Today’s great feast, Pentecost – the birthday of
the Church – recalls another great story in our Salvation
History. This feast of Pentecost makes me think of a story that
God’s people began to tell many, many centuries before today’s
powerful events occurred. I am referring to the eleventh chapter
of the Book of Genesis where we find the story of the well known
tale of the Tower of Babel.
Humanity, in our arrogance, decides to build a tower that will
reach heaven, thereby becoming God’s equals – becoming
God’s peers. God “confuses” the speech of those
building the Tower and they can no longer communicate with each
other. Their effort to be God fails, of course.
In the passage proclaimed from the Acts of the Apostles today
something very different happens to the people’s speech.
Regardless of their native language they all understand. There
is no confusion. The day of Pentecost stands as the complete opposite
of what happened when people attempted to build the Tower of Babel.
Today’s feast reminds us that when we think that we are
God; we are confused and we will make a mess of things. Today’s
feast invites us to be who we really are, not God, but rather,
God’s people redeemed by the blood of Christ. Today’s
feast celebrates the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send
us the Holy Spirit.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul tells us in our second
reading, graces us with clarity. In the Holy Spirit there is no
confusion. We understand that “Jesus is Lord!” and
we are his body. Every one of us, no matter if we are young or
old, rich or poor, from a blue state or from a red state, male
or female, is an essential part of that body. And that body, of
which we are all members, is the Church.
Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church – our birth
as Jesus’ body in the world. Pentecost ushers in the final
phase of Salvation History. Before Jesus ascends to the Father,
he commands his disciples to continue his work. No longer is Jesus’
physical body the instrument through which God is present in the
world. Now his mystical body is the instrument through which God
is present to his world. That mystical body is the Church. We
are that mystical body - you and me and all the baptized.
God’s world is made up of many people, many nations, many
tribes, and many languages. Yet God’s Word to his world
– the Gospel preached by Jesus Christ is meant for everyone.
The message is accessible to everyone. The Church has a place
for everyone. In the words of today’s Processional Hymn,
“All are welcome! All are welcome! All are welcome in this
In order to make God present, in order to do that which we have
been charged to do by Jesus, we must open ourselves to the gifts
of the Holy Spirit. We must embrace the clarity of faith that
the Holy Spirit inspires in us. We must believe that we are God’s
instruments. We must believe that we are gifted and our gifts
matter. We all have gifts. Our gift may be the material resources
that are available to us. Our gift may be the ability to explain
things to others. Our gift may be patience and kindness. Our gift
may be the ability to stop gossip before it gets going. Our gift
may be fidelity to our marriage. Our gift may be a smile or a
prayer. We must believe that without us and without our gifts
the Church is incomplete and God’s presence in our world
That is why we come to this table week after week. God feeds
us the Eucharist – the Body of Christ – so that we
have the grace and the courage to be the Body of Christ.
Happy Birthday to all of us: whether we worship God in English
or in Arabic, in French or in Spanish, in Swahili or in Chinese
the message is the same for all of us. We are his Body –