I was once again tripping over backpacks and bodies on the floor doing homework in the hallway of our house. The summer clothes had been put away. The coats and sweaters had been taken out and eagerly donned. The leaves on the trees were turning crisp colors of bright red, orange and yellow. The ground was growing cold. It was October—just six months ago. And that is when I decided to plant the daffodil bulbs that I had purchased in the grocery store soon after they had caught my eye while I was standing in the checkout line.
After a search for gardening tools in our garage, I got down on my knees with tools and bulbs and started digging in the dirt. Digging six inches deep and carefully covering each bulb, I was reminded that planting is messy business. By the time the planting was done, the bulbs were not the only thing covered with dirt. So was I. Yet a feeling of optimism and hope washed over me.
Spring arrived sooner than I could have imagined (where did those six months go?) and I was not disappointed. The bulbs that had been planted last fall did indeed bloom beautifully this March.
These yellow flowers resemble happy faces smiling brightly and trumpeting the start of spring. But they are not just pretty. They are tough. They made it through the winter no worse for the wear. We cannot plant most of our spring flowers until we know that the last frost is over. But a little frost doesn’t phase the daffodils. They’ve been through colder things than frost. They’ve been through the harshness of the winter.
Daffodils are planted right before a frozen death comes to the earth for many months. For this reason, they must be planted with hope. It is easy to hope in the marigolds and zinnias our family routinely plants every spring just outside our front door. They will grow and flourish with a little soil and within a few weeks of a little water and a little sun.
But how does one have hope in flowers one may not see for six months, knowing that snow, ice and brutal cold lie between the planting and the reaping? Yet the daffodils are among the first of all the flowers to rush to greet us in the spring. Daffodils demand only that we plant them in hope. Planting in hope reminds us to pray in hope, as the Holy Spirit teaches us to do.
“The Holy Spirit… teaches us to pray in hope” says the Catechism (CCC 2657). What can we do if we have not one stitch of hope? We can pray for hope. One cannot expect to grow in hope without prayer any more than one can expect a blooming daffodil to surface when one did not bother first in the fall to plant the bulb. We are nourished in hope on our walk through this life with the Lord not just through the liturgy and other prayers of the Church, but also through our own personal prayers to God. As the Catechism reminds us “…the prayers of the Church and personal prayer nourish hope in us” (CCC 2657).
Our God is God of hope. It is only through prayer and the Holy Spirit that, despite our wretched circumstances or the wretched circumstances of those around us, we can abound joyfully and peacefully in hope. It was St. Paul who prayed: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Everywhere we look, souls are carrying seemingly hopeless crosses. There are souls struck down by cancer. There are people imprisoned. There are families torn apart by war, separation or divorce. There are parents enslaved by addictions to alcohol, drugs or gambling. There are orphaned children, fatherless children and children who have gone astray. There are scandals, apostasies and liturgical abuses in our own Catholic Church. It might be easy to despair.
But as Christians we need not despair. Rather we “boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:5). We can remember that there is no winter so brutally cold, no situation so wretchedly impossible, that God cannot triumph in it. When the harsh winters of our lives approach, we can think of the triumph of our Lord and in our prayers plant daffodils of hope. And then we can patiently wait for them to bloom remembering that “hope does not disappoint.”