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Commentary to the Solemnity of Pentecost

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, SJ - Sat, May 14th 2016

We Talk, the Spirit Speaks 

The story of the Tower of Babel is the first reading for the vigil Masses of Pentecost. It is meant to set up a radical contrast to the events of Pentecost. In the first reading for the Masses of Pentecost day, the disciples of Jesus received the Holy Spirit and then proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to the people who were in Jerusalem. People from all over the known world heard the disciples in their own language. The apostles were really just talking, but the Spirit they had received was speaking. According to the Acts of the Apostles, three thousand people became Christian that day. They were united by their determination to spread the Gospel. They were united by the Holy Spirit. 


This was not a matter of the translators at the United Nations. The people who heard the Apostles' words heard the Holy Spirit. They themselves became empowered by that Spirit to spread the Gospel. They brought Christ to their families. Many brought Christ beyond their families to the world. 


Let's look at those first apostles. How could it ever be possible that commoners from Palestine would have the power to lead the world to Jesus Christ? These men seldom left Galilee. And yet by the time they died, people in Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor, Italy, Egypt, Ethiopia and other sections of Africa, and India and other parts of Asia, perhaps even as far west as Spain, were all calling Christ their Lord. These men and women didn't do this. The Holy Spirit did this. They talked. The Spirit spoke. And the world listened. Many followed. 


The Holy Spirit is also powerful in our time. We have received this Power at our own personal Pentecosts, our confirmations. We are now capable of transforming lives, even capable of transforming the world. 


But we have to be willing to talk for the world to hear the Holy Spirit speak. The disciples who were locked up in that Upper Room on Pentecost Sunday received the Spirit and then left their hiding place and publically proclaimed Jesus Christ. Before Pentecost they feared being caught and killed. After Pentecost they only feared not being true to the Spirit. 


We also have to leave the security of our hiding places and publically proclaim Jesus Christ. We can't keep silent in our homes when the gifts of God are being thrown into the garbage. For example, many have reduced marriage to an egotistical celebration of temporary romance. We have to stand for the sacrament as given to us by the Lord and proclaim marriage as a vocation from God. In the case of late term abortions, partial birth abortions, many have devalued life to the point that a matter of inches determines for them the difference between a woman's rights and murder. We have to take a stand for life as a gift from God from womb to tomb. Yes, we may be destroyed by the popular crowd. But we have to be true to ourselves and true to the Spirit who has formed us into who we are. 


In the second reading for Pentecost, St, Paul writes to the Corinthians: 


"No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. (1 Cor 12:3-7) 


We need to use the spiritual gifts we have received so others can find Christ. We each have powerful ways of bringing others to Christ. We each have a share in the Holy Spirit. 


We need to talk so the Spirit can speak. We need to talk so others can hear the Spirit. We need to talk. St. Francis of Assisi said: "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." We need to talk with our lives. We need to be so deeply devoted to our Lord that Christian is who we are, not merely what we say, or even what we do. When our speech and our actions flow from our union with Christ, then others are drawn by the Spirit to enter this union. A number of years ago a terrible tragedy hit a family in our parish. People rallied around the surviving widow. She wasn't Catholic.... at the time. But she became Catholic. She told me that she chose Catholicism because she wanted what those others had. They talked with their lives. She heard the spirit and sought unity with them in Christ. 


The elements of the world that have rejected God have condemned themselves to babel. Their lives are as meaningless as their words. They do not have to continue suffering. There is hope available. There is harmony available. There is peace available. 


In the Upper Room Jesus said to them, His disciples, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." 


We have been empowered to bring peace to a world that longs to be rescued from chaos. May we have the courage to talk with our lives so the Spirit can speak to their hearts.

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