Sunday, June 5, 2022

Homily by Rev. Richard Vosko, Pentecost 2022, Year C



 
For many years I used a 1492 Venetian woodcut, “The Building of the Tower of Babel,” for the logo on my stationery. The mythical story of Babel refers to the origins of multip
le languages on earth that prevented people from understanding one another. (Genesis 11:1-9) Babel is a Hebrew verb and means to jumble or confuse. In my work I tried to do the opposite, to bring diverse voices together to work for the common good.

Today is Pentecost. The familiar story in Acts 2:1-11 offers a constructive way to look at the baneful Babel story. The dissimilar groups that gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles1 [1] understood the words of the disciples in their own languages. To stress this point, the author Luke went to great length to list all the different ethnicities present. 

Theologian Greg Carey wrote: “The pleasure of visualizing this diverse crowd hearing the gospel reinforces the power of the miracle.” Comparing the Pentecost story to Babel, Carey added, “Language no longer poses a barrier. The gospel reverses the misfortune of Babel … it names, respects, and embraces diversity”

Pentecost is a story for our time. The reality is this: we are all linked with different voices from all across the planet. The Internet gives impetus to the notion of globalization where economies, ideas, politics and cultures converge. No one religion or nation can be parochial, nationalistic or dominant in this human ecosystem. 

To survive in this age we have to find ways to reach out to all of God’s creatures, to listen to one another, to elevate the unique gifts and identities of all people who wish to live in ways that are interconnected with the environment and other human beings. 

The psalmist (104:1, 24, 29-31, 34) begged God: “Send out your spirit to renew the face of the earth!” Some linguists suggest that “advocate” would be a more appropriate word than “spirit.” Advocate, used in one of today’s gospels (John 14:15-16, 23b-26) is both a noun and a verb.

Philosopher and theologian John Kavanaugh wrote that this Advocate is not found in one place, one group or one person. It does not reside only in laws, sanctuaries, hierarchies, sacraments, scriptures, or people who are rich or poor, powerful or weak. 2 [2]

The Spirit of Pentecost advances new hope for all oppressed peoples whose voices are most always misunderstood or not heard — people of color, women, children, the LGBTQIA+ community, transgendered persons, refugees and immigrants. This holy Spirit broke language barriers, blew down walls of division and opened up doors of justice.

As advocates we do not work alone. We advocate for justice by relying on each other’s gifts and strengths. (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13) Our task is to peacefully synch a diverse human race with the borderless divinely infused cosmic enterprise where there is no geo-theological heaven or hell. 

Here and now, a boundary-less cyberspace offers us endless possibilities for communicating with others to spread goodness and not evil. Some call it working to bring about the kindom of God on earth.

In commenting on the work of American contemplative Beatrice Bruteau, scientific theologian Ilia Delio wrote: “Bruteau describes a ‘grid of wholistic consciousness’ whereby the world is seen as a pattern of inter-independence, complementarity, cooperation, friendship, and creative joy.” 3 [3] Achieving such harmony may appear as an elusive goal but given the evils that confront us it is urgent that we advocate blessings for all.

This ever evolving Advocate is not a “spirit of slavery.” (Romans 8:8-17) It will continue to growl and grow inside everyone of us until at last all are transformed, liberated from whatever holds us back from becoming all we can be, from doing all we can do. We can choose to ignore the Advocate but we cannot avoid its incomparable presence. Where, actually, is that Advocate? It is already deep inside our beings waiting to burst forth.

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1 The Feast of Tabernacles - Sukkot — is a celebration of God’s provision for the Israelites all through their wanderings in the wilderness and during harvest time. Today, Jews understand it as a time to renew their covenant with God.

2 Kavanaugh, John. The Word Engaged: Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures (Maryknoll: Orbis Books) 1997. 72-74.

3 Beatrice Bruteau, “The Whole World: A Convergence Perspective,” The Grand Option, 39-52 in Ilia Delio, The Hours of the Universe: Reflection on God, Science and the Human Journey. (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 2021) 99.

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