May 14, 2024

Pentecost reflection

Pentecost reflection image

“Love is undertheorized.” This sentiment proclaimed and illumined at the Loyola Marymount University Spring Chorale in LMU’s Sacred Heart Chapel on the Friday, April 26, 2024, by Bryant Keith Alexander was then expanded upon by John Legend, commencement speaker at the LMU Undergraduate Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 4, 2024. The sentiment speaks to the heart of Pentecost and what we must do to, in the words of the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation, realize the day when “heaven is wedded to earth and reconciled to God.” Bryant Keith spoke of love unabashedly, holistically, and with great inclusivity. John Legend spoke of the same with emphasis on three types of love: eros, philia, and agape; romantic, friendship, and unconditional (God’s) love, with an overarching form of love linked to a human empathy that connects our joint humanity every day, and especially in trying times.

On Pentecost Sunday, Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2, verses 1-11 will be proclaimed to us. This is the word of God we will hear in the first reading spoken from every Catholic and many Protestant pulpits, lecterns, and ambos on Pentecost Sunday. It is a beautiful intercultural, interfaith, interracial, interdenominational story given to us this day as a remembrance that we are all children of God regardless of who we are, from where we come, to which political allegiance we cling, and to whom we claim as country and king. This reading remembers us to our mooring that we are first, foremost and forever citizens of this world and disciples of Christ.

We will all hear these words from Acts 2:1-11 on Pentecost Sunday:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
"Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
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."

This is a beautiful story and proclamation of God’s word. However, this excerpted reading falls just two verses short of illustrating a comprehensive understanding of the euphoria the individuals of this incredibly diverse gathering of people experienced in that moment – this people gathered to hear the word proclaimed and who heard, each in their own language and dialect. How could this be possible?

The two verses that follow and those which were left out of the Lectionary contextualize everything for us. The two missing verses speak of a love that is completely and totally incomprehensible to skeptics and cynics whose eyes have not yet been opened and whose ears have not yet heard the invitation. In fact, the two missing verses are emblematic and descriptive of the undertheorizing of the meaning and intent of love, and of the Love we encounter in our daily walk in this world.

The verses that follow Acts 2:11, verses 12 and 13, complete the story by telling us:

They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?”
But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.”

How could it be possible? Clearly, we are intoxicated. We are punch drunk. With love. By love. For love. Of love. Love made it possible then and love makes it possible for us to hear one another’s hearts today.

How many times in our own lives have we reacted negatively and cynically when we witness what appears to be a naïve and blind love? How many times have we seen people who appear to be in love, but because we think we have lived more betrayals and disappointments than they have and can see in our mind’s eye how they will eventually topple, stumble, and eventually fall out of and be betrayed – by love?

How often have we forgotten that moment in time or that season of life when we fell into a love that was so deep and inexpiable that it was beyond our own comprehension? How did we forget that euphoric moment?

We want and yearn to be the people of verses 1-11 and we so want not to be the cynics of verse 13. Verses 12 and 13 are the mirror we need to constantly hold up to our own selves so that we can remind ourselves to, in Pedro Arrupe’s words, fall in love and stay in a love that will decide everything. Let us be so in love that those who don’t yet know us will be so curious as to want to know what intoxicates and consumes us.

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love; stay in love, and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupé, S.J.