Ac 2. 1-11; Ps 104; 1Co 12. 3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20. 19-23
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Giving Voice to Jesus’ Heart
If we don’t use a language, we lose it, the saying goes. That saying is true. We hear the word language, and our first thought is what people speak: English; Spanish; Greek; Arabic; Hungarian; French; German or Sinhalese. Language is speech. However, language is more than the spoken word. Artists speak with colors and shapes, shades and hues. Musicians speak by moving air through vocal chords, or through reeds, pipes of every shape or by striking instruments. Mathematicians speak with numbers and with contours. Lovers speak with their hearts and their actions, more than words, allow others to understand their heart-language.
Musicians need to practice their language and they do by devoting time and energy to playing instruments, which include the human voice. Non-musicians appreciate music by devoting time to listen to music of every sort.
Artists practice their language by applying colors to canvas and to paper repeatedly. Non-artists appreciate their art by spending time wandering through museums and drinking in the plastic arts their eyes behold.
Mathematicians practice their language endlessly arranging numbers or imagining and drawing geometric shapes, looking for patterns to emerge. Non-mathematicians need to know how to give and get money when making purchases and how to do other calculations which allow us to take care of homes and autos and how to feed families and friends.
Pentecost celebrates the language of God’s heart. God created us and all humans in the image of God. Because we are prone to interpret images by our standards, God became flesh and blood for us in Jesus to focus clearly and unmistakably the divine heart and God’s desires for creation. Holy Spirit, the personality of Jesus and divine energy of his Father, continues to impart to us the divine language through manifold gifts.
How does Holy Spirit impart the divine language and communicate the divine desires? When it comes to heart-language, poetry expresses it better than prose or numbers or other rational communication. The Sequence, the hymn before the gospel today, is our helpful poetry:
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sev’nfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them Thy salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end./1/
The emphasis is on receiving the Spirit via its sev’nfold gift. In language terminology that is hearing the Spirit, who speaks in manifold ways. That is exactly what the scene in the Acts of the Apostles described. Holy Spirit used the speech of the apostles to communicate wonder God had worked in Jesus by raising Jesus from death. “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?”
Because the language of God’s heart exceeds spoken language, Jesus was direct: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We know we have received Jesus’ Spirit when we are transformed and act as Jesus’ hand, feet, eyes and heart for our world.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue to feel recreated by our triune God. Ask Mary and the disciples to present you to Jesus. Hear Jesus address you lovingly and say, “Receive [my] Holy Spirit. Allow my Spirit to refashion your heart and your life.” Speak to Jesus how you feel his Spirit, and speak your desires and your fears and your hopes. Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. Each time we pray it we give voice to the heart of Jesus, who desires us to rely on him more and to live so that others hear his voice through our actions.
1. This translation of the entire text of Veni, Sancte Spiritus is attribted to the 13th Century Archbishop of Canterbury.
Wiki-image of Pentecost is in the public domain.