Pentecost Sunday, Year A
- The Holy Spirit said: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2)
In Gen. 1:28, God tells the man and the woman to be fertile and multiply, and to fill the earth and subdue it. They have multiplied, as attested by the table of nations mentioned in Gen. 10, but they have yet to spread out across the world.
While migrating in the east, it is narrated, humans got lured into settling down in a valley in the land of Shinar. They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth” (Gen. 11:4). They thus decided against spreading the world over as God intended. But the human proposition, “Come, let us build,” was no match to the divine disposition, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language.” So, men could not continue building the city; Babel, then, became symbolic, not of unity and togetherness, but rather of division and dispersal. It was from that prideful place that God scattered human beings all over the earth.
Jesus also expects his followers to scatter all over the earth. He tells them to go into the whole world to proclaim the gospel to every creature, to make disciples of all nations, to preach to repentance all nations for the forgiveness of sins in his name (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:47). They can stay in the city only while waiting to be clothed with power from on high (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4). Once they receive the promise of the Father, the followers of Jesus will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Those who receive the Holy Spirit, then, have no choice but to spread out across the world, gifted with the ability to reach Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and other peoples, and to make one of all, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, women or men. The Holy Spirit blows them far away to distant regions and launches them into new missions. They are sent, those who are given the Holy Spirit. Thus says Jesus to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And having said this, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Clearly, the receiving of the Holy Spirit is for the sending in the way Jesus, anointed with of the Holy Spirit, was sent to bring the good news to the poor. St. Vincent de Paul, of course, took this receiving of the Holy Spirit and this sending to be his and his missionaries’ particular participation in Jesus’ ministry. And they are truly Vincentian missionaries, those who, possessed by the Spirit, do not wait or linger in the city as though the Holy Spirit has not yet been poured out. Vincentian missionaries gladly go to where they are sent. They refuse to settle down in the city in order to have pride of ownership. They are not lured by what is in the city, namely, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life (cf. Jn. 2:16). Nor are they beguiled—if I may reiterate what Carlo Carretto said in chapter 20 of The God Who Comes—by the illusions to reign, to dominate, to be strong, to be well, to have no need of anything or anybody, never to get ill, never to die, always to win. Missionaries on the go are not forgetful either of the citizenship of heaven that Christ offers (Phil. 3:20) and of the lasting heavenly city that is yet to come (Heb. 13:14).
Pentecost signals Vincentian mission. May they multiply, those who go. And may they also, like Jesus and St. Vincent, multiply loaves and fish, as they look up to heaven, give thanks and break them, so that the hungry all over the world may eat and be satisfied.