Friday, June 10, 2011

Wear Red on Pentecost Sunday

“And there appeared to them tongues as of fire” Acts 2:3

Pentecost Sunday.

For Catholics, we have many liturgical traditions that help underscore the seasons of the church and our spiritual life. Wearing red is one those traditions. It is tradition with a little “t” – not required but encouraged and it can be fun.

I sometimes forget but I make sure I wear red every time I remember. The reddest shirt I can find! I have this one Hawaiian shirt that I like to wear because it is very red with some orange in it too that almost looks like waves of flame! (OK, sometimes you have to squint to see the flames and I have to move up and down but then you see it fine.)

When I do forget and I look out over the church and see all the red shirts and dresses and ties and scarves…I admit it…I get a little mad at myself for forgetting. It is almost like a missed opportunity.

For non-Catholics, this may all seem rather silly. Another thing to criticize but I think they miss the greater meaning that lies beneath the red shirts.

The reading of Pentecost talks about the story of how the disciples were all together at one place waiting. Waiting for the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised would come to them. They were afraid because the authorities that had ordered Jesus crucified would have also ordered their death. They were confused because how could anything be good enough to follow Jesus? But they were also faithful. It did not make sense to them but Jesus told them to wait and so they waited.

“And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4)

This would have been amazing enough but that was not all. In Jerusalem at that time happened to be devout men from every nation. Coincidence? I have learned to give up on the idea of coincidence a long time ago. This was all part of God’s greater plan.

So these devout mean heard this tremendous sound and came to see what had happened. To their amazement, the Galileans - the bubbas of their time – suddenly came out speaking in each of these men’s languages!

How could this be? Uneducated, uncouth, Galilean bubbas suddenly speaking in the native tongues of Par'thians and Medes and E'lamites and residents of Mesopota'mia, Judea and Cappado'cia, Pontus and Asia, Phryg'ia and Pamphyl'ia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyre'ne, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – all understanding them!

More amazing though was what they were saying. These devout men from every nation could hear these Galileans telling in their own tongues the mighty works of God. These Galileans who minutes ago were cowering in fear were suddenly boldly going out proclaiming the mighty works of God to the most devout men of their age!

They were no longer afraid. And many of them would be willing to go to their martyrdom proclaiming their faith to the end. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. That it can move us beyond ourselves if only we are willing to be faithful.

That is why we wear red on Pentecost. To remind ourselves that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and that this outward sign is also a call to action - if only we are willing to listen and obey. We are not to cower in fear but to be bold in our faith and to act out our faith everyday. Modeling our actions after Jesus is the native tongue that crosses all languages and culture because kindness and compassion are universally understood.

Our actions are the clearest way to declare the mighty works of God because we are the mighty works of God.

So wear Red on Pentecost Sunday! I’ll be the one in the Hawaiian shirt moving up and down.

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