Language remains a vital part of the proclamation of the Gospel.
In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke narrates how on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the apostles and allowed them the ability to speak in various languages (referred to as “tongues”). He writes, “[the crowd was] confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement” (Luke 2:6-7).
This is often referred to as the gift of “speaking in tongues” or the “gift of tongues.” While it may not seem like a necessary gift in today’s world, St. Josemaria Escriva believes it can still serve a purpose in a different way.
What is the gift of speaking in tongues?
He writes in his homily on the Holy Spirit titled “The Great Unknown” how “Every generation of Christians needs to redeem, to sanctify its own time. In order to do this, we must understand and share the desires of other men — as equals — in order to make known to them, with a gift of tongues, how they are to correspond to the action of the Holy Spirit.”
Escriva continues, “We Christians are called upon to announce, in our own time, to this world to which we belong and in which we live, the message — old and at the same time new — of the Gospel.”
He urges us to announce the ancient message of the Gospel in a manner that the modern world will understand. While the core truths of the Gospel remain unchanged, it is the language used that does change in order to suit the time in which we live.
St. Paul VI was a pioneer in this regard, writing in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, that evangelizing the modern world entails giving “this necessary food and sustenance to the faith of believers, especially through a catechesis full of Gospel vitality and in a language suited to people and circumstances.”
Paul VI continues, “Evangelization loses much of its force and effectiveness if it does not take into consideration the actual people to whom it is addresses, if it does not use their language, their signs and symbols, if it does not answer the questions they ask, and if it does not have an impact on their concrete life.”
This work is ongoing, one that is difficult to accomplish without the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for this “gift of tongues,” allowing us the ability to preach the Gospel to the modern world in a language people understand, leading to a complete conversion of life.