Pentecost
05/31/2009
Readings
Acts 2:1-11
Galatians 5:16-25
John 15:26-27; 16:12-15

Christians the world over celebrate the Incarnation as the moment when God the Son took physical form as the man Jesus Christ. In an analogous way, we celebrate today’s feast, Pentecost, as the moment when God the Holy Spirit took physical form as the Church. We read in today’s first reading – from the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit,” the Acts of the Apostles – that
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)
The result of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit is that those who followed Christ express their faith in him to all the nations. The Church, from its very first moment of existence, was “catholic,” or universal in nature. It did not matter that all her members could be gathered in one building in Jerusalem – she was catholic because her message of salvation applied to all men. The first inklings of this catholicity can be seen in the gift the Holy Spirit gives to the Church – the gift of foreign languages. Luke chronicles that representatives of all the nations are thus able to hear the Gospel of salvation on that first day of the Church:
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God. (Acts 2:9-11).
Since the time of Babel, mankind had been dividing and subdividing itself into smaller and smaller competing groups. Some men, such as Alexander the Great, attempted to overcome these divisions by reliving the sin of Babel: they wanted to unite man under the power of man. Yet history has shown repeatedly the folly of such endeavors. Only by the grace of the Holy Spirit can man be truly united.

What is the center of that unity? The truth. Jesus promised that “when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (John 16:13). Through the Truth – which is Jesus Christ – man will know the truth about God, man, and all of creation, and we can be united in one catholic body. Without the Truth as our unifying center, we too will relive the tower of Babel and fall into disunity. It is the Holy Spirit, sent to us from the Father, that will pour grace upon us so that we might submit to the Truth and be united in it.
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