You hear it everywhere this time of year, from excited graduates and proud family members alike: “I can’t believe that four whole years have gone by!” Time always seems to be flying (whether or not you’re having fun).
Yet here we are, at the end of fifty days, days when the Church seems to lift us out of time to let the wonder of the Resurrection sink in, so we can savor it, get the message, lose it and find it again. Fifty days to surface our wonderings and hopes, our questions and doubts, about Jesus, the Risen One, and to begin to put on this new life in which he has clothed us.
It must have taken the disciples at least fifty days to get their heads around the fact that this Jesus with whom they had lived and walked and taught, whom they saw die a horrible death, was truly risen, alive and among them still.
If that weren’t mind-boggling enough, he also told them clearly that God’s Good News of peace, healing, community, and forgiveness belonged not just to them, but to every inhabitant of the entire known world – “Parthians, Medes, Elamites…” (Acts) All of them belonged, all received a share in God’s Spirit.
Now, as the disciples proclaim God’s mighty deeds to a staggeringly multicultural crowd, everyone hears the message in his or her own tongue! Each and all of them understand, are stirred, feel power course through them. Something new and astounding is happening.
Crash! Can you hear the Tower of Babel collapsing, up-ended by the mighty force of Christ’s Spirit? Once upon a time, though humans were created by God to care for one another, they built walls of disdain and fear to keep others out. But now, in the Spirit’s new way of living, in post-Resurrection time, walls are supposed to yield to bridges, division to compassion.
Today, on Pentecost, beyond all doubt, we know that Jesus has been raised – of this we are witnesses. Today, we know that this Jesus has unleashed God’s Spirit on all humankind, on all creation, on you and me, making us new. To us is given the Spirit of peace and confidence, the Spirit of compassion and mercy, the Spirit of strength and healing, the Spirit of unity and diversity.
Ah, yes – diversity. Difference. All those “others” who seem odd, scary, unfamiliar. All those who don’t live, or dress, or cook, or sound like us, who don’t do it our way – and who therefore must be less educated or less worthy than us.
Some years ago I traveled to the Dominican Republic for a meeting of women and men religious from the U. S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. We met first in language groups, so it wasn’t until the opening liturgy that all 300 participants gathered in one place. I was privileged to serve as a Eucharistic minister. One by one, they came to receive Communion. With faces of every skin tone, clothing of every color, they seemed like the crowd in Acts, from “every nation under heaven.” I murmured “Cuerpo de Cristo, Corps de Christ, Body of Christ.” To my ears their “Amen” echoed Paul’s words: “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.”
The Prayer for Pentecost asks God to “Pour out…the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth.” May God truly pour out the Spirit’s gifts upon the entire body of believers – all with different gifts and ways of serving, all with something to give and to receive, each with a “manifestation of the Spirit…given for some benefit” (1 Cor.) It is to this one Body that we all belong. And may God pour out the Spirit’s gifts upon all 7.5 billion human beings who live on the earth, now fragile and weakened. It is to this common home that we all belong.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
Regina Bechtle, SC
Sr. Regina, a retreat leader, speaker, writer and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.