Homily for Pentecost 2008
Words. Amazing how much of the Bible deals with words. In our first reading today, we heard about mixed up words – folks babbling to each other – as God introduces the confusion of languages to humble human pride, as a check on the wickedness we egg each other onto when we can communicate together flawlessly. Why are there different languages? The Bible’s answer is to keep us from being even more naughty than we already are.
And words are big again in our second reading, as Babel goes into stunning reverse. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the 50th day after our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, comes speaking. As tongues of flame divide and rest on each of the apostles, and they are filled with the Holy Spirit, what do they do? They begin to speak – speaking as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The Spirit of God is yaker. He talks. He’s not silent. He speaks and what He speaks about through the Apostles is one thing: “the mighty works of God” that He accomplished in Jesus Christ. The Spirit wants to talk about Jesus. Find yourself a spirit who wants to talk about something else – something more relevant maybe, like about you, and what you’ve got is NOT the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is all about words that give you Jesus.
And after the crowd heard these mighty works of God in their own languages – the very undoing of Babel – some begin to discount and discredit the whole thing. “They’re just drunk” people begin to say to each other. Using human words and wisdom to try to discount the wisdom and words of God. Peter doesn’t let them get away with it, though.
Up he stands – same fellow that hid behind closed doors a few weeks ago, same fellow who denied his Lord out of fear of a young girl – and now he speaks and what bold words! “Give ear to my words” he cries! “These men are not drunk as you suppose. It’s what God spoke through Joel coming to pass. The Lord is pouring out His Spirit on one and all and they all prophesy, they all speak out, the Spirit gives them words and you ALL need to hear these words, because they are the great promise of God: Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!”
Words, words, and more words Peter speaks and in all of them the Holy Spirit is present, active, at work. Hearts cut to the quick. Repentance given. Faith engendered and that day 3,000, heeding Peter’s words, land splash in the water and receive Baptism – the gift of rebirth and new life and they become yakers too, talking to others constantly about Jesus and about the great things God has done for us all in and through His Son.
And what do you think we find in the Gospel for the day? More about words! Jesus kicks it off by telling his disciples – remember, it was Maundy Thursday and they were just finishing up in the Upper Room and ready to head to the Garden – Jesus tells his disciples: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.” Jesus, the Word made flesh, came into our flesh bringing along words. Words, he says, that arise from the heart of God the Father. Words for us to keep and to treasure. Words that are not just “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Words formed by the Holy Spirit and that crackle with the life of the Father and the Son. Words that, when we let them find a home in us, bring with them the Blessed Trinity.
And the great task of the Holy Spirit when Jesus sends Him would be to help and guarantee that the apostles would remember and pass on those life-giving words. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Whenever we read from one of the Holy Gospels we are reading the fulfillment of that promise. The holy evangelists fork over to us the words that our Lord brought from heaven so that those words can live inside of us. And when that happens, the Father and Son move in through those Spirit-inspired words. And when we have Father and Son living in us in the Words brought to remembrance by the Spirit, we have the peace that Jesus was talking about: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
How’s the peace in your life? I can promise you this: if the peace is absent, it’s because you’ve forgotten to let the words Jesus brought live in you, bringing you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those words drive out all the fretting, all the anxiety, all the fear, all the anger and upset. None of those things can make it in the presence of the Blessed Trinity. Those words bring peace. Let them live in you and you will find out how utterly true that is.
Those words bring you peace because what they show you is that the Father has loved you from before time began; and that seeing you in your need, in your sin, in your failures and rebellions, He didn’t cast you off or give up on you. No. He sent His Son to bring you forgiveness, to carry your sins to death in His body on the tree so that you might die to sin and live for righteousness. And when His Son’s work of salvation was all through, He didn’t sit back and wait for you to make the first move. He poured out His Spirit – the yaking Spirit – so that you would come know firsthand the love that God has for you. The more the words live in you, the more the peace reigns in you, and you know that God uses even the difficult, trying, disappointing, frustrating and infuriating moments to bless you and so you begin to grow into a peace that is unshakable.
Perhaps no greater peace can ever come to you than comes through the words Jesus spoke that night when He took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it. My body for you, My blood for you for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, let those words of the Spirit live in you and you will know peace. And you’ll also have the Spirit living in you who always wants to tell others through you about the mighty deeds of God in Jesus Christ – our Crucified, Risen, Ascended, Reigning and Returning Lord, to whom be glory forever in His holy Church by the Holy Spirit now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.