One of the most striking sentences in the first reading from Acts (2:4) describes people speaking different languages, yet still being understood. We all know that even those who speak the same language can have a hard time communicating. Pentecost reverses the Tower of Babel story, which tries to explain why people began speaking in different languages. The people that day achieved understanding, despite their linguistic differences.

Pentecost continues today, as African students in an ESL classroom learn English and across the hall, North Americans learn Spanish. Movies streamed into our homes educate us on the cultures of Iran or Korea.  Small Californians learn to eat dumplings with “cheater” chopsticks.

One way to celebrate Pentecost is to appreciate the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in our lives. The processes of ordinary living are so fragile, so immensely significant, so fraught with terror, that we desperately need someone beyond ourselves. We need the warmth and power of the Spirit to help us in whatever we have undertaken.

With whoosh of wind, the Spirit barrels through the US in the Pentecost I imagine. Just as faith leaders of all traditions once joined to march with M. L. King Jr. and enact Civil Rights legislation, so Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists and agnostics rise together as a concerted public voice for gun safety. They move past “thoughts and prayers” to concrete legislation to reduce the skyrocketing death toll. They don’t want their country to be known as the nation where guns are the #1 cause of death for children.

Hopefully, we’ll look back on these efforts and say, “So you, life-giving Spirit and Guide, were there all along.” A phrase later in Acts describes a Spirit-guided way of making decisions: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). That might sound arrogant, or even cynical (If this backfires, we can always blame the Spirit). So too, we make decisions with the Holy Spirit, maybe not naming that presence or guessing that strength. But in the long run, what hope, power and grace!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s