In all truth I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
Knowing his audience, Jesus used an agrarian metaphor to talk about his impending death. It seems especially resonant as we celebrate our second pandemic Easter.
From what I read, a lot of people have turned to gardening and other ways of being in touch with the earth as a way of coping with the stress and isolation of this past year. I am not even an accomplished hobby gardener, but I have always been involved in some kind of tending of the soil around my home, and it has been consoling during this time.
I live in a city – my garden consists of some pots around my patio for flowers and herbs, and a small raised bed for vegetables. But they give me an opportunity to immerse myself in the changing seasons and the rhythm of life. For us in the northern hemisphere, the coinciding of Easter with spring makes the words of Jesus even more tangible. A barren box of soil becomes a “grave” for some seeds – and we delight at the little green shoots that emerge in the warming rays of the sun. Soon we will have abundant blooms to brighten our days, and fruits and vegetables to grace our tables.
The message of Easter for Christians is that, as God raised Jesus from the dead, so too will God bring life out of every death that we experience. Death will never again have the last word. This pandemic Easter, as we remember all of the losses of the past year, we are invited to trust in that promise and to open ourselves to the new life that God wants to bring to birth within us and around us.
Just as in our gardens we support nature in planting, watering, weeding, and such, so we can support God in bringing life out of the deaths around us. We are already doing it – from those who used their gifts to develop vaccines to those working to change the systems of injustice brought to sharper focus in the crisis, to those who reach out with helping and healing touches to family and neighbors.
Pope Francis says:
Nurturing and cherishing creation is a command God gives not only at the beginning of history, but to each of us. It is part of his plan; it means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone. (General Audience, June 5, 2013)
In this Easter season, how will I cherish the gift of life and how might I tend the garden entrusted to me – in my heart, in relationships, in community, in the earth? Where can I plant seeds of hope? Where can I pour water of compassion? Where can I till the soil by asking questions? What relationships need some tending? How can I share the bounty of the earth and God’s goodness with those most in need? What small actions on my part will help the earth be a more habitable place for everyone?
Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-5)
Mary da Silva Abinante has worked in parish, retreat, and high school ministries in California and the Northwest for over 35 years. She has a MA in Religious Education and has done additional graduate work in adult ministry formation. She recently retired from the Adult Spirituality Team at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco, and has started an online ministry at https://www.aplaceatthetable.net. She and her late husband, Phil, have three adult children.