This past Sunday we celebrated the feast of Pentecost. The Christian holy day of Pentecost, which occurs fifty days after Easter Sunday, celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles while they were in Jerusalem, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31). The reading from Acts describes the Holy Spirit coming to rest on the head of each of the Apostles and “they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech” (Acts 2:4). The chapter goes on to describe how people from every nation were gathered and could hear the Apostles speaking in their language. This passage has always intrigued me, as I reflected on the meaning and the miracle. To be able to be understood by the other means that we have the empathy to enter into their space, to see the world from their perspective. Perhaps the miracle is that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are more likely to open our hearts and our minds to the other, and so be in a position where a relationship can be built. Can you imagine the intermingling of people in Jerusalem at the time, all being able to understand one another?
I recently had the privilege of attending the Catholic Secondary Principals’ Conference and to listen to, and learn from, world-class speaker Dr Anna Rowlands. The focus of the presentations by Dr Rowlands was on Catholic Social Teaching (CST) For Our Time. Dr Rowlands presented the argument that Catholic Social Teaching in our present contexts reflects a theology of identity – what it means for people to be recognised, and for our response to be “I see you, I hear you, I am here”. In particular, her presentation on CST and the Migrant was both powerful and moving. She used the work of Pope Francis to explain how we should be oriented towards the other. From Pope Francis’ teachings, we should understand that the task of theology is to be comfortable with the other and that the other is God – a God who stands for difference, transcendence, relationship and communion.
Pope Francis distilled his teachings in four verbs – our duty towards the other is:
In essence, our duty is one of justice, civility and solidarity. Dr Rowlands challenged us to evaluate how our communities, societies and our country measure up.