Tag Archives: languages

Unity in Diversity

June 9, 2019

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A while back I worked at a parish that had a tradition of reading the Mass readings in a variety of different languages on Pentecost Sunday.  This tradition points us to the first reading from Acts where it says, “At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”

The tragedy of the tower of Babel separated us by language. In Genesis 11:1-9 God looks down from heaven and sends his angels to confound the common language of his creation. People are attempting to make it to heaven with a man-made tower. God confuses their language so that they are no longer able to understand each other’s speech. The Pentecost event in Acts is a reversal of this confusion. The confusion of the Tower of Babel has been reversed through the Holy Spirit!

We live in a society where differences and diversity are celebrated. Our uniqueness is never in doubt in God’s eyes, after all, he knew us when we were formed in the womb. I worry that if our goal is to celebrate our differences, then we maybe have lost the message of unity.

In my home parish, I was witness to a consolidation of three churches forming one parish. The French, Irish, and German churches still stood and practiced the faith with their own identities.  Even though the French, Gallic and German languages were no longer spoken at these parishes, which were just blocks from each other, the separation that was once based on language continued and the grasps to this old culture were there just the same.

The transition to becoming one church was a difficult one for many members. It forced many to sacrifice control and to let go of an earthly identity that kept them separate. How can we be “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” church when we let our earthly identities keep us separate?  But spiritual growth and transition came when we let go of our control to allow “God’s will be done.” Amazingly, even just a year after the consolidation, a new growth and unity was formed! No longer did the national cultures of the churches separate us. We were one!

Today’s celebration reminds us to celebrate our unity in our diversity and not let cultural differences keep us separate, but to embrace the universality of the church.   When we identify as something other than the whole of the Catholic Church (and catholic means universal) , it creates division. We are an ancient church and a modern one; we are a Vatican II church and a Council of Nicene Church. We are a church with a history but are moving into the future!

Pope Francis shared in one of his daily homilies a few years back, “I ask you to do everything possible to not destroy the Church with divisions; they are ideological, they come from greed and ambition, they come from jealousy. And above all to pray, and to keep the founts, the very roots of the unity of the Church, which is the Body of Christ; which we, every day, celebrate [in] His sacrifice in the Eucharist.”

It is our earthly language that separates us, but it is the heavenly language that unifies us. The language of love. 

Question to ponder: What areas do you need to sacrifice control over so that you may more fully say “yes” to the Holy Spirit? 

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