Language is a powerful tool that we take for granted every day. It’s the bedrock of our communication with God, each other, the world around us, and even ourselves. It can be used to divide or to unite. Yet, it is Jesus who IS the definitive Word and the ultimate power of communication.
All creation has a language. Many are vocalized. Others can only be understood after years of study and observation, but even then, we can only guess at what another creature’s language truly means. Human communication can be expressed through gestures and facial expressions in addition to the spoken word. Our language has put a label on what something is: a cat, a dog, a table, etc., but the name of something doesn’t describe its nature or purpose. You can ask another person what a cat is, and they may point to a cat, but if you ask them what is the difference between a cat and a dog, words are needed to convey the differences. We can get philosophical about asserting the differences between two things to the point of arguing about anything and everything.
As early as the first verse in John’s Gospel, Jesus is identified as the “Word of God.” It is through Jesus that we see concretely that words have the power to heal — physically and spiritually. In forgiving sinners, Jesus often healed their physical maladies as an outward sign of what had taken place internally. The words of Jesus conveyed life, sometimes even in the physical reversal of death. Perhaps most spectacularly, the words a priest uses daily to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus were the single most powerful words He ever uttered. Only God has the power to transform and transubstantiate anything as Divine. Yet Jesus not only did this, but also gave His Apostles the ability to do the same.
Humanity, in its fallen nature, wants to separate and divide everything. But God’s plan is one of unity. At Pentecost, the birthday of the Church starts with the preaching of the Apostles, who most likely had only traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem, and were heard to be speaking in languages from around the known Roman world. The core of the Good News is meant, not just for a chosen few, but for everyone. Even to this day, everyone has an opportunity to know and worship God in their own language.
Jesus continues to speak to us today in the Gospels, the sacraments, and in our daily lives. Do we listen for Him? Do we allow His powerful Word to shape and transform us? Or do we use our own language to push Him away so that we can forge a path of our own making, separating ourselves from God as well as one another?
This Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost, let us recognize that the conclusion of the Easter season is not just another day. Let us invite the Holy Spirit into our lives and our very selves, asking for the Word of God to be alive in our hearts, our minds, our words, and our actions. Let our participation in the Eucharistic feast help sustain our relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.