read the texts click on the texts: Acts 2:1--11; 1 Cor12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn20:19-23
little boy was taken to the nursery school by his mother. Aware of his anxiety
being abandoned, the boy’s mother leaned down, kissed her son, and said, “Good
bye, my love. No one is leaving.” Each day, his mother would bid him farewell
with those same words. The boy was too young to recognize the paradox, and
embraced his new existence and quickly adjusted to new and frightening
surroundings. Day after day, and week after week, his mother bid the same
farewell: “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”
boy grew into adulthood, and there came a day when he was confronted with the
reality of having to place his mother in a nursing home. She – now elderly and
frail, with advanced Alzheimer’s disease – barely recognized him, often forgot
to eat, and simply could no longer care for herself. As he departed from her,
leaving her in her new and frightening surroundings, he remembered her words.
He leaned down, kissed his mother, and said, “Good bye, my love. No one is
leaving” – words his mother recognized even though she no longer recognized
him. A tear appeared in her eye, as she clasped his hand and repeated, ”Good
bye, my love. No one is leaving.”
is Jesus’ message to his disciples on his departure to the Father: “Good bye,
my love. No one is leaving”.
is departing from us, out of our sight. We find ourselves in the new and
frightening surroundings of this life, in a place where we are uncomfortable
and often feel ill-equipped to carry on. And yet, Jesus continues to assure us
of his continued presence through his gift of the Holy Spirit. This is why,
though he said good bye, he is not leaving. This is shown in the Gospel text of
today when he comes to the frightened disciples after his Resurrection, with a
twofold greeting of peace. These disciples, who fled in fear at Jesus’ arrest,
are now themselves forgiven and told to continue his mission from the Father.
Though they abandoned Jesus, he will not abandon them though they failed him;
God’s love will not fail them. Then, reminiscent of God’s action at creation,
Jesus breathes on them, and gifts them the gift of the Spirit and with it the
gift of new life. They have become a new creation.
with the gift of the Spirit is also a commission to forgive or retain
sin.”Retaining sin” is not a juridical act. It is not just the eleven but the
“disciples” who are gathered in the room. John uses the term ‘disciples’ for a
much larger group than the twelve or eleven. This group could also have
included women and so the commission has to do with something that is more than
juridical. So this means that through the gift of the Spirit, the disciples are
given power to take away the sin of the world and unmask and control the power
of evil as Jesus himself did. Through their just and loving actions in imitation
of the Lord, they are to communicate the unconditional love of the Father.
Pentecost, as the Acts of the Apostles narrates, the Spirit of God – and
through the Spirit, God’s unconditional love – comes down upon the disciples,
resting on each of them and thereby bringing them and us together once again.
The disciples get a crash course as it were in the language of God. After
Pentecost the days of Babel and confusion are over. The great differences among
us, in culture and background, wealth and poverty, are scattered in “the rush
of a violent wind”. They are burned away by tongues of fire. Their nationality
or culture does not really matter. Each one hears the same message in his/her
native tongue simply because it is a language of forgiveness and love, and the
language of love is one.
unity which this love brings is summarized by Paul in his first letter to the
Corinthians. The Spirit is at work in each of us, always fresh and always new,
waiting to be translated into the language of our own lives, into the language
world, however, is still tongue-tied. Babel, the parable of our first clash of
cultures and failure to communicate, is more than a mythic explanation of the
differences among nations and languages. It is an apt description of the human
condition itself. We often do not understand one another even when we speak the
same language. We remain stymied by our fundamental inability to accept the
differences among us.
is only to an extent that we make an effort to accept the other, no matter how
different or foreign, that we come to understand the language of God. Only then
is Babel turned to Pentecost.