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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost! Reversing the Curse of Babel

Happy Birthday to You, Catholic Church! 

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Pentecost,  June 4, 2017
Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana

Today we reach the high point of our Easter celebration, the Feast of Pentecost. 
Today has a significant meaning in my life since it was on this Sunday that I celebrated my first Mass after I was ordained a priest on June 7, 2014. 

Pentecost -- meaning 50 days after the 
Passover — was the feast day in which the Jewish people celebrated the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. This is where the different tribes of Israel entered into covenant with God and with one another and so became the people of God. 

Being a people of God means relating to God and to one another in a way that God Himself has mapped out -- not in the way that we think is right. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a people, but in the end it leads to death.” 

The beginning of wisdom therefore, is when we realize that as humans we are limited and shortsighted, and so we ask God to show us how to be the people of God that He has created us to be.

Whenever human beings try to take the initiative in our dealings with God, what follows is disaster. An example is the story of the Tower of Babel (
Genesis 11:1-9) where human beings decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven. In this way they hoped to manipulate God. But while they built the tower, God came and confused their languages. There was no more understanding among them, and they could no longer work together. 

Tomorrow (Pentecost Sunday), we will read (Acts 2:1-11) of the disciples of Jesus speaking in other languages.  But Pentecost is not a repeat of Babel, Pentecost is a reversal of Babel.

At Babel, human beings decided to build a tower to God by their own effort; at Pentecost it is now God who decides to build a bridge to
humans by sending the Holy Spirit. Babel was a human initiative, a human effort, Pentecost is a divine initiative, a divine activity through the Holy Spirit.

Imagine this. Before Jesus ascends to heaven, He tells the disciples to spread the Good News from Jerusalem to all Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. But clearly the task is too much for them. 

How could these 12 uneducated fishermen from Galilee go out and address the learned world of Greek philosophers and Roman poets? Even their fellow Jews are hostile to them. So what do they do? They go wait and pray for God’s initiative. And as soon as God gives the sign of the Holy Spirit, they go out on the streets boldly and fearlessly proclaiming the Good News.

What God asks of us as believers always seems impossible. And it is impossible if we rely on our own will power alone. But if, like the disciples, commit ourselves to waiting daily on God in prayer, God will not be found wanting. At the opportune time God will send the flame of the Holy Spirit to invigorate us, and change us from lukewarm to zealous, fervent, enthusiastic believers.

Babel was a requiem of misunderstanding. Pentecost is a chorus of mutual understanding. The miracle of Pentecost is very different from the disaster of Babel. At Babel, the people came together with one 
language,understanding themselves.
After God’s intervention they dispersed no longer understanding each other. At Pentecost, on the other hand, people of different ethnic backgrounds (Persians, Asians, Romans, Egyptians, Libyans, Arabs) came together unable to communicate. But after the disciples spoke on Pentecost, they said, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them, each of us in our own language?” (Acts 2:7-8).

When Peter spoke, people from all different language groups would hear Peter speaking in their own languages. The miracle of Pentecost was a miracle of mutual understanding, a restoration of that precious gift that humanity lost at Babel. 

Does such a language exist that everyone could understand it? Yes!  The name of that language is Love. Love is the language of the children of God, the only language we shall speak in heaven.

Babel resulted in the disintegration of the human family into different races and nationalities. Pentecost, on the other hand, brings all peoples together and reunifies them under one universal family, the Church.  “Catholic” means “universal”. On Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Today is, therefore, an opportunity to
rededicate ourselves to be active and faithful members of this family of God we call Church.

Fulton J. Sheen once said that even though we are God’s chosen people, we often behave more like God’s frozen people.
God's Frozen People
God’s frozen people indeed: frozen in our prayer life, frozen in the way we relate with one another, frozen in the way we celebrate our faith. We don’t seem to be happy to be in God’s house; we are always in a hurry to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Today is a great day to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God’s love. 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
For the Greater Glory of God

1 comment:

  1. Fr. Joe,
    I loved reading your homily . You explained in a wonderful
    way the Reversal of Babel. My Grandson was doing project
    for Anniversary of His Church ( the way he said it) I could have helped him
    more so had I had your Homley in Advance. :)) God Bless You Fr. Joe