Charlemagne said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” While Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Today’s first reading talks about the transformation of Jesus’ disciples caused by the descent of the Holy Spirit. It narrates how the disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” The disciples are enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak different languages. People of different nationalities hear them speak their own native tongues, and they can understand them. They are surprised to hear the disciples being able to address them in their own language. It is the Holy Spirit that enables them to do so.
The capacity to speak in different languages is one of the marks of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in our life. Of course, we are not only talking about the languages of Filipino, English, Spanish, French, German… Tagalog, Ilocano, Bicolano, Cebuano, Ilonggo. With the Holy Spirit in us, we are to proclaim the Good News of God’s love. This must be our response to the Solemnity we celebrate today – Pentecost. Cardinal Tagle tells us how we are to make its celebration meaningful and relevant: “We should explore the different languages of love.”
With the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to speak the languages of love. Through the language of smile and warmth we communicate friendship and hospitality. Through the language of helping and serving hands we manifest concern for our neighbor. Through the language of presence and tears we express empathy and compassion. Through the language of gentle touch we convey tender loving care. Through the language of affirmation and appreciation we speak of and impart blessings. Through the language of stewardship and ministry we express our profound gratitude to God.
Such language of love – the language of friendship and fellowship, of goodness and kindness, of care and concern, of generosity and sharing, of trust and faith, of mercy and forgiveness, of healing and reconciliation, of service and ministry, of compassion and charity… such language of love is understood by everyone. Such language, no matter how simple, speaks of God’s love. It communicates and passes on grace – making God’s love visible, audible, and tangible. It makes Christ’s saving love present today and a concrete reality in the lives of people. It is understood by everyone who is sad and lonely. It is taken in by everyone who is in need and deprived. It is grasped by everyone who is afflicted and suffering. It is comprehended in by everyone who is confused, insecure, and troubled. It is accepted by everyone who is searching for meaning and fulfillment in life. When we have the Holy Spirit, we can speak and explore different languages to address people of different needs.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised his disciples that he would send them power – the Holy Spirit. And now, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, that promise is fulfilled. This is what we celebrate this Pentecost Sunday: the Holy Spirit being given to each of us, empowering us to speak the language of love.
Today’s celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost is a call to let the Holy Spirit be of greater influence in our lives. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to translate this language of love into something concrete – something that people can hold on to during this pandemic and can take away their worries, fears, and anxieties… something that makes people realize that God is with them and experience the divine providence in their lives… something that will counter the culture of violence being promoted by the powers-that-be.
One of the manifestations of the coming of the Holy Spirit is that the disciples, who used to be fearful and cowardly in giving witness to Christ, now begin talking about Christ. They start boldly proclaiming Jesus and giving witness to his self-giving love. Pentecost must have the same impact on us: We must be filled with courage to proclaim Jesus and to speak the language of his love.