How was it that all those people in Jerusalem from so many different countries, were able to hear words spoken in their own language? Is there then a universal language? I believe that the answer is of course yes, there is a universal language but it is not necessarily the language of words that we are so accustomed to. No, the universal language to which I am referring is the language of God’s love, which is celebrated on this Pentecost day.
When you study the gospels what strikes you most clearly about Jesus is the overwhelming capacity that he has to love. It is not just a love directed towards his friends either, as he loves even those who despise and hate him. This is demonstrated most notably during the last two days of his life. If we want to know the power of God’s love, then it is to these last two days that we should go. Looking at them from our own perspective challenges us to the core. We are sometimes so unwilling and so unable to show our love that we cannot grasp the immensity of the love that Jesus shows to us. Knowing the trauma that is about to engulf him, Jesus tells the disciples in the intimacy of the Last Supper, that the Spirit will come to remind you of everything I have said to you.
As the current pandemic so dramatically shows, we know that circumstances change with great suddenness. Situations arise and conditions are created which impact on us very often in ways that sometimes seem unfathomable. We want answers and solutions that orientate us and provide us with certainty and security. It is often in the sphere of personal dilemmas that these changes have their most disturbing effects: sudden illness, bereavement, marital breakdown, loss of employment. All of these events lead to a questioning of what is happening and why? Suddenly our certainty has been wrenched aside and we feel cast away, drifting and unsure of our compass. Where do we look and turn to recover?
By sending the Spirit, we have been given the pathway to hope and the language that we speak as we walk that pathway is the language of God’s love. This pathway doesn’t have a ring road or a bye pass that circumvents the problems as described above. The reality of these traumas are not diminished or reduced, but we know that the Spirit reminds us of what Jesus has told us, and we set the standard of our care for each other as that which Jesus himself called us to copy, when he washed our feet. It is with this sacrificial, sacramental love that the Spirit proceeds. We are to shape our application of this love to both the everyday problems that confront us as well as the pressing global issues that impact on us. It is through the Spirit that we respond to the call to minister this sacramental love. Each one of us has a sphere of influence, no matter how small or insignificant we may feel that it is, and even if we feel that our contribution is negligible, we may be unaware of what the Spirit achieves through our small acts of reconciliation, of encouragement, of support and of consolation. The language of the Spirit is ever growing, ever changing to meet the needs of our generation, to provide us with insight into understanding the needs of others and the pressures and anxieties that we all face. The image of dazed and stunned men and women stumbling out of that Upper Room into the glare of a Jerusalem sky and proclaiming the message of a crucified yet risen saviour seems incongruous and yet the language of the Spirit, in all its incongruity still fills the whole world and in doing continues to renew and change it.