Acts of the Apostles. (2:1-11) and the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (7:37-52; 8:12)
Long ago, in ancient times, there was a story about a large group of people who desired to build the tallest structure that had ever been built. They plotted and schemed and worked in order to build something that would be to the glory of their name. We call this structure the tower of Babel, though interestingly enough in the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint), it is called the tower of Babylon. St. Augustine tells us that the men worked diligently to build this tower in order to protect themselves from future floods since God had wiped out the early inhabitants of the earth by a flood because they were evil and had spread wickedness everywhere. Instead of being people who chose righteousness and holiness, they chose the opposite and continued to make plans to safeguard their evil ways.
For this reason something dramatic happened and it quite literally changed the course of human history. We are told in Genesis chapter 11 that the Lord God was unhappy with the people and therefore descended to confuse their tongues and their speech. The Lord decided that if there was no other way to encourage the righteousness of the people, He could divide them so that they could no longer communicate effectively with one another. Without proper communication, their evil schemes would be limited in their scope and efficacy. The Lord divided their language but this was a sign of something deeper, that is the internal division of the one who rebels against God. When someone doesn’t live for God and obedience to the will of God they find that there is division everywhere in their life. They are divided from their children and their parents, they are divided from their co-workers, they are divided from spouses as well as friends. Sometimes they can fake their “health” but it won’t last. The division will manifest itself in peoples lives in the way that the division of sin became manifest in the peoples of Babylon at the time of the tower. They won’t be able to “speak the same language” or “see eye to eye.”
What is the answer to this problem of division? Where can we find healing for the internal division that is within us and the division we see in our country, our society and even in the world? Today we celebrate the answer. We read the passage from Acts that describes the great and holy day of Pentecost which occurred 50 days after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We are told that there was a sound from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind. The Holy Spirit descended and filled those who were present and they began to speak in other tongues. Amazingly, they could also understand one another in these various languages that they were speaking! In one moment, God had once again united the human race through Himself. He had divided their speech and He now united their speech. Why? It was not in order to awe them or astound them. It was in order that they might take this gift from God and use it to spread the faith in every corner of the world.
At the time of the tower of Babel, the people used their hearts and minds to devise schemes of evil and to share these schemes, influence one another and cooperate in their wickedness. At Pentecost the Lord was saying to them, you now have something worth speaking about. They now had the message of the gospel and the life of the Lord Jesus, but that alone was not enough. The Lord, the Holy Spirit would come and dwell within His people and allow them to be living, breathing temples of God. He would support His people as they went on doing the work of spreading the gospel, which is the work of giving life and light to others.
When we become Orthodox Christians we receive the full grace of the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of Chrism (this is often called confirmation in the Roman Catholic tradition). So this celebration of Pentecost is not a mere celebration of some events that happened long ago, which we now remember. No. We don’t live in the past. Our celebration is continual and our faith is vibrant and alive because the Holy Spirit is still with us!
One of the names of the Holy Spirit is Comforter. The Holy Spirit is with each of us in order to restore and heal our inner division. This division which was the ultimate sign of humanity since the time of Adam, is caused by our sin and rebellion against God and against the life He offers us. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon each of us is a powerful invitation to healing. This happens when we allow Him to work and when we cooperate in this work through our life of submission to God and to one another.
In addition to this internal healing, the Holy Spirit is the proper source of healing within a family, a town, a city, a nation and even within the universe. The Holy Spirit is one of the Trinity. He existed before the foundations of the universe. He is powerful in His love and desire for our unity. He fosters this unity from person to person. As one is touched by the Holy Spirit, peace and unity come.
Since the work of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our works and our life, we are ambassadors of Christ through the Spirit. We each have an apostolic ministry and it is built on the apostolic foundation, which is the gospel of Christ and the life of the Spirit. What are we doing with these blessings that we’ve been given? How are we ambassadors for Jesus Christ? When was the last time that we introduced someone to Jesus? When was the last time that we thought of ourselves as evangelists? The holy work of evangelism was given the disciples but it doesn’t end with them. It is our holy work to continue. We have become quite good at having success in our life, but what are we doing to multiply the work of the Holy Spirit? We were made for more than earthly successes. The Holy Spirit is within you in order to heal you and sanctify you and energize you to become saints that live to do the will of God.
When we start the day by asking “what do I need to do today?” we have missed the point of our own existence. It’s like the car that sits on concrete blocks in someone’s front yard. The car was made for so much more than to be a decoration on the lawn. It was designed for more. You were designed for much more. The proper question isn’t “what do I need to do today?” It is “What can I do to serve God today?” The Holy Spirit healed the broken languages of humanity so that the disciples could communicate the truth of God’s love to other peoples. He energized the disciples and allowed them to become partakers of the divine nature. God’s divinity dwells within us! The potential is there for us to become saints and to continue the story of God’s work in the world. May He dwell within us richly and may His name be glorified by our lives. Glory be to God AMEN.