Pentecost Sunday, Year C

See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you (Heb. 8:5)

My own experiences of alienation and division, as well as the barrage of bad news with which I am hit daily by the mass media, tell me that much of our world is still confused—as confused, perhaps, as those in Babel or those in Jerusalem on Pentecost day.

Fortunately for us, “... God, in order to establish peace or the communion of sinful human beings with Himself, as well as to fashion them into a fraternal community, did ordain to intervene in human history in a way both new and finally sending His Son, clothed in our flesh, in order that through Him He might snatch men from the power of darkness and Satan [cf. Col. 1:13; Acts 10:38] and reconcile the world to Himself in Him [cf. 2 Cor. 5:19]” (Ad Gentes 3; cf. also Gaudium et Spes 38). He intervened at Babel and saw to it that human beings were scattered abroad over the face of the earth so that they might follow somehow his command to “fill the earth.” In Jerusalem, on Pentecost day, God intervened by making the confusion of those who gathered in a large crowd lead to astonishment and bewilderment that prompted them to ask finally, “What does this mean?” Though some of those in the large crowd thought that the Galileans who were speaking in different tongues had simply had too much to drink, still three thousand accepted the message and were baptized that day.

Clearly, God should not be underestimated ever. Not then. And not now either:—when darkness, too, appears to prevail rather than light; when we feel we also have to stay behind locked doors for fear of those who may be seeking our ruin; when we feel so inadequate and inarticulate against the onslaught of persuasive fear-mongering and eloquent sophistry. We must pray in the way that Apostle Paul begged the Lord to be rid of a predicament, and our prayer will surely not turn out futile—even if what we ask for specifically is not granted—because we will receive the assurance that God’s grace is sufficient for us and that his power is made perfect precisely in our powerlessness. St. Vincent de Paul had it right when he said: “Give me a man of prayer and he will be capable of anything. He may say with the apostle, ‘I can do all this in him who strengthens me.’” And given the St. Vincent’s accomplishments, his prayer was surely not just affective but also effective.

By the power of his Holy Spirit, God brings reconciliation to the alienated and the divided. By this one Spirit, those who are far away and those who are near both have access to the Father through the cross of Jesus (Eph. 2:14-18). The same Holy Spirit makes the fearful courageous, the foolish wise, the weak strong. The Holy Spirit gathers the poor to become the church of the poor so that, paradoxically, there may be no needy person among them. As was the case with St. Vincent, the provident God’s Spirit can bring back to the poor one who tries to escape from them and make one’s tiny mustard seed of service to the poor grow into a large tree of service of all kinds that the poor can access. Without doubt, the Holy Spirit can provide with peace and light one as anxious, worried and doubtful as St. Louise, so that one comes to understand what one needs to do in the present and in the future.

Yes, there is no underestimating God’s power ever. Pentecost took place years ago; it takes place today; and it will take place tomorrow. But to avail of it today, I now must really be ready and willing also to wait, effectively not just affectively, for the promise of the Father, devoted to prayer with others, and with Mary, the mother of Jesus, but not making prayer a mere escape or a cover for inaction, but rather letting it encourage me—if I may borrow from Ecclesia de Eucharistia 20—not to neglect my duties as a citizen of this world.