Power-Presence-Energy-Witness—these four themes emerge from the
liturgical readings for Pentecost. Historically, the feast commemorated the
anniversary of Passover, a time to celebrate liberation and entrance into a
new, promised land.
A group, hidden/withdrawn
struggles with absence/loss
in an upper room…
fears what its new identity as followers of Jesus will cause/cost
Seeks to preserve its memories of One no longer physically present…
Recalls his promises:
To be with them all days until the end of time
Not to leave them orphans
To prepare a place for them
To give them another Advocate.
“Do not worry about what you should say—the Spirit will…”
When, suddenly, the promised, awaited, Spirit of the Lord,
sees and descends-in a gush of wind-illumining space
with fire, separating into tongues—one above each head.
Empowered now, alive with Spirit-energy,
each goes forth, breaks out-perhaps in song-speaking good news
to all in their world and beyond,
who, aware or unaware, have been in darkness.
Ages earlier a group of Shinar settlers had built a tower reaching the sky,
their purpose: to establish and preserve their identity-
to make a name for themselves-
to avoid being scattered around the earth.
God saw, so the Genesis story goes, and God said: “Let us go down and
confuse their language on the spot so they can no longer understand
one another” (11:6)
The upper room disciples had a similar lesson to learn-that their new
identity as Christians could not be confined to one group or
one place. Their essential unity, while necessary, would be
maintained only by going forth—scattering like sowers-
the Word of life-the good news of salvation/repentance.
Their Pentecostal gift of tongues enabled speaker and hearer to understand
the message—each in his/her own language. Though the languages varied,
the underlying message—independent of words—was the same: love.
It cannot be contained or preserved. It must blossom forth in deeds,
in active service. “If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet,
you should wash each other’s feet.”
And what of us?
Are we perhaps caught up in another Pentecostal revelation?
Inspirited since baptism, are we perhaps only on the verge of realizing the
importance of that message, of that energized going forth to spread the
Good News? I suggest the answer is “Yes.” And in this Spirit, let us embrace
the winds of confusion and uncertainty, knowing that we, too, are a Spirit-driven
people, about to sow and reap an entirely new harvest for ourselves and for those we serve.
Maryellen Keefe, O.S.U.
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