Near the front door just inside Home Depot, last week, was a display for seed pots, starter packets to grow annuals from scratch long before planting time in the northeast. It’s a matter of hope that spring will come, even though winter is in full force this week. Meanwhile, beneath the earth which is growing ever deeply more frozen, perennials are snuggled away, survivors of the elements, the way annuals cannot be. We can think of ourselves as having aspects of our lives akin to annuals, while other aspects of our lives are perennial . Both are necessary, inspiring, valuable, beautiful. Both arise out of our baptisms.
Christians are rooted in Christ, identify with Him. Whatever blossoms in us by way of God’s own mercy, compassion, generosity, faithfulness to our human relationships, and faithfulness to our God in worship arise from that seed called baptism.
The neatest thing about this baptismal seed is that it never dies in us. We may not always treasure it, shelter it, cultivate it, but it the perennial in us that never dies as long as we live. This fact irritates some people who want it gone - to shoo it away, like the dog that trailed Francis Thompson – the dog in The Hound of Heaven. Other people hold onto the seed of baptism, though their lives don’t reflect a commitment to nurture it. One of my relatives has not been to church in years. When serious illness began to threaten her life, I talked with her gently about reactivating her relationship with the church. “I’m Catholic’” she shot back at me. “Never been anything but!” There it was. If it’s enough for God, it should be enough for me. Baptism doesn’t go away.
Whether or not we are aware of the beckoning of God for us to come closer, we may well experience annuals growing in the garden of our lives, along with those sustainable, hearty perennials: passing realizations, attitudes and insights that put us in touch with the world in ways that enlarge us and make us fruitful as we have not been before.
Other people might come along to seed our garden for just this one moment, just this one week or month or through an interchange as strangers. The annuals of this year’s life with God are not necessarily going to be ours next year. Let’s hope that we can be aware of what we have now growing in our lives, and if possible, be aware of the source of this unexpected blossom and fruit. And be grateful, too.
So during this week, when we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan and we recall all that God has planted in us, we would do well to celebrate our own baptisms and the great seeds God has graced us with forever or just for now. As the American writer of heart- gripping things, Mary Oliver, says” “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”
~Sister Joan Sobala