Before I arrived here in the United States, I read and heard a lot about the multicultural nature of this great country. But when I came here, I really discovered that the culture is more diverse than I heard or ever imagined. People of different countries and cultures and ancestries. I have also been hearing people talk about different communities here in the country. You could see different restaurants with varying traditional cuisine. I really do not know if there is a more diverse country in the world than this country. If you walk through any of the main streets of the city, or even travel on a bus into town, you will immediately be struck by the number of different languages that are being spoken all around you. Such diversity of language, culture and race is to be welcomed as potentially very enriching for us all.
I was reminded of all that by the first reading of today’s feast. There appears to have been a very multicultural dimension to that first Pentecost. Even though all those present in Jerusalem on that day were Jews, they were Jews from all over the Roman Empire. The reading today says that they spoke different languages but were still able to hear one another. The first fruit of the Spirit’s outpouring on those early followers of Jesus was the bringing together of peoples who would normally be divided by language and culture. It was as if the Holy Spirit enabled them to discover a fundamental unity among themselves, in spite of the great differences between them. In the words of today’s second reading, they came to realize that through the Spirt they could now address God as Abba Father, as Jesus himself did; they came to a deeper appreciation that they were all sons and daughters of the one God, the Father of Jesus Christ.
We are all very aware that in the world in which we live, the blowing up of bridges can be more to the fore than the building of them. Some people seem intent on driving deeper and deeper wedges between those already estranged. We can shut out people simply because they are different to us. We can view their difference from us as a threat rather than as a potential enrichment. However, today’s first reading suggests that a language of the Spirit; a way of doing things very different from how we normally do them can be an expression of the Spirit. The Spirit comes to us in a whole variety of unexpected guises. Like the people of different nations and languages in today’s first reading, we can be amazed and astonished at how the Spirit is attempting to communicate with us.