As you know, my family moved my mom into one of these senior apartment complexes the Thursday before mother’s day. That was the easy part. The hard part is going through nearly 60 years of collected ‘stuff’ – to try and figure out what to do with it. I have found a few “treasures” in the process. A LOADED 38 caliber pistol. Man, if I had known that mom was packin’ all these years, I would have been a much more obedient kid. And then, in one top drawer was this envelope with dad’s handwriting on the front. (dad died in 1991) The return address read: Hotel El Cortez, in San Francisco. It had two things inside it – what is left of a redwood leaf and this packet of seeds labeled Seeds of the SequoiaGigantea – aka, the giant redwood.
So I planted a few of them in a small container today. But here is the interesting part. It will take 90 to 120 days for the seed to germinate. So it will take 3 to 4 months for this tiny seed to perhaps begin to grow. In the mean time, I am supposed to keep the soil damp but not wet. 3-4 months of not seeing any results. 3-4 months of nurturing and caring for a seed that is (make gesture) THIS SMALL, with no guarantee that the soil will be ‘slightly acid enough’ and I’ll find that balance between damp and wet for it to germinate. And then to care for that sapling until it might become large enough to transplant to take root in our hot Missouri Climate.
Somehow, it feels right and important for me to do this, though, on Pentecost – because it really is not about the seed or the tree or even the connection to my father that the seed is about. It really is an act of hope to do this – an attempt to let my nurturing of this small seed parallel what the Spirit of God wants to birth in me.
You see, I think for most of us, our experience of the Spirit is less like that “noise of a strong driving wind” as we heard in the Acts of the Apostles than it is about the experience of a seed germinating. In hidden, quiet darkness, the combination of warmth from the sun and dampness from the earth begins to ‘coax’ the small changes in the seed. Bit by bit, the ‘seed’ has to die – so as to shoot tendrils into the soil. Those miniature roots wrap themselves around clumps of soil, drawing nutrients into what is left of the seed, so that it can send shoots eventually skyward that become saplings, that become trees, which in this case, would become, not the “Fr. DeSmet Elm tree” but the “Fr. Bill Sequoia Tree”. 😉
So, too, with us and the Spirit. Though it can be experienced as a roaring wind whipping through the streets of Jerusalem, or flaming tongues of fire dancing above the heads of the disciples, isn’t our experience of the Spirit more like how John describes it in today’s gospel: the risen Lord just breathing upon us day after day? And then that breath, breathed into us like God breathing into Adam at the dawn of creation, slowly sinks down, takes root, attaches itself to us; finding ‘ready parts’ within us to wrap tendrils of love around. And then once it has found fertile soil within us, a willingness within our spirit that is ready to say “YES’ to that gentle invitation, it pushes up shoots into our world to help transform our culture and our world.
I think that is how most of us experience the Spirit. Not in ecstatic moments of speaking in tongues and doing might deeds of power, but in a quiet kind of growth and love that begins with a transformed heart – that is how we experience that Spirit. In that ‘breathing of Jesus’ over us
- We are able to forgive a grudge we held for a long time
- We make a pledge to the Annual Catholic appeal out of our resources because we know it makes a difference.
- We write to our congress about the threat to religious freedom that the Health Care Mandate is.
- We volunteer to cook a casserole for St. Patrick Center once every other month.
- And so it goes… different gifts brought to life, none of us having it all together, but all together, we have enough.
So I’ll be keeping the soil “damp but not wet” for the next 3-4 months, and letting each moment I spend caring for those seeds also be moments of prayer when I say, for me and for you: “Come, Holy Spirit, come. Fill the hearts of your faithful, ALL of your Faithful, and as you cause the seed to grow, so call our hearts to say yes to your breathing in us for the good of the world. In us, Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth…