Sunday, June 4, 2017

On the Pentecost

Last night as I was "surfing" the AM of my radio I chanced upon a program in which a priest with an angelic voice was offering lessons on the Pentecost. Two of what he said kept me awake for a big chunk of the night. One was that DIFFERENCES AMONG PEOPLE WAS A CURSE, A PUNISHMENT. God, in the Tower of Babel story, punished people by making them different from each other and making them speak different languages. So it is bad and unfortunate that we speak different languages.

Second, the Pentecost HEALED THE WOUNDS OF THE TOWER OF BABEL STORY. The Pentecost came allowing the Apostles--and, by extension, the Church--to reach out to peoples and traditions AND TO UNIFY THEM UNDER THE CHURCH. So people can now discard their differences; unify themselves under the language of the Church.

Did God really make pluralism a curse? Is that what the Tower of Babel story says? Is the Pentecost really the correction done to the Babel error?

Biblically, God is Creator who blessed multiplicity--pluralism. Already from the very beginning God created a multiplicity of space, time and creatures. God created man and woman, two different creatures. God blessed the multiplicity of races, nations, cultures...and dare we say religions.

The Tower of Babel is about God rejecting human pride. Chapter 10 of Genesis ends with multiplicity: “These are the descendants of Shem, according to their clans, according to their languages, by their lands, by their nations. These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their origins and by their nations. From these the nations of the earth branched out after the flood” (Gen 10/31-32). There came a point when "the whole world had the same language and the same words" (Gen.1/1). The multiplicity, the pluralism seem to have ended. So what exactly did God do? He put people back to their original human condition: "the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there the LORD scattered them over all the earth" (Gn 11/9). The original human condition has always been this: pluralism. It is a human fact that we have ALWAYS communicated in different languages. We have always been communicating through our differences; through pluralism. God, in the Tower of Babel story, re-instated that human condition.

THE PENTECOST MANIFESTS THIS DEFINITIVELY. It is the "ultimate stage" in which the multiplicity of people--cultures and traditions--launch into a discovery of he whom the Apostles call as the Lord God. The Pentecost is a CONFIRMATION OF WHAT GOD AFFIRMED in the Tower of Babel story. We adventure together--we in our cultural, religious and language differences--in seeking the Absolute.

In the Pentecost the Apostles spoke in different "tongues" allowing others to feel understood in their own languages. It was to become the main feature of the Church. She is to become an institution in which we all, people of different languages, "hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God (Act2/11)”.

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