THE LANGUAGE OF THE SPIRIT
(A biblical refection on the PENTECOST SUNDAY, 20 May 2018)
First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Psalms: Psalm 104:1,24,29-34; Second Reading: Galatians 5:16-25; Gospel Reading: John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
The Scripture Text
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:1-11 RSV)
A group of dispirited followers of Jesus had gathered and locked themselves in an upper room, probably the same room where the last supper was held. There was more perspiration than inspiration in the room. There was fear and suspicion. The room was occupied by a group of followers who were afraid that they would suffer the same fate as their Master. So they listened to every step on the stair; they waited for the knock of the executioner; they prayed that no one would discover their hiding-place and that the world leave them safe in their sacred enclosure.
In contrast there is the powerful image of the Holy Spirit as one who is not shy of the boundaries and the barriers that people erect. He is not halted by locked doors or locked hearts; He doesn’t exclude Himself from the restrictive areas people settle in. When the Spirit comes, it is not like a spring breeze that whispers unnoticed through a room; it is more like a hurricane that lays flat all the precious protections against its force. And the Spirit takes this group of dispirited followers and fires them with a new energy and a new enthusiasm and a new authority.
The presence of the Spirit makes the disciples open their lives to others: they don’t just decorate their sacred enclosure, they leave it and pass over into the lives of other people with the gifts of Gospel and peace and forgiveness.
The disciples go outdoors. They go to the market-place where people gather and there they proclaim to all how they have been changed by the power of the Spirit. They tell a Magnificat and proclaim how God has worked wonders in them. At first the crowds think that the apostles are drunk – no doubt because they’re sure it takes some kind of spirit to transform these men. Whatever it is, everyone acknowledges that something happened to dramatically change the outlook and behaviour of the followers of Jesus. The name of that experience is Spirit.
The crowd’s second reaction is a joyous one when they realize that the apostles are speaking their language. Perhaps we’ve all heard people say to us in a mixture of relief and enthusiasm: “Now you’re speaking my language!” When that happens there is communion, where before there had only been misunderstanding and division. The apostles got through to people, they spoke the deep language that is in all of us and which rarely gets spoken. It is the language in search of understanding; it is music in search of a melody. Saint Paul spoke of it as inarticulate groaning, the cry of the spirit within us. The apostles reach people in this profound language. It is the language of the Spirit.
Source: Denis McBride, CSsR, SEASONS OF THE WORD, Britain: Redemptorist Publications, 1991 (third printing September 1993), pages 162-163.
Prayer: Father of light, from whom every good gift comes, send Your Holy Spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind, and by the flame of Your wisdom open the horizons of our minds. Loosen our tongues to sing Your praise in words beyond the power of speech, for without Your Holy Spirit man could never raise His voice in words of peace or announce the truth that Jesus is Lord, who lives and reign with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 19 May 2018
A Christian Pilgrim