In the Book of Genesis, we read:
“The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words. While men were migrating in the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.’ They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.’ The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men had built. Then the LORD said: ‘If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do. Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says.’ Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.” (Genesis 11:1-9)
This story helps us to understand the reading from Acts for today’s Feast of Pentecost:
“They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? 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 2:7-11)
These two stories help us to further understand the gift of the Holy Spirit. To use the words that we hear every time we receive absolution: “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.”
On Pentecost Sunday we hear how God forgives the ancient sin of arrogance and pride as it was displayed in the Book of Genesis. When Jesus breathed on the apostles, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:22b-23)
The gift of the Holy Spirit is the completion of the Paschal Mystery in which we are reconciled to the Father by the death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator