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Pentecost, the feast on which the Holy Spirit descended like tongues of fire upon the Holy Apostles and other disciples of our Lord in the Upper Room is celebrated on June 12. In the Book of Acts is in scripted as, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come; they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Apostles use their common language, not to speak of themselves, but rather, to speak about the mighty endeavors of God. This is an important contrast between them: the people of Babel used their common language to build a monument to them whereas the Holy Apostles on Pentecost used their common language to build a monument to God.

To be united according to the Spirit is to become decentered from ourselves and re-centered on God. It is to go from a life in which we care primarily about ourselves and our needs to Christocentric life, a life that has Christ at its center. The reason the Holy Apostles were united in the Spirit on Pentecost is because they underwent this transformation in their lives. Before Pentecost, they were seeking their own glory as they debated with each other who was the greatest among them and which of them would sit at the right- and left-hand of our Lord Jesus Christ.

After Pentecost, however, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them and shifted their focus away from themselves and towards Christ, we are told that they formed a “community…of one heart and mind.” The new language they spoke was the language of humility. Because they humbled themselves, they were united through the power of the Holy Spirit. The lesson for us is that, when we humble ourselves, we will increase in the measure of the Holy Spirit. And when we have the Holy Spirit, we will have unity, because the Holy Spirit does not simply bring unity from an external source. Instead, He is unity and He makes unity. He is the bond of unity that exists within the Church. One of the best images of this fact is the analogy of the soul and body used by Saint Augustine. He teaches us that, what the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Just as the soul animates and keeps together the human body, so also does the Holy Spirit give life and unite the Church. This is because the Holy Spirit Himself is unity. We see this concept come to life in the Holy Apostles. In terms of their personalities and backgrounds, they were as different as any twelve men could be. The Gospel makes it clear that our Lord Jesus Christ did not choose them because of the compatibility of their personalities. Throughout the Gospel, we see each of them acting in radically different ways. Nonetheless, today, on Pentecost, they were bound together in a community of love through the Holy Spirit. This community was not based on mutual compatibility or common interests, but rather, the community was centered on Christ and united in the Holy Spirit.

It is the same with us today. We are not a church because similarly minded people came together; we are a church because God made a community out of us through His Holy Spirit. We see that the Church is not an institution, but rather, it is a miracle and a mystery. For centuries, the Holy Spirit was given only to prophets, kings, and judges, but now, anyone with faith may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through the Church, irrespective of whether you are a fisherman or tax collector, Jew or Gentile, male or female, young or old.

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and the strong emphasis on unity through the Holy Spirit, it is my hope that we will all examine our lives and meditate on what it means to be united. Let us avoid being united by our own desires according to what we think is best, like the builders of the Tower of Babel. Instead, let us be united by first being humble.

As Saint Paul tells us, we must “preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” We know that Satan and his demons constantly strive to divide us. Our job is to recognize this and constantly fight to maintain the unity among us. Think of the example of a spider weaving a beautiful web. As soon as the web tears, the spider will rush to fix the tear by whatever means possible so that the web always remains beautiful and functional. This is what we have to do in our relationships and as a Church.

Uncertainty we find a division a tear, so to speak among us, we must rush for resolution by whatever means possible. Saint Paul teaches us that the best way to preserve unity is through the bond of peace.

May God grant us peace; Amen!

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