1 June 2020

Brother Richard Green takes another look at the festival of Pentecost…

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’  (Acts 2.1-12)

The Jewish festival of Pentecost was a time when there were a large number of pilgrims in Jerusalem, from all different parts of the Mediterranean world. The effect of the Holy Spirit was that the apostles were able to talk to these people, and to tell them about Jesus, the cross, and his resurrection. This was a unifying thing - because all of these people were able to understand the apostles in their own language, they were all gathered together and linked to one another. They all became members of the same church. 

The Holy Spirit still works in that way, uniting people together in Christ. This is particularly obvious to me, as I currently live in an international community, together with Carmelites from all over the world. It's only because of our faith that we are able to live together, and find a unity despite our different ways of doing things. 

But these days the unity of the church is more obvious for another reason. So many people are stuck at home, and following masses from other countries and in different languages. Despite the things that are different, we can stil follow what's going on. If we have a missal, we're able to follow the readings, even if they're in a language that we don't speak. We're able to join our prayers with the others. 

When we watch the news today, we see the events from all over the world, brought onto our television screens. These days, there isn't much mention of places like Phrygia and Pamphilia, but we hear of places like Brazil and India instead, and because of our faith we have a bond to those places. Bad news is bad whoever it happens to, but somehow it feels different when it affects Catholics, or Christians more generally. This doesn't mean that we don't care about the  others, but that we are joined together with the other Christians by the Holy Spirit; they are our family. 

So let's take the opportunity to pray for the church around the world. Not for the church as an abstract concept, or for the bishops, or for the religious orders, but for the ordinary people who go to church every Sunday, who listen to the same readings that we do, but in a different language, who pray together at Mass just as we do. Let's pray that, with everything going on in the world, they may be safe.