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Diary of the Ghetto Priest | Pentecost, the poor speaking in tongues

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor taking care of the poor and needy.


The Holy Spirit sent me on a mission 37 years ago to leave all behind - all that is familiar, comfortable, but also mediocre.

"Go to the farthest end of the world and baptise all people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

South side Kingston was the farthest and most forgotten in Kingston, Jamaica. The homeless and destitute at Eventide were the most alien and alienated of all people. The prisoners at Gun Court were the most feared of all our citizens. The ghetto and gunmen were the most dangerous of all people.

So we went among such people as our first choice as Missionaries of the Poor. We wanted to obey the word of God. The Lord rewarded us, and we grew. We wanted to offer such folk the love of God, and the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thank God for giving us such spirituality.




So here we are now at Good Shepherd! Sixty-five homeless and destitute men. They are speaking in tongues! They mumble, they grumble, they laugh, they shout, and each in his own language. I don't really understand them, but they seem to understand each other. They chuckle away as they murmur and grin. They are sweeping the floor, others are wiping the tables, another set is cleaning the toilets. The TV is on.

The cripples and disabled are looking at a video of King David shown at the National Arena two years ago. One comes and hugs me warmly with a wide grin and toothless mouth. Another wants to sit me down.

An elderly man calls, "Come fadda, give me a blessing."

Another says, "Me want some wata."

A third one wants to go to the toilet. What a rainbow of different colours!

Every tongue, every gift, every person, wherever we are all over the world; every colour, every class, every child and adult have within them a longing for the Lord, and this longing is fulfilled by Jesus at the time of Pentecost. Even among our down's syndrome and blind!

Our homeless have the same desire for the Lord as everyone else. Each day after work in the morning, they sing revival songs, they pray, they say the Rosary. Joined together in Christ. They are a real brotherhood of homeless and destitute men.

Who makes this community of the poor and forgotten happen? The Holy Spirit! I don't know how they communicate, but they understand each other very well, they pray together, they work together. Is it just that the spiritual thrust towards Christ and their shared poverty, struggles and suffering unite them? Or, is it just another type of intelligence they have of everyone gained from intuition? They certainly seem to understand others more than a lot of intelligent people.

Pentecost, the 50th day after Jesus is risen from the dead, signals Christ ascended into heaven, and one week later sent down the fire of inspiration, the Holy Spirit issuing from Christ Himself - to unite many into one as the poor and forgotten seem able to do.




With the coming of the Holy Spirit, no longer is the Saviour Jesus Christ limited in the space and time. But He has poured out His Spirit that like the wind can blow everywhere, or, be like the blazing sunlight, which can permeate the whole world he inspires everyone, no longer limited by time and space; Jesus can be everywhere through the Holy Spirit and fill the earth with His presence, calling all to Himself to receive His life anywhere, no matter who we are, no matter how different or where we are in the furthest corner of the world.

On the day near Pentecost June 4, 2017, I feel that a special gift has been given to me. For almost 35years, I have not had day-to-day contact with our poorest of people. Every day has been work - getting food, begging money, teaching, preaching, planning, working on our music and productions. It's all important work to make this community happen among the poor.

But I received renewed grace again today. Leave not the beatitudes. Go back to the beginning -work at our centres. Experience day by day the presence of God among the poorest of Jamaicans. You will find joy in that.

I listened and obeyed; and a deep sense of the Beatitudes enflamed me. I want to go there day after day.

God, help me give me back the simplicity required to enjoy the life of God and the life of the poor, which I truly believe provides the joy and peace and contentment of Pentecost.