JUNE 5 marks the festival of Shavuot when the Jews remember how, from the heights of Sinai, God handed his Law down to his people cringing with fear at the bottom of the mountain.
In the Christian tradition, these days, between Ascension day last Thursday and Pentecost this Sunday, are remembered as the days when the Disciples, huddled in the Upper Room, were pondering their next move in prayer and wonder, as Jesus had instructed them to. Thus it is on the day of Shavuot some 2,000 years ago that, filled with the Holy Spirit, fearful no longer, they started proclaiming Jesus’ Good News.
And we are told that the many pilgrims come to Jerusalem from all over the known world for the festival heard the Disciples in their own tongue.
Peter referred them to an ancient promise we might like to cling on to today:
“and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
Both episodes from ancient stories suggest that our modern preoccupations and anxieties are perhaps not so new.
Both Shavuot and Pentecost, set according to lunar calendar, are moveable feasts that hover between dates in May and June as do elections in our country.
Thus the legislature – law making, deciding how to live in community – and the need for inspired leadership remain high on the agenda.
And the famed presence in Jerusalem of people speaking many languages should remind us that the whole Mediterranean basin was teaming with mixed communities from the earliest times.
A fact that had not eluded the Lord who, alert to migrant fragility, enjoined his people “you too must show love to foreigners” in the Law giving remembered on Shavuot.
Jesus, as relayed by the Apostles after Pentecost wanted the Law to shift from stone to our hearts; he might have meant taking to heart both elections per se and the stranger in our mist.