This Pentecost, Overcoming the Babel of Misunderstanding

May 30, 2020

By Sister Michelle Marie Salois

Jesus, Risen from the dead, has left us! The Gift of the Holy Spirit starts as a loss! But Jesus assures us that the Indwelling of the Spirit is BETTER!

A mosaic of Pentecost

This spiritual truth echoes a developmental one; as children, we learn to trust and obey (or fear) our parents and authority and to consider “good” whatever they approve or reward. Many find it easy to continue this into adulthood—to remain loyal to some external authority. We may adhere to what some person or party tells us is good or bad without really examining issues or learning from others. We unconsciously or consciously categorize others as worthy or unworthy based on visible criteria such as whether they claim our same religion, our culture, our color or even our body weight or economic status!

The mature spiritual person can, instead, follow the promptings of the Spirit by an inner discernment. We learn to distinguish the desires of the flesh versus the fruits of the spirit:

“…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23)

As choices and dilemmas emerge, the adult considers reason, the wisdom of others and available facts, but the listening for Truth and the Way is in the body; we give our attention to subtle signals of peace and joy and attraction. We consider foreseeable consequences for oneself and for others. The actual experience then guides further: Did this lead me to be more gentle? More generous? Should I continue on this path or correct my course?

Today’s Scriptures tell us of God’s dreams for us and assure us that this kind of deep freedom is exactly what He calls us to!

“Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young people see visions,” and “even upon the servants and the handmaids (essential workers?) … I will pour out my spirit.”

“You did not receive a spirit of slavery or fear … but of adoption.”

“Whoever loves me will keep my word … and we will come and make our dwelling with him/her.” 

And then we are shown what our world will look like when enough of us live in accord with this Holy Spirit: People who feel dry and lifeless are made flesh and live! The migrants are given a homeland!

Imagine if we were to recreate the first Pentecost miracle wherein the Babel of misunderstanding between peoples is overcome with language and good news that everyone understands! Perhaps even more impressive to us as Americans, we witness the first Christians in true communal life:

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and … All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Wouldn’t we all behave more generously if we were confident that our gifts and dreams were welcome and our needs would be met?

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  1. Fran McManus

    Thank you. This is beautiful and moving and so needed as we celebrate the life-giving breath of the Spirit in this double pandemic of virus and racism. Whilepreparing a Pentecost e-mail reflection for our still waiiting RCIA folks, I came across an article that also celebrates the glorious diversity of the Pentecost experience in a Christian Century article “Painting Pentecost” accessible online at the following URL.

  2. Sharon Schmitz

    As usual, Michelle, your priestly WISDOM shines through your Pentecost reflections. You make my heart rejoice.
    Blessings always,

  3. Monica Marie, RSM

    Mary, blessings to you as together we celebrate the GIFTS of today. Thanks for your gifts and sharing them as a true sister in the Spirit.

  4. Richard Mary Burke

    Michelle, thank you so much for this beautiful and challenging reflection. You have definitely enriched my experience of Pentecost in these unsettling times.

  5. Jo Fulginiti

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection that filled my heart with JOY and HOPE!
    God bless you!

  6. Katherine Mroz RSM

    Come Holy Spirit, Come!

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection

  7. S.Rosemary Hudak

    Beautiful reflection…hope filled..thank you

  8. Jackie Ann Moreau

    Practical application. Listen to my inner spirit. Needed right now.

    Jackie in Maine

  9. Claudia Ward, RSM

    Michelle, thanks so much for your beautiful Pentecost reflection!!! May God continue to call us out of our comfort zones to be for and with all in loving service … for we are each other’s sister and brother and responsible for one another’s health and well-being!!!

  10. Mary Randlett

    How valuable to think about spiritual development in context with lifespan development, where ideas about separation and learning to think for oneself are spelled out. Sr. Michelle’s points to spiritual maturity allowing us to get beyond our biases and perhaps allowing our ears to hear others. This reflection touches a chord for me in offering these tests of moving toward more spiritual growth—what leads me to feel more gentle…more generous? It helps light the path toward seeing and hearing others. Thank you for these words and sharing them with me.

  11. Michelle Salois

    Thank you each for your lovely affirmation! means a lot to a gal who puts her thoughts in writing infrequently