Pentecost: Towards A De-Babelized World
The room from which I workout, I can see much of the parish campus. Just the other day I was saying to myself, soon there will be leaves on these trees. I could not wait for spring. This morning as I worked out, I looked out of the window again. The trees are now covered in green. Not just trees but the grass is green, there are flowers in the fields, and I heard the birds chirping. As the sun tried to peek through the clouds, the entire campus lit up. I said to myself, this is what Pentecost was like. There was the pre-Pentecost world. The trees were bare, the grass was dry, the flowers had faded and the birds had lost their sound. The post-Pentecost world – it has colors, and sound, and beauty, and song. What shall I say? I am a hopeless romantic.
In the gospel reading that describes Jesus outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his apostles, Jesus says to them, “Just as the Father sent me, so I sent you” (Jn 20:21). What did the Father send Jesus for? As I see it, Jesus was sent to make our world as beautiful as it was at creation. Jesus did his best. Not everybody brought his vision, but by the time he left the earth, he had filled the world with love, and goodness, and mercy, and peace. For this, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Now, as Jesus was entrusting his work to the disciples, he says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20:22). They would need the Holy Spirit in the same say he did, so that they could continue his work. There was only one difference. While at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry the Holy Spirit came only upon him, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all creation. Hence, at our baptism, we too got a share of that first Pentecost Now, God has given us the Holy Spirit, so that we might accomplish the work that Christ began. Today, then, as we realize that Jesus is sending us just as the Father sent him, let us open our hearts wide for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in and upon us. We must continue Jesus mission to make our world a beautiful place. We must live heaven on earth. For this, let us pray for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
What would a beautiful world look like? Fortunately, Pentecost is the story not on the transformation of the church but also of the world. At Pentecost, a world divided by the many languages, cultures, nations, and races understood each other. Our world needs a new Pentecost more urgently that even. Our nation and indeed the entire world is divided into two main camps. There are those who believe that the old days of a few powerful countries being superpowers, and the rest of the world being divided by which superpower they follow, is achievable. In this view, while America screams, “Make America Great Again,” so does Russia, and China, and India, and Iran, and the European Union. Each nation wants the same thing - to become great again. And people believe that there will be a single, clear winner. For this reason, each nation is dedicating more and more time, money, resources and human-power to an unprecedented arms race. And then there are those who believe that the days of the old ideologically divided world are over. I am one of those people. I believe that there is a new world order. In this new world order, either all of us win together or we lose together. My belief is not merely based on politics. My belief is based on my Catholic view of the world. Let me explain. In the Bible, the various races and languages that exist in the world today is attributed to the building of the Tower of Babel. Since then, the world was divided into languages, races, cultures, peoples and nations. However, at Pentecost, a new world order is unleashed. The post-Pentecost world is a de-Babelized world. It is world in which, even if people speak different languages, even if people are from different countries, even if people belong to different races, and cultures – they understand each other. Pentecost takes us to God’s original vision of creation, of the world, and of people in it. Pentecost is feast of world unity, of world peace, of the progress of the entire world and of all peoples.
Look at the picture above. This image was taken on the twenty-fourth anniversary of my Ordination. Children at the school had gathered to wish me. This selfie I took on the occasion was unrehearsed. It was what I now call 'The Face of America!' The picture captures the beauty of God's creation. As I said earlier, the post-Pentecost is a beautiful, de-Bablized world. Yes, we live in a beautiful world. It’s a world of colors, and music and the language of love. Whether we buy into this vision or not, is a choice we make.
So, what could Pentecost mean for us? Pentecost means that we live life in the Holy Spirit. Pentecost means that we allow Jesus to send us just as the Father sent Jesus. Pentecost means that we work with God to take our world back to God original intent. We must work with Jesus to make our world as beautiful as God’s original world. How do we accomplish all this? Here is the practical implication of this feast – that we in fact and in deed, live in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Here is the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul says, in today second reading, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:16-25). Pentecost is God attempt to recreate a world that is built around love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control. For this, Christ empowers us with the Holy Spirit and sends us forth.
For us Catholics, the celebration of the Eucharist is a proto-type of heaven. All peoples, all nations, all races, all cultures, worship the same God today singing songs of unity, love, and peace. This altar today unites people from all nations. The beauty of what happens at every altar in every Church must now beautify the world. For this, Christ has given us the Holy Spirit and sent us to the world.
Fr. Satish Joseph