United by the Holy Spirit Pentecost Year A

United by the Holy Spirit Pentecost Year A

Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104;1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34; 1 Cor 12:3B-7, 12-13, Sequence, Jn 20:19-23

            The first reading from the Vigil Mass of Pentecost is from Genesis and describes the people of Shinar building the tower of Babel. At the time, according to Genesis, “the whole earth had one language” that all people could understand. According to Victor Hamilton, this one, common language was an international language with “few words” that united different nations and people who spoke different languages.[1] The people of Shinar used this common, international language to quickly build a huge tower that they would use to dominate other people and even, they hoped, to pierce the heavens as a challenge to God.

         God responds to the people of Shinar’s pride “to make a name for themselves” at the expense of other people. God’s response is to confuse “their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Unable to understand each other, the builders of the Tower of Babel are thrown into confusion, their proud unity is broken up, and they are “scattered…over the face of all the earth”. 

         Pentecost Sunday is a mirror image of what happened to the people of Shinar. In both cases there is one common international language that unites a people. However, on Pentecost the common universal language is the language of the Holy Spirit that binds people together not against other people to dominate and rule over them but rather to serve, and love strangers even if this means dying for a stranger for this is what Jesus did by dying on the cross with the desire that those who look on his love for the world will, without feeling forced, will out of love follow His gentle, truthful, peaceful way, the way of Divine Love.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux teaches that way of Divine Love is revealed through Jesus’s sacred wounds. He writes, “Surely the Heart of Christ can be seen through the openings of His Wounds. For what can prove to me so clearly as Thy Wounds that Thou, O Lord Jesus, ‘art sweet and mild and plenteous in mercy’? ‘Greater (mercy) than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life,” not for his friends, but for his enemies, criminals devoted and doomed to death.”[2]

May the wounds of our sweet Lord Jesus inspire us to seek true unity. May the wounds of Jesus move us to seek the peaceful, sacrificial love-based unity of Pentecost and not the forceful, domineering unity of the Tower of Babel. May the wounds of Jesus that are open to all people remind us that God wants our unity to be grounded in Divine Love that never seeks to exclude anyone since our Father in heaven, “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45 RSVCE).” 

The same heavenly Father sent his Only Son to die for the good and bad alike. Jesus with his open arms on the cross invites all to be united to him and in that union to be purified and transformed into a united people, a People of God whose many hearts beat in harmony with the heart beats of Jesus Christ and whose many minds are formed by the mind of Jesus and whose desires are formed by the desires of the Holy Spirit desires of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 RSVCE)”.

God Bless – Father Peter

 Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 76.

 Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles, Volume 2, trans. Priest of Mount Melleray (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1920), Sermon LXI.

User:Manfreeed / Public domain, “fresco at the Karlskirche in vienna (by Johann Michael Rottmayr),” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vienna_Karlskirche_frescos4b.jpg

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld / Public domain, “Pentecost by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld,” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_226.png.

Public Domain, “File:Pentecost 001.jpg,” From: Missale Romanum, Date: 1920, http://www.theworkofgodschildren.org/collaboration/index.php?title=File:Pentecost_001.jpg

Public Domain, “Pentecost, El Greco, c. 1596,” https://www.wikiart.org/en/el-greco/pentecost

Juan Bautista Mayno / Public domain, “Pentecostés, 1612-1614 (Museo del Prado, Madrid),” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maino_Pentecost%C3%A9s._Lienzo._285_x_163_cm._Museo_del_Prado.jpg


[1] Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 76.

[2] Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles, Volume 2, trans. Priest of Mount Melleray (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1920), Sermon LXI.

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