Reflections: Pentecost Means We Understand Each Other

“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?  We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” (Acts 2:7-11)

In this passage we hear only about people with different languages understanding each other. I serve a parish that has two languages, Spanish and English, and realize the challenges of serving both groups. The challenge of the early Church was just as tough. Greek was the overall language, but all the different people had their own language, so it was a challenge to spread the Good News.

That is a real challenge. But a greater challenge is to speak to the cultural political and economic differences of our vast Church. For example I am a 62 year old white male Irish Catholic that is celibate. I am formed by Vatican II. In some of my politics I am progressive in others I am conservative. Can I talk to an 18 year old Mexican American girl who is pregnant? Can I talk to a pro-gun anti-immigration 50 year old, who considers himself pro-life but backs the Iraq war?

When I say “talk” I do not mean only so they can understand the language I am speaking. That is easy. What I mean, rather, is to communicate so that both the Mexican-American and the Conservative white guy can see Christ in each other. That means cutting through all the distractions, the “I am right” versus “No, I am right,” or “You are a fascist” versus “Well, you are a Communist” (all the wonderful names we call each other).

What we need to learn in spite everything is that we are all children of God. We can learn other languages. We can learn English or Spanish. However learning that we are God’s children is hard. We are told by politicians that the other is evil, that the other is foreign, and not like us. Unfortunately we learn that very well.

God tells us we are children of God, and that we are all connected by the love that only God can provide. When we do that we are more than male and female, Republican and Democrat, gay or straight. We realize that we are connected, and that through Christ we are one body and do not stand alone.

Even with the best of intentions we do not reach these conclusions on our own. We need God. Think about that next April 19th, Pentecost 2013.

Father Mike Van Cleve

 Father Mike is a priest for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

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