Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles who were united in prayer. St. Luke describes this experience in the Acts of the Apostles as a strong wind that filled the upper room where the disciples were gathered, and as tongues of fire that appeared on each one of them. The Evangelist also tells us about other tongues: when the Apostles went out to preach the Good News with zeal and boldness, all those who heard them were astonished by the fact that, although they came from different countries, they could still understand the message proclaimed, each one in his native tongue.
Thus, the Feast of Pentecost is also a celebration of the gift of unity which the Holy Spirit brings. He brings together people who speak different languages, who come from different cultures, and puts them in contact with those who witness to the Risen Christ. As a result, all can experience the power of God, which transcends the sad divisions between them. The Holy Spirit is not one who imposes a rigid uniformity that chokes up diversity. He is like a holy dew that shines on the different plants and flowers of the Garden of Creation, without destroying or eradicating their God-given uniqueness.
This understanding of Pentecost urges and inspires us to work together in building up an inclusive society that welcomes diversity as a great gift of the Creator’s Spirit. As members of the Catholic Church, a faith community that grows from ancient roots, but always embraces a diversity of cultures and languages, we have a golden opportunity to witness to love, which is the universal language that everyone can understand. These days, sadly, we can see how pride, prejudices and hatred often lead to exclusion, destruction and even senseless murders in our pluralistic society. The Christian response to these tragedies is love. Love leads to the building up of the human family. Love restores the original unity and peace that God created for us to enjoy. Love can build bridges that help us to cross over the abyss of racism, of xenophobia, of all kinds of prejudice and fear.
In the last 182 years, the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria has been a spiritual home to countless families of immigrants, refugees and foreigners. Together, they built up this community and left us with a rich Catholic legacy that still benefits our generation. Worshiping and journeying together as diverse people is not easy, but thanks to the Holy Spirit who has blessed us with the common language of love, unity is always a proud hallmark of our parish family. Today, it is our mission to witness to this gift.
“Veni Creator Spiritus!” Today the Church fervently prays, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shalt renew the face of the earth!” Let us pray that our hearts may be set ablaze with love for everyone, including all who speak different tongues among us.
Happy Pentecost to all!
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham