Isn’t it weird how you can be having a prolonged conversation with someone, but after a while you start to realize that you have been talking about something completely different all along?
You’ve been speaking the same language, yes — using the same terminology even — and yet you can mean something completely different! There was division — a lack of unity — from the very start.
Where did this division begin?
To get to the bottom of that, we gotta go all the way back to the Garden.
God created man and woman, and he blessed them with everything they could possibly ask for — food, water, beauty, rest, joy, peace, EVERYTHING — but above all, he blessed Adam and Eve with perfect union with Himself.
They had unity with God.
But then the serpent — the craftiest of creatures — introduces disunity:
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Notice what’s happening — The serpent — the ancient dragon himself, the devil — sows disunity by calling into question the words of God. The language of God!
“Did God really say…?” “Did God really mean…?”
He is striking right at the heart of our relationship with God by sowing confusion and division over what God’s words actually mean for us. He’s striking at the heart of communication — which is to say — at the heart of communion. He is messing up our original unity with the Living God!
Now fast forward to another Old Testament story: The Tower of Babel.
The story starts off with: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.”
That’s good, right? The people are united. They’re on the same page!
The only problem is: They misused that unity, and said to one another — “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.”
Listen to what’s going on here! The people tried basing their unity upon their own manmade works — on their own accomplishments.
And the end result?
The tower is thrown down. The people are scattered. And their speech is confused and divided.
More and more disunity.
More and more broken communication.
More and more broken communion.
What is the antidote to all this?
The miracle of Pentecost.
Pentecost reverses — it undoes — the disunity of the Tower of Babel. And in a still deeper way, it reverses — it dismantles — the disunity of sin itself.
As Fr. Cantalamessa points out: “This new event brings unity, harmony and communion…. Here, too, a city, an edifice, a tower, is being built — the Church. But there’s a big difference!”
What’s the difference, you might ask?
Well we heard it in our first reading:
The people there on Pentecost morning asked aloud: “How does each of us hear them in his native language? We hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
There it is.
They were speaking of the mighty acts of God… Not their own technology. Not their own science. Not their own architecture. Not their own silly ideas and philosophies. Not their own politics. Not their own plans and projects.
They were praising the Lord!
Fr. Cantalamessa continues:
“At Pentecost, everyone understood each other because they had forgotten about themselves. The apostles did not want to make a name for themselves but for God. They were turned upside down by the Holy Spirit, dazzled by the glory of God. Everyone understood them because they did not speak about themselves but about ‘God’s great deeds.’”
Here is the antidote — the perfect cure for all our polarization and division:
Praising the Lord.
Offering Him Worship.
Giving God His proper due.
The miracle of Pentecost is a miracle of praise!
Just think — In a matter of minutes, Peter and the rest of the disciples in the Upper Room went from being timid, shy, and afraid to boldly unleashing free praise… proclaiming everything that God had done through Jesus Christ in front of giant crowds of people who, by all natural means, should not have been able to understand them. But they did!
That’s what happened when the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples with tongues of fire.
So now today — when we let it rip — when we praise the Lord and worship Him together in the Sacraments, in the Mass, in our homes, in our hearts — We are united. We are saying the same thing together. We’re speaking the same language of God’s greatness!
And there’s power there.
People will sometimes complain that at Catholic Mass we say the same things all the time — the same prayers, the same words every week — and all in unison. It can sound, at times, like a mindless drone…
But there’s the genius of the Holy Spirit!
We are speaking the same praise. We are in unison. And so, fired with the Love of God and filled with the Spirit, we can speak those same words, week in and week out, and they become fresh and filled with Divine Life every single time for us: “Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus promises.
So too, our worship is made new. It is created anew every time we lift up our voices and join them together in proclaiming the mighty acts of God.
This DRIVES THE DEVIL NUTS. He keeps trying to divide us and tear us apart the same way he first attacked Adam and Eve — “Did God really say…? Did God really mean…?”
BUT WILL WE LISTEN TO HIM?
We will respond instead — united as One Body of Christ — with the single Holy-Spirit-inspired Voice of the Church: “YES HE DID SAY. YES HE DID MEAN WHAT HE SAID. AND THEN HE BACKED UP THOSE WORDS WITH MIGHTY DEEDS. LEMME TELL YA ABOUT ‘EM.”
If you ask me, I think our brand new, state-of-the-art evangelization strategy should be as simple and straight forward as this:
“Come and praise the Lord with us — Come and WORSHIP Him. He is so Good. He is so absolutely AWESOME.”
We just sang in our Psalm today — Psalm 104 — “Bless the Lord O my soul! O Lord my God, you are great indeed! How manifold are your works, O Lord!”
That’s our evangelization plan.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul!”
Because if we become more and more a truly praising community — if people witness us worshipping the Risen Jesus with everything we’ve got — then I’m convinced that the Gospel will take deep root in our world today.
I’m convinced that more and more people will start to hear what we are saying in their own tongue, and the miracle of Pentecost will happen again.
Even in this hyper-secularized culture, this morally confused world which is so divided by sin and enslaved to the flesh.
Because we know that life in the Spirit blows life in the flesh out of the water! There is absolutely NO comparison. A life which glorifies the Lord is SO MUCH better than a life riddled with sin. Life in the flesh is foolishness. It’s empty void. It’s miserable.
Unity with God is SO MUCH MORE RICH AND SATISFYING than lustful indulgence. Than gluttonous grasping. Than greedy self-satisfaction and materialism.
That stuff divides us and sets us against one another and against God. It even sets us against ourselves! We ourselves are torn apart and scattered by sin. We’re chopped up and mutilated by it. It is truly “diabolical” — a word that literally means “to separate and divide.”
But to praise God in mind, body and heart — to worship HIM rather than ourselves with everything we’ve got — THAT brings about harmony and life. THAT unites us with our neighbor and it effects peace.
This is precisely what Jesus speaks over the disciples huddled in the upper room that first Easter evening, isn’t it?
This peace the Lord breathes onto them is the peace of a restored union with God. It’s the peace of forgiveness of sins through the Blood of the Cross. You are forgiven, he says: “Yes you ran away. Yes you abandoned me when I went to Calvary for you. But now, I grant you pardon and peace. I grant you full and complete unity.”
And so he breathes on them that unity: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit of peace has been breathed into you.
So that means sin has no place in your heart anymore. As Saint Paul puts it in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own. You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
You are a temple, built up and constructed by God Himself — not by yourself like some new tower of Babel. You’re built up by God! So glorify Him. Worship Him. Proclaim the mighty acts of God! Let your BODY be a place of intense, ongoing WORSHIP and PRAISE.
Praise is the opposite of sin.
It disarms it and destroys it. Look at Jesus on the Cross — He is the perfect man of worship — He hangs there, offering up perfect praise to the Father!
So come Holy Spirit!
Fill our hearts with sincere praise — sincere worship!
Send us deep into the Heart of the Holy Eucharist we are about to lift up to the Father, through Jesus Christ. We adore You, Lord — The whole Body of Christ spread throughout the world adores you together. Set our hearts on fire for You. Make us one single language of praise. We all freely drink of the same Spirit. You must increase. We must decrease.
All glory and honor is Yours, forever and ever.