At some point in their development, children become interested in knowing what life was like before they were born. In our family, the children enjoy watching our wedding video. During the reception, while the video camera was rolling, my brother-in-law Regis—who died suddenly and unexpectedly thirteen years ago—left Colleen and me the following message: “I hope you take the love that you’ve been blessed with from God and make it grow exponentially. Take the love that you have for each other and share it with everyone. Open up the flower of your love and spread it like a virus.”
When we were first created in God’s image and likeness, Scripture tell us that “the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). We have the breath of God’s divine life flowing in and through us right now! The question we must all ask ourselves is, Does God’s Holy Spirit living in us make any difference in how we think, how we act, and how we live? Is Jesus Christ the heart and the center of our lives from Monday to Saturday as He is for an hour on Sunday?
In the story of the Tower of Babel, we see that when the people lived in loving obedience to God’s holy will there was harmony, community and peace. But when they began to build their city and “a tower with its top in the heavens, and so make a name for themselves” apart from God, there was confusion, isolation, and discord (Genesis 11: 4).
We are living in the Babel of the 21st century. The culture says to us over and over again, and in many different ways, “let us make a name for ourselves apart from God,” but instead of building a tower, we build abortion clinics. We build a multi-billion dollar pornography industry. We build new definitions of marriage. We build a society where poverty flourishes. We build a culture of dehumanization and death where children are sold as sex slaves and the elderly are euthanized.
Saint Paul gives us hope: “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now, but the Spirit comes to our aid and intercedes […] for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Romans 8:22-27). We see this clearly in the birth of the Church at Pentecost, which is in stark contrast to Babel.
In the city of Babel, the people were gathered together in community, much like the Apostles were gathered “all in one place together.” In Babel, the people chose their own spirit instead of the Holy Spirit and their language became confused; they could not understand each other and their community collapsed as they were scattered to the ends of the earth. Conversely, the Apostles receive God’s Holy Spirit and they begin to speak in different languages, but now with clarity and understanding “as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Instead of confusion and disunity, the Spirit-filled Apostles now are equipped to take the Gospel message to the ends of the earth; to build and strengthen the Body of Christ by word and sacrament; to establish Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church!
“‘No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit’” (1 Corinthians 12:3). God the Father sends the Holy Spirit to meet us, to awaken and ignite the fire of faith within us. Our journey to eternal life does not begin when we die, but here and now in our own reception of the Spirit, our own Pentecost. As we live each day of our lives, let us be mindful of the presence of the Holy Spirit and pray to the Lord as David did: “A clean heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me; do not cast me away from your presence nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit” (Psalm 51: 10-11). “If we love one another, God dwells is us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. The way we know we remain in him and He in us is that he has given us his own Spirit” (1 John 4:12-13).
My prayer is that you take the love that you’ve been blessed with from God in your baptism and make it grow exponentially. Take the love that you have for Jesus Christ, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, share it with everyone: don’t keep it to yourself! Open up the flower of your love and spread it like a virus.