A long time ago I heard a homily on Pentecost that has never left me… The priest said these words and whatever else he said has evaporated in my mind, but not the main point of his message.
He spoke these words as my faith was being renewed and as I tentatively returned to the Catholic church. They really stuck and have lived on in my heart. I wish I could even remember his name, he was a visiting priest, but no, that is gone too.
I’ve spent a lot of time since then, about 20 years ago, trying not to be afraid to die or live, but have only made limited progress on both. This I know, the more deeply I enter into the life of faith and the more intimately that I become part of the unity of the Body that being Church calls us to, the more those words have helped me.
Are you on Facebook? So many people are – astounding numbers of people. It is quite remarkable to watch. A big part of my own ministerial life is lived online. There are many conversations about whether this is “good” or “bad.” Sadly, I hear more about the “bad” but that just returns me to the not being afraid part.
One of the great things about not being afraid to “live” online would be the many chances for evangelizing and being evangelized, the many opportunities for interaction in the name of Christ and a constant demand for the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide our ways.
“Living” online, especially in matters of faith, came to mind as I read and prayed with the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
We are not all physically “in one place together” but when we gather at a blog or participate in a Facebook conversation, we actually are together. If it is a faith post, then we are hopefully there in the name of Christ.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Well we are certainly all out there, speaking in what would seem “different tongues.” In the past week alone, I have participated in several conversation threads on Facebook and each one has left me, and no doubt others, frustrated. We were all talking about somewhat the same thing… why couldn’t we understand each other?
What we hear described in that reading is the rush of the Holy Spirit, coming to enable each one to hear, no matter what the language. Once again, I am grateful for our Roman Catholic imperative to not interpret Scripture literally. This reading was not some early iteration of BabelFish or Google translate, but rather the Spirit coming to unify the many voices.
Oh please Holy Spirit, come to Facebook, please! Enlighten us, open us up, give us wisdom, give us charity, give understanding please!
For those of us who do profess our faith in Christ Jesus, we are called to literally “re-member” the Body of Christ. In doing so we must find ways to speak and be heard in One Voice. That is another gift of our Church, we are many members of One Body – not each parish unto itself, but part of a much larger liturgical whole.
Also it is our mission as Christians to unify (unify, not wrestle to the ground in dominating submission) God’s people as one in Christ. So this would really required that whole “understanding the many voices” part of Pentecost.
So as I return to my Facebook and blogging “mission” I will once again, God knows I start anew each day, to doing so taking the words of another Catholic with me. About a month ago, Catholic writer and blogger, Elizabeth Scalia (aka The Anchoress) was in Rome at the first ever Vatican Bloggers Meetup. She spoke about and wrote about the need to be present online “with clarity and charity.”
Doing so is very difficult and I know that I struggle with it all the time. As I said, just in the past week alone, I was in several online discussions that turned intense, one into a skirmish of sorts. And one of them was with Elizabeth Scalia herself; we descend into these things more often than I care to admit and I am the instigator of sorts; going to her FB page or blog and saying something that is not necessarily in sync with her or her readers. However I really want to understand what they are saying and I can only hope and pray that they understand me.
It has been a marginally successful effort, but we press on in faith. At least Elizabeth and I do!
Does this mean that we fold up our tents and go home? No. It means that we are called to what that same Elizabeth spoke of… interacting with clarity and charity. That is what we are called to as Catholics, Christians, all followers of Christ. And to do so means to wait in hope for, listen to and cooperate with the great Holy Spirit, whose arrival comes to us at Pentecost.
So do not be afraid to die, our hope is in resurrection. But do not be afraid to live, our hope is in the restoration of The Body of Christ.