With Pentecost we bring to a conclusion the 50 days of Easter. During these 7 weeks I have used the daily Mass readings for a study of the Acts of Apostles. Acts begins with Jesus sending the Holy Spirit and then tells about the Spirit's work.
One commentary I used had an intriguing comparison for the work of the Holy Spirit.* It compared him to a rhizome. Gardeners know about rhizomes but it was a new word for me. A rhizome is a continuously growing underground stem that sends up shoots at different points. Bamboo and ginger are rhizomes as are hops. The main part grows below the soil. Above ground we see the sprouts with their fruit.
In preparing this homily I took a trip to Bambooland. Some of you probably have visited it - a couples miles out of Monroe heading to Sultan. Bambooland has groves of the rapidly spreading plant. Try to hold that image of a bamboo grove as we examine the work of the Holy Spirit.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus inaugurates a new age by sending his Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Hearing their testimony people repent of their sins and receive the Holy Spirit by baptism. When the apostles place hands on new disciples the Holy Spirit fill them and impels them to reach out to others. Disciples emerge like sprouts but the reality below is the Holy Spirit - just like single rhizome can produce multiple bamboo trees.
As we hear in the reading from Corinthians the Holy Spirit makes himself known by works of service. In our parish we saw remarkable works of service in the person of Sister Barbara. During her 41 years here she touched the lives of hundreds, really thousands. This summer when we have our parish picnic we will dedicate a memorial to her, inviting the whole community. We want people to remember her service and to thank God for the gifts she shared. And we want our young people to hear that call to service. She was a woman open to the Holy Spirit.
Sister Barbara not only showed works of service; she humbly received help from others. I am thankful for the parishioners who stood by her in good times and bad. We saw that care most intensely during her final year. As that disease took her short term memory, many came forward to assist her. Others help pick up the loose ends - all the gaps left by Sister's failing health. This care showed the Holy Spirit at work.
I am grateful to you for your care - and also to her religious congregation for taking on the financial burden of Sister's time at Brookdale and Regency. As you know, those costs are huge. I think of it when we take up the Annual Catholic Appeal. A significant part of the Appeal goes for ill and retired priests and sisters. It's an indispensable way of caring for those who cared for us. As St. Paul says, by the Spirit "though many we are one body."
Speaking of becoming one body this Sunday our children receive First Holy Communion. Like baptism and confirmation we see this sacrament in the Acts of the Apostle. Luke refers to it as "the breaking of the bread." It's much more than sharing a meal. By the power of the Spirit the bread becomes Jesus' body. Like a rhizome we only see the part above the surface. In the sacraments we see water, oil and bread but with eyes of faith we can see the true reality - the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit like a rhizome manifests himself in gifts of service and sacraments. We make today's Psalm our prayer, "Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth." Amen.