Once upon a time there lived a man and his son. They were both strong-willed and outspoken. They often argued as the son grew into adulthood.
One day, they had an argument that became a shouting match. At the end, the son screamed that he hated his father and that he never wanted to see him again. The father yelled back that his son would never be welcome in the house or in his presence again.
The son left the home and didn’t look back. For years he made his own way in the world, but knowing that he was still empty inside. Finally, after seven years, the son wrote his father an apology letter. Maturity had opened the son’s eyes to his mistakes and given him forgiveness for his father.
The son would be taking the train home to the farm that spring. If his father didn’t want to see him, the son would continue on his way. If his father wanted to see him, he was to tie a white handkerchief to the branch of a tree near the tracks to let the son know he was welcome. The young man would see the handkerchief as a sign that he had been forgiven.
The day came and the son sat in his seat on the train as it wound through the countryside. He knew the curve of the tracks was coming up and he would see the tree. The words he and his father had shouted at each other had been hateful and bitter. He hadn’t heard from his father in all that time. His father was a stubborn man. He could keep a grudge if he wanted.
The train turned the curve and tears ran down the son’s face. He had hoped for one handkerchief blowing in the wind.
The father had tied one to all the branches.
I heard that story in college many years ago. It’s probably not true, but the message is still powerful. It reminds me of a story about a tree that is true. Of a Father that loved His wandering children so much He would forgive their stubborn, rebellious, wandering ways.
Today the Church observes Good Friday. “Good” in that no longer do we have to wander in our sin and shame away from our Creator. The Son took that punishment by hanging on a tree.
However, I had to accept that gift. Look on the tree and say, “I believe that Sacrifice pays for my sins.”
Then God can look upon me and say “You are forgiven,” and when I die, He will open His arms and say, “Welcome home.”
All because of a tree.
Now I’m crying in joy too.