Today, the Catholic Church celebrates its’ birthday, better known as the feast of Pentecost. In Acts 2:1-13, the event is described.
Context, as always, is important. During Pentectost, the followers of Jesus were confused and scared. The risen Jesus was no longer with them. They feared for their life. They were, like us today, searching for meaning.
As promised by Jesus, they were filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. They experienced life like never before. They spoke in foreign languages as their mission became clear. They were to bring the good news, a news of peace, to all ends of the world.
History tells us that this mission has taken many turns, some that were of God, and some that were of men.
As I prayed earlier today, reflecting on this feast, it occurred to me that this experience was not isolated. The gifts of the Spirit was not an experience of one person alone in his or her room. Instead, it was in community.
Consider this reflection from Henri Nouwen:
“Not only as individuals but also as community we become the living Christ, taken, blessed, broken, and given to the world. As one body, we become a living witness of God’s immense desire to bring all peoples and nations together as the one family of God.”
This speaks to me in an even greater way because of the times we find ourselves living, in 2017. Consider this political “cartoon” that popped up on my social media feed.
This “cartoon” speaks to the events over the weekend in London that left seven dead and dozens injured as a result of another terrorist attack.
I find myself often sitting in the middle when it comes to conflicts. This doesn’t mean that I do not have an opinion, but I try to understand the “truth” of others. I do this so I can be an agent of peace.
I am struggling with this understanding of terrorists and why they do what they do. Is it religious extremism, a misinterpretation of scripture? Is it a mission of redemption for wrong (or their perspective and interpretation of wrong) that was done to them, their families, and their nation? Is it something else?
Those who seek to build walls, are they seeking peace and safety for their own? What are their thoughts regarding the innocent who get left out in danger by the exclusion of such policy? Do they recognize their privilege? Do they care?
To understand can bring clarity in how to move forward. The question is of course, can such understanding ever truly occur. If we can’t have the conversations around the dinner table, how can we in a global capacity.
Our nation and our world is polarized, with people waving their flags in one camp or the other. Conversations and debates are occurring less as people shout their opinions as facts on social pages. Taking the time to understand is a lost art and our world suffers.
I look at this “cartoon” and I am saddened by where we are in our world. I truly believe that bridges, despite who lives in the White House, leads to peace where walls can only eventually crumble. I see the wisdom behind the wall but if history teaches us nothing, it is that every wall falls. Yet, especially living in New York City, fear is real.
Earlier today, I approached a red light at a busy intersection. In the middle of the intersection was two cars with their blinkers on. They were next to one another.There were no signs of an accident.
At first, I thought they were talking to each other. Rude, yes, but not harmful. Then, I wondered, what if? What if this was a pending attack. If they were about to set off an explosion or attack, I would be well within their range.
Instead of driving around the cars, I made a sharp right when the light turned green. I called the police to share my suspicion. At the very least, they would alleviate the traffic jam. To be honest, I never called about an interference in traffic before.
I did drive by afterwards but did not see anything. The worst fear was not being fulfilled, but it was a striking reminder of the world we live in.
With this as my context, I am reminded of the good that can come from community, as it did at Pentecost, where those who are different coming together can lead to holiness. What might Pentecost be revealing to us today?
What is the Spirit trying to speak to us inner divided world?
What can I do, what can you do?
May the Spirit speak to us so we can bring together those who do not understand, where peace for all triumphs peace for a few.