Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11: “…tongues as of fire parted and came to rest on each one of them…and they began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim…We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
First Corinthians: “…There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same God; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone … As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
The Gospel According to John: “…when Jesus had said this, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Here we are at Pentecost with readings speaking to us of body parts, fire, breath and forgiveness.
I am more and more aware of my body parts these days and how much I took them for granted in the past, how little attention I paid them when I was younger, and how little I may have valued each for the particular way in which it helped the entire ‘me’ to function as I was meant to. If you think opposable thumbs are simply the product of an evolutionary sequence, try opening a jar of anything when those thumbs are arthritic! The big toe is such a small part of our body, yet a cracked toe impacts how the entire body feels, and the complete absence of that toe causes major balance problems. Nostril hairs, so small and seemingly insignificant, capture and filter foreign particles from entering the nasal cavity and help prevent infection, which negatively impacts the whole. The pineal gland, the smallest gland in our body, produces and regulates hormones such as melatonin, which in turn helps regulate our circadian sleep patterns. We don’t pay much attention to that until those nights we struggle for rest. Our bodies contain 206 bones and over 600 muscles, along with glands and nerves and blood vessels and organs, each of them designed for a particular function – sometimes working individually but usually collaboratively and always impacting the whole. Our souls live in a complex house of diversity and beauty! What if I, what if we, treated our bodies with the reverence they deserve, as sacred vessels holding millions of little miracles?
What if we treated the body of Christ, the body of the Spirit, the body of God with the reverence and sanctity with which we were created?
What if we looked with awe upon the moon and sun, the waters we try to control, the air we pollute, the insects and birds and trees and stars and all manner of vegetation? What if we saw them as our sisters and brothers, as parts of the body of the Divine Creator, rather than as resources at our disposal?
What if we read Acts like this: “We are South Africans, and Guatemalans, Mexicans, and Swedes; we are Americans, Serbs, Chinese and Indian; we are inhabitants of New York and Amsterdam, Quebec City, N’Djamena, and Hanoi; we are travelers from New Zealand and Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lichtenstein; we are First Nation peoples and indigenous of every nation; we are Christians, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish, we are people of all faiths and of no claimed faith; we are Nuns and Nones; we are all people of color; we are LGBTQ, heterosexual and gender fluid; we are people of every ability and gift; we are all – every single being - creatures of the One Creator, reflections of the Holy and Divine. We are one family.
Maybe if we could do this, we would rethink the responsibility Jesus gave us when he said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.” When we remember that we are one in the image and likeness of God, we must also remember that the power Jesus gives to the accuser is also given to the accused. Gives me pause.
Maybe if we could do this, we would see that we are mirrors of each other.
Maybe if we could do this, we would offer compassion and forgiveness in the measure we desire and need it.
What if we breathed in the Holy Spirit and saw ourselves as small yet very significant parts of the body of Christ, the body of Creation? What if we recognized that when one part is wounded, the entire body is wounded? What if we honored each part as essential to our lives and to all life?
Come, Holy Spirit, Come…
Sister Kathy Flynn, OP, Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters