At timberline in the Colorado mountains, small, gnarled pine trees grow almost horizontally. How can a tree survive bitter winters and harsh conditions so high up? How can a small pinecone flourish in the rocks?

Ezekiel plays on similar imagery, suggesting a “tender shoot” of cedar planted on a mountain and growing into a towering tree that shelters all manner of birds.

Jesus’ parable of the seed and the sower stresses a similar inner force that comes from God the creator, not the farmer who will eventually harvest the grain.

I can easily imagine that my own development depends on my efforts. Bookstores offer a staggering array of self-improvement techniques, but life is a gift from God who continually labors in my life. That is one of the fundamental assumptions of Ignatian spirituality.

Do I trust God to care for the life-Spirit within, no matter how harsh the conditions I face?

—Fr. Tom Rochford, S.J. is moving to Denver where he will serve as chaplain and artist-in-residence at Regis Jesuit High School. He is an artist (primarily oil painting), photographer and videographer.