A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

The decade of the sixties was a turbulent time.  we noticed many examples of corporate greed; dissatisfaction with an unpopular war in Vietnam; the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  There were too many questions, but not enough answers.

During this period, folk music came into importance because it used the imagination to “offer” plausible solutions to potentially unanswerable questions.  One of the folk song artists who found a following was Bob Dylan.  His signature song became, “Blowing in the wind.”  If I recall correctly, each verse asked a potentially unaswerable question, for example, “How many deaths will it take before we know that too many people have died?”  And the repetitive answer to that and each following question was “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”

I propose to you, that we who are faced with many seemingly unanswerable moral questions, can presume the same answer.  Namely, “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”  However, the wind I am suggesting is not general idea of wind as an ethereal entity, but rather the Holy Spirit.

What’s that you say?  Let us examine the first reading for the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11).  Three images come clearly into focus:  Wind, Tongue, and Fire.

First, the image of wind.  The reading states early on “…a noise from heaven, like a strong wind swaying along…”  The wind is certainly active and comes from heaven.

No doubt the readers see the wind as reminding them of the Ruah YHWH (the Spirit of God) found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) as being active.  There are several examples, but two are helpful.

There is the mention in Genesis (1:2-3) that a wind (ruah in Hebrew) from God “swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  The Spirit of God is effective.

Another illstration is from the book of Judges (6:34).  The text reads, “But the spirit (ruah YHWH) from the Lord took possession of Gideon…”   Once again, the Spirit of God is effective, because Gideon was able to act on behalf of the Israelite people.  A better translation for spirit (ruah) is “the creative power of God.”  Hence the Spirit of God is active.

Second, the image of tongues.  Tongues of fire appeared over the heads of those disciples present at that first Pentecost.  Why tongues?  Because one preaches the message of the risen Jesus by means of the tongue.  Preaching Jesus to others was part of the commissioning given to the disciples.

Icon of the Pentecost

Icon of the Pentecost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Third, the image of fire.  Fire symbolizes that one is burning with desire and consumned with energy to preach the message of Jesus which is the promotion of  justice, the dissemination of compassion, and forgiveness.

What this means for us is that as the disciples received the Holy Spirit (the creative power of God) at Pentecost, so we have received the Holy Spirit at our Baptism.  And since reception of the creative power of God means carrying the work of preaching and teaching the Jesus message to others, we must do all that we can to remember the responsibilities of our Baptism.

So that when we are confronted with potentially unanswerable moral questions, we should keep in mind that “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”  That is, the Holy Spirit which is the creative power of God. 







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