Pentecost Sunday: Unity and Peace
Lectionary Readings: (taken for the meditations of Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP)
- Acts 2:1-11. The awesome descent of the Spirit, so that all are caught up in wonder and hear the marvels of God spoken in their own tongues.
- 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7, 12-13. There are different gifts but the same Spirit. In the one Spirit all of us were baptized into one body [and] have been given to drink of the one Spirit.
- John 20: 19-23 Jesus breathed upon the disciples, gathered together in a locked room; he conferred the Holy Spirit and the power of forgiving sin.
Thoughts for your consideration: by John Gonzalez
The message of Pentecost Sunday offers us a curious lesson on the virtue of unity. Whoever attend the Pentecost vigil mass will hear the famous Hebrew account of Babel. In this account God is seemingly nervous of human ambition and He sows chaos by fragmenting the unified human community through the use of different languages. In the first reading for the Sunday Mass however we encounter God unifying the human community by the power of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Apostles. Language becomes the instrument that is used to sow division in Babel while for the Apostles language becomes the instrument of unity in preaching to the people of Jerusalem. How are we to understand God’s apparent contradiction during these two historical moments?
In the story of Babel the early Hebrew community tries to explain how the human community eventually migrated everywhere and became such a fragmented group. No social or ecological phenomenon could be explained without God’s intervention so of course in trying to respond to this reality they employed God’s divine intervention. Without taking this story as a literal historical account one can reflect on the spiritual lesson that is to be learned here. Of course God does not fear our human capabilities; instead we see what happens when the human community is organized on a project that goes against the will of God.
Babel may or may not have happened, but Babel like moments have happened in our human history where civilizations and societies have developed unifying agendas that goes against the will of God. For a time a particular culture or group may achieve great projects and pursue a policy of dominance based on the achievements. But such power that is wielded outside of the will of God or the Holy Spirit becomes corrupted and divisive. Consider for example the situations of the Athenians and the birth of democratic Greece. This was a noble and virtuous endeavor. The immediate result of this revolutionary achievement was that they were able to organize the Greek peninsula to defend themselves from the overpowering tyranny of the Persian Empire. Yet no sooner had they reached their own moment of power when they began to make plans to overpower others with their perceived supremacy. Their downfall came soon enough with the start of the Peloponnesian war.
St. Paul declares that all our gifts and talents are given to us by the one Spirit. These gifts are not given to us to serve our own interest but to serve the one Body. These gifts that we each have can certainly profit us and our own communities but they are not put to their authentic use if they do not serve the common good of the one Body. If we use these talents toward that purpose then we will achieve an authentic unity where our motivation is for the service of God and all of creation.
The Gospel passage tells us that an essential element of this authentic unity is a spirit of peace. As he shows the wound on his hands and side Jesus keeps offering the disciples this spirit of peace. If you had seen a friend inflicted with terrible and unjust wounds what feelings would surface? Possibly anger and revenge, a desire to see that justice is served perhaps. I would like to assume that is why Jesus keeps enforcing this call to peace. He wants his disciples to witness the truth but to do so through an attitude of peace and compassionate love. Only through a spirit of peace can the disciples begin to approach the wisdom and understanding of God’s plan through the Holy Spirit. In breathing the Holy Spirit to the disciples Jesus’ first instruction is to have them forgive others. In this way they truly become a witness to God’s love.
The readings for Pentecost Sunday invite us to adopt this spirit of peace and forgiveness and to contemplate the authentic unity of the human family. In order to be open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit we need to recognize the power of that one Great Spirit within each and every one of us.