There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave no free, there is no male and female, for you all are on in Christ Jesus.
And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia [...], we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.
Advent season is upon us already, which has inspired me to be more vigilant about updating these devotionals (and I will try to do so every week of advent). I have now been in Sicily for almost two months, and the place and the people now feel comfortable to me. Before I came, I asked God to be with me during my time here, and he has been so faithful to me in response this request. I feel Christ's peace with me, even in situations that should make me feel anxious. It's as if I'm cradled in strong arms. I often go the hills to pray, and find the peace of the natural landscapes that surround me a boon for my meditative faith. And I've had a lot of opportunities to observe the religious aesthetics of Sicily, to marvel at both the ancient and modern iconography and piety.
But yesterday, for the first time, I got to participate in Sicilian religious experience. I met a priest and theology professor named Prete Vito, through my friend Costanza, who welcomed me into his sphere with open arms. He invited me to go sit in on one of his lectures and the Catholic Divinity School in Palermo and to meet his colleagues. I was a bit nervous anticipating the visit, as the language barrier sometimes is a hindrance. But I said a prayer that God would help me communicate and understand, and from the moment I stepped into the cloistered walls of the theology school, I comprehended and could speak relatively freely. Listening to Vito lecture about Pope Francis's ecclesiology, and listening to the comments and questions from the students, I felt a glimmer of the unity of God described in the Pentacost. I was far from speaking or understanding tongues, but my ability to understand and to feel united with the fellow theology enthusiasts was such a blessing.
In the class, there were priests in various colored robes and lay people, both men and women, from all over the world. I sat next to an ex-nun with a passion for theology from Sicily, a current priest from Colombia, and across from two priests from Tanzania and priest from France. Vito described the new pope's commitment to an evangelism that can unite the world, but also respect cultural diversity. As I sat with him afterwards at lunch in a nearby cafe, and talked for three hours in Italian (he speaks no English) about theology, ethics, and life in Sicily, we had a communion and conviviality that I can only attribute to the Spirit (certainly not to my inherent Italian skills).
This week of advent centers on hope. And I can only say that the miraculous ways that God is working in my life and bringing me people to have fellowship with, despite the linguistic and cultural barriers, are fountains of hope in my life right now. What a testament to God's awesome generosity.