I speak to you now of what cannot be fully explained. All we can do is probe reverently into the mystery of God’s final movement toward us, alienated and distant men and women who have, with Adam and Eve, broken our relations with God. Words cannot capture the enormity of it all, buckling under its burden. So Scripture and the Church employ symbols to try to carry the weight of the truth. Sometimes symbols are better than words in conveying the truth of events.
Essentially Pentecost is the final movement of God’s searching journey toward sinful men and women. The initial movement began in Genesis with God in the Garden of Eden. Note that it is God who makes the move. It is God who initiates; God who offers; God who loves us first. He chooses us, we do not choose Him. He chooses us first because He is the superior¸ the Almighty God. If it were otherwise, and indeed when people think they first choose God, then men and women would fancy that they are in control.
The story of the Tower of Babel is a story of the pride of people who thought they could build a tower to God. They were usurping God’s role. They were the initiators. They were trying to be in control. They were going to discover God and determine His existence. They forgot that it is God who discovers man; it is God who determines our existence. It is God who speaks first. It is only then that things come into existence.
The Tower of Babel account is a recapitulation of the story of Adam and Eve. In thinking that we can build our way to heaven, man is filled with pride. Once again man tries to be God. And once again reality is fractured, relations are shattered, and destruction, disunion, misunderstanding, along with a total breakdown in communications occurs. As a result, mankind speaks in different languages and people no longer understand each other. Disorders, misunderstandings, and conflicts beset sinful mankind.
But God continues to move toward us. God pursues us in His everlasting search for those who have strayed from the sheepfold of fundamental reality. He sends prophets, kings, and priests. The message of His love and truth flashes across the pages of human history and human religions. Finally, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is born in the womb of humanity; a child is born to us, a son is given us — Mighty Counsellor, Prince of Peace, the One who can heal those who are alienated and shattered. God utters His Word in a language that everyone can understand.
The Word becomes flesh and God lives and moves even closer to us. On the Cross God’s Word hands over His Spirit and the final movement of God toward us in inaugurated. Actually, in the context of this cosmic sweep that we are making here, Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, followed by Pentecost form one unitary whole. Pentecost becomes, in this context, the completion of the Annunciation when God’s Word, God’s self-expression, becomes one of us. The Word of God becomes human flesh and blood and God enters not only into our history, not only into our temples and holy places, but into our human hearts and souls and all that is means to be human.
It is all so marvelous, all so universal and huge, all so beyond our comprehension that words buckle and only symbols can hope to carry the enormity of this precious freight. And so we speak of the Dove, the Wind, the Breath of God, the Paraclete, and the tongues of fire. We are into the deepest part of the Mystery, namely that God created us not just to follow rules and regulations but in order that He might be intimate with us in the deepest meanings of the word love so that we can live our ordinary lives in extra-ordinary ways.
The work of Christ in giving us His Holy Spirit is the work of bringing us to a language that we can all understand. It is the work of religion, of re-ligamenting, of bringing the bare bones, dried up because of lack of love, back into one Body filled with the Blood of God. The work of Christ in sending us his Holy Spirit is that of making us His blood brothers and sisters. The work of Christ and the Spirit is that of reconciling, of forgiving, of loosening that which binds us up in our own isolation and our sterile self-centeredness. The work of Christ, now raised in power by the Holy Spirit, is the work of bringing a holistic communion to a people that are alienated, fractured, shattered, and divided by the waste of not loving when they could have loved. The work of Christ and the Holy Spirit is that of overcoming human sin. Sin is the name of all that has caused us to waste our chances to be better persons, to hurt, divide, and separate us from each other and from God.
The Church speaks in all of the tongues of men and women of every race and culture and nationality. She speaks with a common language because she utters God’s only and unitary Word. Of all of the diversities in humanity the Church makes one inter-dependent unity. She is the opposite of the Tower of Babel because she is built by God, not by men and women. We call Pentecost the birthday of the Church because she is animated and ensouled on this day to speak and utter in our world the Word of God and bring with it common understanding and common union in every language in a way everyone can understand.
Our task, therefore, is to be that source of healing for others. Ours is the mission of speaking God’ s language where we work, among our colleagues and associates, friends and neighbors. Ours is the ministry of healing that which was divided, of inspiring those who have become jaded and cynical, of animating those who have lost hope, and of telling all who have missed chances of being better persons that there is a Second Coming of Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work in the mysteries of life, death, love, suffering, and beauty. Because of Pentecost God is to be found in the mystery of insight, elevating truth into wisdom, and is now present in the mystery of our self and in the mysteries of those around us. Any time we struggle with these mysteries the Spirit of Pentecost is moving in us to cry out: “Abba, Papa, Father” and our struggle becomes the question or questing of God’s meaning and purpose in our lives.
It is essential, therefore, to be available to God, to bring Him your mind and let Him infuse His presence into your thoughts. Awareness of the nearness and of the love of God is vital for you spiritually. It allows you to see yourself in the great mystery of life’s many dimensions. We live in the dimensions of space: length, height, and breadth. We live in the dimension of time: past, present, and future. But the most important of all dimensions is that of openness to God’s presence: the dimension of the spirit. It infuses and transcends all of the others. It gives us vision and allows us to see purpose. It gives us glimpses of God at work. In our origins we find God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve. God’s original purpose was such that He wanted us to be close to Him so that He could be close to us. By the power of His Holy Spirit God wants you now to walk with Him in the garden of your heart.
Confirmation means that you are strengthened, made firm, in the power of the Holy Spirit. May the Holy Spirit become the Person whom you quest and may you find the Holy Spirit in your lives. May you find moments in His presence, moments snatched away from the ordinary busyness of our daily lives, moments when you receive Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Strength, and Reverence for God’s mysterious presence and purpose in our lives.
May you and I now allow ourselves to be aware of the Holy Spirit at work within us. Jesus Christ, after all, died and rose from the dead in order that we might receive God’s Holy Spirit and fill us with His presence.