Pentecost captures the Christian imagination. Even elementary school children can describe the scene: through the descent of the Holy Spirit those of every language understand the apostles’ preaching. Pentecost reverses the Old Testament Tower of Babel. Recall that the construction of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis leads to the multiplicity of languages and the fragmentation of the human community.
In many ways, the Old Testament relates the story of the fragmentation of the human community, confusion, and mankind driving apart. This is paradigmatically represented by the Tower of Babel. This confusion requires divine restoration. Pentecost supplies the answer.
The one language of Catholic faith preached by the apostles at Pentecost reverses Babel. Twenty-first century believers find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church Babel’s antidote. Pentecost reminds us that the unchanging truths of Catholic faith draw together the human community. The apostles’ preaching on Pentecost—preaching Christ crucified and risen and alive in His Church—is understood by all. Preaching the truth draws together.
There is an alternative view by the way. Some believe that refraining from preaching the Gospel, keeping silent about the truths of Catholic faith, will draw people together. The exact opposite is true. Without the descent of the Holy Spirit, without the apostles’ preaching, the human community is divided. The faith authentically preached draws together. In a word, only the truth has grace.
It is no secret: Babel reigns in much of the world today. Confusions abound about God and man. Many are tragically confused about the dignity of human life and the sanctity of married love. Some do not comprehend even the freedom the Church deserves to be herself in her service to the world.
Put simply, there’s much work to do. Technological advance, rapid communication, a globalized world: these may make us neighbors, but they cannot promise to make us brothers. Only Catholic faith, studied and shared and believed, can create and sustain the unity of the Christian family. The Creed we pronounce each Sunday remedies Babel and draws together all mankind into the Church of Christ.
We recall on Pentecost the apostles gathered with Mary awaiting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Those of us at Saint John’s contemplate this image every day in the apse of our chapel. To experience the reality of Pentecost today we do well to draw near to Our Lady. She teaches us the posture for the New Evangelization—gentle yet persistent. She never tires, and never grows impatient. She turns no one away, accompanying them to her son.
The God who first sent His Spirit at Pentecost cannot be relegated to ages long past. He continues to send His Spirit. He sends His Holy Spirit through the authentic teaching of the Church of Christ. He sends His Spirit especially through ordained priests, whose authentic preaching and sacramental ministration draw together the Church into one.
At Saint John’s Seminary the reality of Pentecost continues through the men we prepare for the priesthood. They desire nothing more than to serve you—God’s holy people—and draw together in the Church those scattered throughout the world.