June 8, 2014
MANY. DIFFERENT. SPIRIT. SOURCE. ONE
Everything we hear today smacks of differences. Every concrete image spoken of in the readings shows diversity. The first reading speaks of Parthians, Medes, & Elamites, to name but a few. St. Paul talks about different gifts, different forms of service, different workings, and many parts in the body. Even preschool kids know this by heart: “I have two hands, the left and the right” … etc.
I have lived in this planet for many decades by now. I have lived in different parts of the same planet for as many years, and dealt with many different types of character and personality. Some of them are easy to live with; others are a proverbial pain the neck, maybe including me, as far as many others are concerned.
The event reported in today’s readings also speak of “tongues of fire” … many, not few. The tongues of fire eventually produced different tongues on the part of so many people who got a dose of them “tongues of fire.” They both understood the different languages and also were able to speak different tongues.
Today, Pentecost Sunday, let me put it as bluntly and directly as I can … The many became one. The different became the same. The multiple parts came to be known as parts of one and the same body and the separated owing to geography and mentality and culture and mores came to be gathered into one. The weak became strong; the bashful and tentative became bold, and those who felt fear became courageous. The divided peoples became united. The fearful became fearless, and the weary of heart became zealous and committed.
All this happened on account of those “tongues of fire,” which represented what no tongue can express sufficiently – the coming down of the One Spirit that was Source of so many different gifts, the giver of everything good, the unifier and sanctifier that brought power to those who once were weak, afraid, discouraged, and divided.
This – and a whole lot more is what Pentecost is all about. It is about having a fresh impetus, a new start, a renewed push, and re-invigorated hope for things to come.
We are no better off right now than the disciples were, once cowering in fear of those who put their Master and Lord to death. We are no better off now than they were in terms of lack of unity. We are still caught up in so much competition and bitter wrangling about many things. We are brown, yellow, black and white, and up till now, a great many of us are suspicious of those who look different. In some countries, they think of us Filipinos as no better than what they know us to be – domestic helpers, and not much else. The Chinese look at everybody else as threats to their well-being and therefore keep on bullying everybody else.
But at the same time, I know deep in my heart that there are foreigners who were born in Europe, who speak different tongues, but who chose to come and live with indigenous tribes, trying their level best to help the poor rise from all types of misery. The tongues of fire that gave them spiritual gifts have bridged the cultural and economic gap between their people and ours.
The Spirit is alive. “Jesus is Lord.” God is active and engaged in the world. He is present in and through the Spirit who is the Source of all that leads to unity, understanding, peace, harmony, and fraternity.
This is what today’s feast celebrates. This is what we do: from different tongues, from a big diversity of gifts, characters, and personalities, we become one people, under the one and the same Lord. Once weak, we are now empowered. Once fearful, we have become bold.
Go then and show that boldness with your life and action and words: “Jesus is Lord.” Now, that is the only thing that matters! Many. Different? No problem! There is one Spirit. One Source. One Lord.