The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles happened on Pentecost Sunday. It talks about the Holy Spirit coming and touching the followers of Jesus. (For the words of the reading, click here.) Because the Holy Spirit came on them, they are totally changed. Remember: before this, they were all together, afraid, hiding, praying that the Lord protect them. Then they felt the Holy Spirit like a great wind, like a strong fire, all around them. They all became strong and praised God. Outside the house all the people heard them praising God in different languages. The people outside came from different countries and spoke different languages, but they all understood the followers of Jesus talking about the powerful works of God.
That story connects back to the beginning of the Bible, the story in the Book of Genesis about the Tower of Babel: Adam and Eve wanted to become equal to God; they were arrogant so they rebelled; they sinned; they decided to separate themselves from God. In the garden they felt the warm love of God; but they wanted their way and rebelled against God so they went out into the cold, hard world. Things became worse; one of their sons, Cain, killed another son, Abel. The number of people grew so they traveled to different places. But all the people were arrogant, selfish; they thought only “me, me, me first.” They traveled all over the world, but, like Adam and Eve, they wanted to become equal to God. So they decided, “We will build a very high tower to reach up to heaven, and then we will be powerful like God. We will be equal to God.” They were arrogant and selfish, and they fought with each other. They could not stay together; they were very selfish. They separated from each other. One group went there; another group went to another place; a third group went to third place. In the beginning they all spoke the same language; they understood each other. But because they stayed separate, their languages became different; they could not understand each other. They become more and more separated from each other, because they wanted to be powerful, to make themselves equal to God. The tower they wanted to build is called the Tower of Babel; it meant they talked in many different languages and could not understand each other. The different groups could not communicate with each other; each group became more isolated. The different groups fought with each other; there were wars. One group wanted to beat another group. It was a really big mess. The situation of all the people on earth became worse and worse.
God looked down and saw all that was happening, and he said, “No, no, no; my precious children are hurting each other. It cannot continue.” So God the Father decided to send his Son, Jesus, into the world, why? To teach people the way to be united with each other, to be generous, kind, patient, loving, forgiving, to unite together, to forget themselves and become united again. Jesus’s followers knew what God wanted and agreed it was right. But they were weak; they could not accomplish it, not yet. Then Jesus ascended into heaven. From heaven Jesus sent them his Holy Spirit, his breath, his energy so that his followers could help the human family change to become people united with one another. To show the power of the Holy Spirit and to begin the work of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, all the followers of Jesus began to pray and praise God in a way that all people from different countries could understand; they seemed to speak in many different languages. The Holy Spirit began to end the separation of people on the first Pentecost. In the story of the Tower of Babel, different languages made all the people separate; now the Holy Spirit helped them speak a language so all could understand and all could be united together again.
Today are all people united together? No. Is there full unity in the human family? No, not yet. The Holy Spirit is still working to establish full unity. The Holy Spirit is in you and in me, in each person, for the same reason, with the same goal–to unite all people. So every time something brings people together; it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Every time you or I do something that unites you closer to someone else, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit influences you. For example, when you and I are more patient, more forgiving, more kind the Holy Spirit is influencing us and helping us unite people together. When you and I give people hope, encourage people, help build up a person, that is the Holy Spirit doing his work. The Holy Spirit uses you and me to make people join together and become united again. The Gospel story today is from Easter Sunday afternoon. Jesus alive comes to visit his followers and give them the power to forgive sin. Forgiving makes the people united together. (To see the words of the gospel, click here.)
Sometimes I feel, and maybe you feel, that I am not accomplishing much; I show a little kindness, show a little love, but I do not accomplish very much; am I really doing the work of the Holy Spirit? It is important to remember: When I do a little to bring peace and unity, then the grace and love of the Holy Spirit is spreading to others. Maybe we feel we are not doing very much, but the Holy Spirit is doing his work, how? By our little efforts; His work is slowly being accomplished in our world. When we do our little bit to bring unity and peace, the Holy Spirit will make great things come from it. Our little bit can accomplish so much.
There is a story about a young man travelling in the mountains in France. He came to a high place in the mountains, and he saw it was big, flat, empty, ugly, nothing grew there; it was like a cold desert. Then he looked out and saw an old man using a stick to make holes in the ground. He went up and asked the man what he was doing. The old man said his wife and family died and he was alone and he wanted to make something beautiful. So he was planting acorns in the ground so that a forest could grow there. The young traveller was doubtful. He told the old man that he would never see a forest. He would die before a forest grew there. The old man agreed, but he said he wanted to continue doing a little to make the world more beautiful. The young man left him. Then twenty-five years later the same man was travelling in the same area in the mountains, and he remembered he was close to that big, ugly, empty place. When he found the place, he was amazed; he could not believe it. There were many oak trees, birds and animals. Flowers were everywhere. It was a beautiful forest. A long time ago the old man worked to make the world more beautiful and he succeeded. The old man did something; it seemed very small, but he accomplished something wonderful.
We need to do our little work, why? To make our human world better. We need to let the Holy Spirit lead us and then work for unity and peace and then trust that God’s work will be accomplished. But we do need to do our work.