To the world you are just one person … but to one person, you can be the world
It’s difficult not to become somehow worried as we look around the world and see the number of disputes, wars and greed, displayed by a lot of countries. So, it’s important to recognise there are also many good things happening, in big & small ways, all over the world.
Today as we celebrate Pentecost, we might recall that the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles during a period of persecution and conflict. Language and words have the power to divide or unite. And actions speak even louder than words.
The long list of people speaking different languages is a sign to us that the Apostles went out into the world when there was much division between people. With the power of the Spirit working through the Apostles, each group of people felt recognised, respected and valued:
- The strangers/visitors felt more welcome/included.
- The culture of the strangers/visitors was being given respect.
- Each person felt addressed personally.
- The crowd were being united by a common message.
When we think about those four results, it opens our eyes to the reality that the Spirit can work through you and I: we don’t need to have miraculous worldly powers.
Every Baptised Christian has been given the Holy Spirit, which is confirmed and strengthened at Confirmation. We have been empowered to make a greater difference: if we want to!
In this crazy world where violence appears to be spreading everywhere, what is miraculous is when someone says: I forgive you.
In this crazy world where advertising encourages people to buy for ourselves, and seductive messages tell us that we are more important than anyone else. What is miraculous, then, is when a stranger shares what they have with those who have little or nothing.
In this crazy world where competition pushes us to climb over others to be successful, what is miraculous is when a person who is winning, stops to help a competitor who has fallen over.
The new “language” that will amaze everyone is not foreign languages, but:
- the language of welcome – even (especially?) when people are annoyed/don’t like us.
- the language of respect – learning another culture: listening and appreciating.
- the language of understanding – respect where each person is in their personal journey.
- the language of inclusiveness – inviting people to participate at their level.
The four languages above build unity: as the Catholic Church likes to say: unity in diversity. When there is unity, there will be less violence and more joy. When there is unity, there will be less division between the rich and the poor.
A major challenge for many people who may agree with the above, is the question:
Is it worth it? Will it really make a difference? I’m just one person? Even, here in Kenya, many ask themselves: what’s the point of being honest? Most are just taking if they can.
This is where our FAITH kicks in, and a good memory of those who have gone before us:
Jesus was only one “man”; the Apostles were only 12 men; our Saints are saints because they were individuals who chose to sacrifice for others.
Each of us is only one person, but with the power of the Holy Spirit within, anything is possible As the saying goes: “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” [Ref: Dr Seuss or Taylor Hanson?]
Another gentleman, Sam Childers, worked tirelessly to save children in the Sudan, said “Since that day there is nothing anyone could ever say to convince me that one person cannot change a nation. One person can do unbelievable things. All it takes is that one person who’s willing to risk everything to make it happen.” Search for his book: he used to be a violent criminal.
In the Kenya context, there is Wangari Mathaai. Every person can make a difference if we are willing to make a sacrifice: our mums and dads sacrificed for us. Can we not sacrifice for others? The world we inherit tomorrow will be shaped by what you do today. Give God a chance to make it great, by allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us in good actions.
And, finally, as I prepare this homily we are celebrating the Feast of St Eugene de Mazenod, our Founder. One man who did something, who planted a seed; and, now, Oblates are all over the world in 70+ countries bringing hope and assistance to millions of people.
What about you? If you only do things that have an immediate benefit for you, you will always be “unsatisfied”, always hungry and thirsty. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our sacrifices and investments for the good of others, then we will know true, lasting joy.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI