Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen And Heard

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published June 9, 2011

I used Skype for the first time last week to video chat with one of our seminarians who is currently studying in Mexico. For those of you who, like myself, continue to be initiated into the 21st-century’s communication opportunities by our younger colleagues, Skype is a computer-generated video-telephone service. You can see the other person by means of a small camera mounted on the computer as you speak with them, and they, of course, can see and speak with you. The projected image reminded me of the early years of television, but like that now common household appliance, I am sure that those pictures will continue to improve and grow sharper with each succeeding development.

The countless avenues of social communications now readily available to us have made for a much smaller and more closely connected world than any of us might have imagined only a decade ago. As we will listen to the famous passage from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles this coming Pentecost Sunday, we might now chuckle at what those first disciples considered to be the far-flung world. We currently know that the globe is far vaster than any of the first-century Christians might have thought. And with the capacity that we now possess, we can speak with people and see them in places far away and yet ever so close to us because of our technological advances.

But the immense challenge of communicating the Faith in today’s world, employing a language that many different people can all understand, is still very much dependent upon the grace of the Holy Spirit. The outpouring of the Spirit upon those first disciples resulted in much more than mere technological expertise. The Holy Spirit permitted them to speak a language that was understood by the hearts of those who heard them. The Gospel is a message of truth that ultimately touches and changes the heart and soul of a person.

Last week, I was drying my hands in a local public facility when I noticed that the machine that dispenses the hand towels displayed operating instructions written in both English and Spanish. Some previous user had scratched out the Spanish text and written a highly offensive message in its place. The language of the insult was indicative of a very angry and perhaps troubled person who was attempting to express more than merely his displeasure at the bilingual set of instructions. The individual was condemning an entire segment of our people. The message revealed more about the author than perhaps he intended—the words used revealed the heart of a person who was filled with hatred, fear, insecurity, and perhaps even violence. I was saddened to see this display and even more saddened to know that somewhere out there was a person with those feelings in his heart—saddened but not completely surprised.

Pentecost is the celebration of the Church’s universality—it is the preeminent catholic feast because it highlights the all-embracing nature of our Church. The world that we live in has grown more accessible through our vast ability to reach out to people in far distant lands and across cultures and nations. We should not fear other people because they are different or speak other languages or even follow other religious traditions.

The first disciples had a message of hope and faith that they wanted to share with all those who would listen, and we possess the very same message and much more effective means of proclaiming Christ to the world. We also possess the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and therefore we know that we will ultimately be successful!

Happy Pentecost, dear brothers and sisters in Christ!