Fifty days after Easter, the spirit gave the apostles the power to speak in the languages of all the peoples.
It is a reversal of the story of the Tower of Babel. In that story, we tried to become like Gods by building a tower to the heavens. We were cursed to misunderstand and mistranslate. We would be caught in perpetual confusion, a consequence of our audacity. The source of violence in human culture was named: pride and misunderstanding – competition with the Gods for power.
Yet in this week’s reading, the spirit brings people together. Language to understand and comprehend rather than divide. The most holy work, in this case, is one of translation. And translation requires charity, because no translation is ever perfect.
Our age, however, has so compressed time and space that comprehension becomes very challenging: in part because there is too much to comprehend; and our words move exceptionally fast. Add that the same youtube video seen by people of two completely different cultures may be translated completely differently.
What characteristics do we need to handle our contemporary problems of “translation?”
First: we should remember that church – or any institution – should be an adventure. Charting new territories is fun and rewarding. Safety, quick solutions, and fads just postpone the inevitable.
Second – Tenacity: keeping attentive to the different ways we can improve. It means, also, plotting out small steps. A big vision is very useful, but it is also to map our small successes along the way. tenacity is how one learns a language – we are willing to keep speaking, even if we make a mistake. We listen carefully so that we can be sure we understand.
Last: listening. It is perhaps most true that the apostles were not just speaking in the language of the people, they were listening to the world.
There are immense difficulties here at St. Barts. And yet, there are also great opportunities. Let it be an adventure; and may we be both steadfast and resilient in the days ahead.