Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Tongues of Fire, pastel drawing by Tobias Mayer, 2022

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:2-4

The Pentecost experience is a reversal of the Babel experience. The earlier story represents a hostile takeover, where more powerful nations took not only the land and possessions of their conquered neighbours, but also destroyed their culture and language. The conquered people, denied their identity were simply absorbed into the conquering nation.1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.2 It was necessary for God to intervene and scatter the nations once again. Babel becomes the story of the richness and beauty—even the very necessity—of diversity, in the face of human oppression. Language brought people together, yes, but under the domination system of man. Pentecost reverses this situation, bringing people together again but this time under God, this time for the freedom of the oppressed. Pentecost is the beginning of the message of Jesus being broadcast to the whole world, jews and gentiles alike: we have more to bring us together than to keep us apart.

Both stories represent the power of the Word.

"Our ability to create is centered around our ability to communicate. Communication occurs bodily through our mouths and ears, but it is a spiritual act at it's heart. It is communion with others."3

At the time of Babel the gift of language was misused for the purpose of oppression and subjugation, hence the gift was removed. Here the gift is returned, with the expectation it will be used for good, for togetherness. That the gift arrives as tongues like as of fire is the fulfilment of John the Baptist's words recorded in Matthew and Luke, he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.4 Fire cleanses, removes all sin, allows us to start again, fresh minds, fresh voices, living a fresh, cohesive message.

1 Read the January 10th reflection, Monolith
2 Genesis 11:1
3 Pentecost, The Tower of Babel, and Self-Actualization, Patch Drury, 2017
4 Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16