By Fr. Jamie Forsythe
Pastor, Holy Angels National Catholic Church
Pentecost is always referred to as the birthday of the church. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and his followers many times. After each of these encounters they would head back to the upper room and discuss what had happened. But, after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, the disciples began to proclaim salvation through Jesus and went out into the community. The church was born!
One of the side notes of the story of Pentecost is that the disciples began speaking in many languages and all of those who heard them, even though they were from different lands, understood. The message of Christianity was a message of unification, we are one in the Spirit. The challenge for them, as it is for us now, is to see others as our sisters and brothers. We pray that the Spirit of love and unity will descend upon us and fill our hearts with compassion and understanding.
As with many people, I have watched the events of the past few days with great horror and sadness. It has been a difficult week starting with the COVID-19 death toll surpassing the 100,000 mark, to the death of George Floyd, and all of the protests that followed that turned violent. All of this was years in the making, like a giant pressure cooker that has slowly been building up. The tensions caused by the quarantines and the protests against those restrictions, the disproportionate effect of the virus on people of color, and the financial strain due to unemployment bearing down on a segment of our society that has been marginalized has been the fuel for this explosion.
I know that at times I feel overwhelmed. I am scared. I am angry. I am remorseful. I am confused. We live in a time and a country where the polarization of society is heading to a critical mass. Voices of hate and fear are drowning out the whispers of love and acceptance. The “me” is growing stronger than the “we” filling hearts with mistrust. The command of “love your neighbor as yourself” has been replaced with “love yourself first, and then anyone else who thinks like you.”
How do we get out of this mess? By the grace of God! On this feast of Pentecost we are challenged more than ever to let the Spirit of God’s love touch our hearts.To let the fire of love burn out the prejudices that we have learned from birth and which lie in our subconscious. Our fears and mistrusts of others because of the color of their skin or the language they speak. To reaffirm to ourselves that we are spiritual beings who are currently residing in a body of certain gender, shape, and color. That we are spiritual beings that reside in a body conditioned by cultural attitudes and norms. By realizing that these bodies are temporary, but the spirit eternal. By tuning our spirits to the Spirit of God as we understand God to be, we connect to one another as sisters and brothers. In that spirit of love we pledge ourselves to work for justice and dignity for all, without regard to the color of their skin, the gender of their bodies, who they choose to love, what language they speak or how they communicate with their God.
The healing of our nation and world begins with the healing of our hearts. Do not let the events of the past fill you with fear, anger, or hate. Let compassion and understanding be your goal. How would you feel if your spirit was in their body, and how would you want others to treat you? Jesus, who was God, took the form of a human body in order to experience the love of God. As followers, we are also called to put ourselves in the reality of the other’s experience in order to reveal to them the love of God.
May the Spirit of God’s love fill your hearts with wisdom, understanding, compassion, peace, and, most of all, LOVE.