Christians saw on Easter Sunday this year.
Church buildings were largely empty due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Easter’s message of hope and renewal through Jesus’ death and resurrection continued to blossom in the hearts of Christians.
This was especially evident at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican: Pope Francis held mass and gave his blessing to a virtually empty St. Peter’s Square, and yet the beauty of the resurrection was not at all diminished by the lack of in-person witnesses.
LIVE from St. Peter Basilica | From Vatican City, Pope Francis offers Easter Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing, in a St. Peter’s Square nearly empty due to the COVID19 pandemic. https://t.co/dTBPH0GVbS
— EWTN Vatican (@EWTNVatican) April 12, 2020
The cherry tree’s blossoms are also a reminder that in times of tragedy and great upheaval like this one, we can look for the fingerprints of the creator and see his concern for us in the way that he cares for the natural world.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them,” Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 6. “Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing?
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Seeing another living thing that has continued to bloom century after century — through natural disasters, nuclear disasters and even cataclysmic human disasters like plagues and famines — provides hope to humanity that whatever is happening today will soon pass.
The beautiful blossoms will once again die out, leaving the tree looking barren and hopeless, but written into its very nature is the promise of renewal and life when the season is right again.
Just as God is in control of the blossoms, he’s sovereign over our lives as well.
And that ought to give us assurance and hope as we weather the winter of COVID-19, because we are far more important in God’s eyes than a cherry tree.
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