Sunday, May 19, 2013
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Romans 8:8-17
John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16, 23b-26
A few years ago, I was at a retreat in Lafayette, Louisiana. I had been in New Orleans where I strained to understand the language but this was something new. I could barely understand what the participants were saying and even though I never thought of my Midwestern speech as having any accent at all, they had as much difficulty understanding me. Nonetheless, we had come together in faith and we heard more than the words that were spoken. By the end of the weekend, we were united in that faith. When we prayed, “Come, Holy Spirit” our spirit of faith invited the Holy Spirit and we were enlivened.
It seems very appropriate that the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles should focus on the fact that those gathered heard the proclamation in their own languages.
In the Genesis story of the Tower of Babel, humans decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven and then they could have access to God whenever they wanted. As they attempted to do this, they suddenly began to speak different languages and there was no more understanding among them. They could no longer work together. At Pentecost, the story of the Tower of Babel is reversed. The Church is built on mutual understanding – communication based faith, communication based love.
There are few Scriptural scenes more dramatic or enthusiastic than the one found in the First Reading. The followers of Jesus had moved from a house to a gathering of “Jews from every nation,” (foreign born Jews who have returned to Jerusalem). They gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the high holy Jewish holiday. Something they did not anticipate occurred. The reading is not simply the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The listing of those from every nation foretells the future of the Church and the effects of mission activity. In this gathering, we see the movement from the revelation of the Risen Christ to that mission.
Pentecost is a communal event. The Holy Spirit comes to those already united with one another in faith. In a sense, their spirit of faith calls forth the Holy Spirit. Though the language of faith differs from diocese to diocese and even from parish to parish, we are one in our celebration today. In every corner of the world, we gather in faith and hear the Lord speaking in our own tongue. We know the mighty works of God. Together we pray: “Come, Holy Spirit” and the Spirit comes giving us the power to say, “Jesus is Lord.”
Pentecost has been called the “Birthday of the Church.” The breath that will show its life belongs to us. Our vitality can be measured by our response to Jesus who sends us forth even as he was sent.