Perhaps we should begin by saying that God never really changes His mind. He is a constant and unchanging presence in the universe and in our lives. Nevertheless it appears in Scripture and the New Testament that God did change His mind, in a manner of speaking. In the Genesis account we are told the story of the tower of Babel. This appears in Genesis chapter 11. In this story we learn that the citizens of the world have agreed to build a city and a great tower that stretches to the heavens. The people all speak a common language and work together to achieve this and to try to make a name for themselves.
Now we read that “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:5-9). This is where we get the word “babble”.
We can safely assume that God confused their languages in order to stop them from conspiring to do evil. God would never have stopped them from doing things that were good and pleasing to Him. Now this scenario of confusion continued through many thousands of years, until one momentous occasion: Pentecost.
As we read from the passage in Acts 2, the apostles were gathered together along with the Virgin Mary and others and they were doing exactly what Christ had told them to do. They were waiting until they would receive the comforter, the Holy Spirit whom He would send to them. Now something amazing happens. There is a sound of rushing wind and each one of them begins to speak in new tongues and languages. In fact those who were nearby could understand them although they were of different tribes and nationalities.
In a way God had reversed course. He united their understanding where He had once divided and confused them. The question is “why”?
God was telling them that this message, this good news regarding Jesus the Jewish Messiah, His Only begotten Son, was indeed good news that was meant for the whole world. This alone is the message that can unite all men and all people in all places. Throughout history men have tried to subjugate people and to enforce one way of thinking, one ideology, one guiding philosophy, one economic system. The Holy Spirit demonstrates that the proclamation of Jesus as Lord is our only business. It is this one message alone that offers salvation and healing for humanity. That is probably more true now than it was 2000 years ago.
At some point we’ve got to stop with political theories, theories of social equality, theories of economics and education. Those are fine, but they don’t save people. They (sometimes) help people have better earthly lives, but they don’t offer anything beyond. Christ the Lord says “ He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’” What can we offer to a thirsty world, to the hurting people around us? Do we have this living water? How can we share this living experience of God if we don’t genuinely experience the presence of God in our own lives?
The Holy Spirit is not gone. The very same Spirit that descended upon the disciples that day has been given as a gift to you, it happened the day you were baptized or received into the Church. A sign of having the Holy Spirit in your lives isn’t that you can speak in goofy languages that no one understands or that you cry when you sing about Jesus. A sign of having the Holy Spirit in your lives is that you can speak the name and teachings of Jesus Christ in a language that everyone will understand.
This day, the feast of Pentecost is an amazing day. It reminds us that God did not leave us orphans in the world. He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us; to empower us to be like these disciples and to conquer the world with the message of the love of God. That is what we are: disciples.
May we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to the glory of God. AMEN.