Saturday, June 14, 2014


Last Sunday, June 8, was the feast of Pentecost. In the first reading we heard about the disciples' experience of receiving the Holy Spirit, and how they then went out and began to preach to the assembled crowd in such a way that all the foreigners listening could understand them in their own language. The curse of the Tower of Babel had been reversed, and language had become a force that rather than dividing people, united them in the Holy Spirit.

My own experience of Pentecost Sunday was appropriate, unique, and very satisfying.

At 8:30 a.m. at nearby St. Augustine's parish  I celebrated a bilingual mass in Spanish and English. I preached about a certain Greek word found in the original language version of the Pentecost story.

At 10:30 I attended mass at the abbey's parish church, St. Mary's, and played my guitar with the choir. That was two hours of praise and thanksgiving in English.

Then at 6:00 p.m.  I celebrated mass for an African family in their small apartment, this time in French. I preached again on that Greek word in the Pentecost story.

As I was driving home from the French mass it occurred to me that, given the first reading about the apostles' preaching in a miraculous language that was understood by all, it was really a privilege for me to celebrate three masses that day in three different languages and to preach about a New Testament Greek word. But it occured to me that my ability to say mass in various languages is more of a symbol than  anything else .

In the account in Acts, the miraculous way in which people from all over the Mediterranean world could understand the apostles' preaching is a symbol of the universal mission of the apostles to go forth and preach the Good News not just to their fellow Jews but to the whole world.

Our fractured and fragmented world can certainly use the unifying message of the gospel.  So what am I doing as follower of Jesus to help that unity along? Sometimes I can become a "Babel person," contributing to the division in the world instead of to the unity that Christ had in mind. An unkind comment about someone only adds to the division in the world. A joke that reveals a negative stereotype in my heart only contributes to the Babel of our present sad situation. Retiring into myself when I could be reaching out to help someone in need is hardly making the world a more unified place.

The Kingdom of God proposed by Jesus knows no boundaries of race or religion, and has no place for resentment and self-righteousness.  These days our world and each of us can use a good dose of the Holy Spirit's unifying grace and heart-healing power. And a few good lessons in the universal language of Love!

Let's pray for one another: "Come, Holy Spirit! Ven, Espiritu Santo! Viens Esprit Saint!"

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