It is a shame in our hyper busy society that we can be so easily distracted from the wonders that God sets right under our noses, literally. With a little patience we can observe these all around us in places which are more than obvious. One of my favorite spots for discovering these treasures is our Bible, God talking right at us! As Catholics we have been handicapped by many prejudices in regard to reading the Word. In the past, the Church has even taught that we approach this activity with great caution as well as trepidation. Some faithful have even come to believe that personal reading of the Bible is just plain wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to reading the scriptures, coming to know even a little about how the Bible was canonized and finally formed is cause for great learning and awe at how our faith has been carried into the world.
The Bible is no willy-nilly conglomeration of “cute stories” but an amazing document that brings us the roots and entire story of God’s relationship with the human race. It is the product of brave men and women who carried the stories forward and preserved them as well as clerics who fought for the validity of the teachings and Church Councils that worked tirelessly, in sometimes adverse conditions, to verify and solidify its contents. People died, regularly, in defense of the teachings that finally made up our bible. Did you know that in the history of the Church there have only been twenty-one councils? The first in Jerusalem 50 CE, the second at Nicaea in 325 CE and third at Constantinople in 386 CE dealt, in major part, with the teachings that would finally be included in the “official document” of the Church. Bishops traveled at great risk and difficulty to these gatherings and experienced great persecution as they defended Church teachings against the numerous heresies that regularly attacked the early Church. Many died in the process. We must appreciate the Bible in a sense that is much broader than a collection of early stories and recollections of Jesus’ time on earth.
One of the most fascinating things about the Bible is the way that the entire book displays an uncanny continuity especially since some of the older parts were written possibly as early as thirteen hundred years previous to some of the newer parts. We are, of course, familiar with the fact that the Bible has two principle parts; Old Testament and New Testament. John Paul II clearly reflected his take on the unbroken flow of the text when he taught: The Bible is a unity and must be read as one book, not two separate entities. Not only is the Bible a document of extraordinary scope, it is unified in its particular witness in which older parts reflect, compliment and reinforce newer parts and vice versa. We know as a matter of fact that earlier writers had no contact with more recent writer and yet Old stands with New, hand in glove.
We can see this phenomenon in particular with two fairly well known narratives. In the Tower of Babel story, found in Genesis 11, we see one of the first accounts of man and his ego in the world. This story of the early members of the human race relates the idea that, at that time, all people spoke the same language and because of this it was easy for them to conspire when they decided that they did not like the way God was running things. Because of a common language they launched a building project to carry them directly to heaven so that they could “complain”. Their building was successful but God saw all the negative possibilities that could be created by a race that thought they did not need God for anything. (Can you say modern society?) In his generosity God did not destroy this arrogant race but rather removed their ability to talk to each other. The Tower is destroyed and the confusion of languages on the earth is created. In an interesting side note we see the reported site of where the Tower was supposed to be created is current day Iraq.
In the second narrative, written hundreds of years later, we see an oddly complimentary story. The narrative of Pentecost at the beginning of Acts 2 is a clear “resolution” to the story of people who wanted to manage without God. On Pentecost Sunday the Disciples and the Women are “hold up” in the Upper Room. They have been locked in for days and were worried about being found, persecuted and killed in the same way that they saw Jesus die. Suddenly a wind and tongues of fire appear in the space where they are hiding. Each Disciple, after being “filled with the Holy Spirit” begins to speak in a foreign tongue not native to themselves. The many Jews who were staying in other parts of Jerusalem heard the fuss. Out of curiosity they gathered in a large crowd. Jerusalem was a hub for travelers and the Jews who gathered that day were speaking at least fifteen different regional languages. Yet each man who gathered, out of curiosity, heard clearly his own language being spoken by the men from Galilee who had no way of knowing these regional dialects. New communication was born and as they say: “It was a miracle”. But there’s a broader message here.
The people in the Babel story were the first generation humans, direct descendents of Adam and Eve. These people had never experienced worship, prophecy, dialog with God or any of the things that were introduced to the human race by those who were anointed by God. They were literally on their own. In the Pentecost account the “hearers” of their own languages were under the strong influence of the presence of God in the form of the Spirit. Dialog with God creates miracles we don’t expect. If you recall, the very first action of the Spirit in Scripture was the Annunciation. Clearly, openness to the Word of God and influence of His Spirit enables things in the human personality that can’t happen any other way. Open communication with God can’t happen without the Spirit. That’s why Pentecost, in some ways, is more significant than Christmas or Easter. The Spirit moves in ways we can’t see. Pentecost is often referred to as the Birthday of the Church. It is also the birth of a new kind of communication with the Father that was not possible before. If you want to be fully open and aware of “Who’s talking” in your spiritual walk, do not discount the Spirit or think that you can manage without Him. As illustrated by the difference between Babel and Pentecost, that is simply not possible!
Copyright © Pentecost 2011 Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
Check out more about how the Spirit moves Kathryn @ www.atravelersview.org
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