The Holy Spirit makes us polyglots

Photo: Joan Brand-Landkamer, Pentecost, St. James Cathedral, Seattle Photo: Joan Brand-Landkamer, Pentecost, St. James Cathedral, Seattle

Love is the universal language

“At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” (Acts 2:6)

Neurology has identified the area where the human brain registers and elaborates the verbal language. When that part of the brain is atrophied, we lose the ability to speak.

Babies of all races and times understand the warmth of a hug, the tenderness of a kiss from their mothers and the protective presence of their parents, before they can understand words. The language of love does not need words to be understood.

At some point in life we all probably have been in contact with a person who was born with severe brain limitations. Nevertheless a person with these limitations recognizes and reacts to the caring and sweet voice of a beloved mother, father, or someone close who has made them experience tenderness.

Love is the universal and perennial language. When the Holy Spirit, the love of God, descended upon the apostles, they were converted into polyglots. “‘We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.’ They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2:9-12)

Thanks to those polyglot apostles, the message of God’s redeeming love in our Lord Jesus Christ was preached throughout the world, speaking directly to the hearts of millions of men and women of all races without distinction.

Sin in our world and in our lives has stunted our ability to speak or understand the language of God’s love. As Christians, we need to continually ask the Holy Spirit to come upon us and make us polyglots like the apostles. This way we would be able to communicate the love of God to all nations, with the universal language of salvation.

The Holy Spirit, as an expert neurologist, knows what areas of our soul and heart are damaged. With his science, the Holy Spirit wants to, and can, heal us. That Holy Spirit, who knows all languages, wants to and can teach us to fluently speak the languages of gratitude, forgiveness, tenderness, fraternity, joy, freedom and peace.

These are the languages all humans need to speak clearly; these are the languages ​​that were confused in Babel, when we tried to replace God, instead of allowing him to keep perfecting our pronunciation and our hearing to proclaim his wonders.

Today, the possibilities of travel to other countries have increased considerably, and with this the need to learn other languages ​​has become almost a necessary tool of communication and relationship. Those of us with fewer skills to learn new languages are always looking for someone to translate and facilitate communication for us.

Following that analogy, I would say that all the men and women we call saints are those who have learned the language all human hearts understand: the language of God’s love. None of these men and women were able to master the language of God’s love effortlessly. They are men and women who experienced the frustration of not understanding others around them or the frustration of not being understood. Given the circumstances, they were forced to practice and repeat, “How do you say ‘brother/sister’? How do you say ‘count on me’? How do you say ‘I need you’? How do you say ‘together’? How do you say ‘service’? And finally, how do you say ‘family’?”      

Jesus, knowing his apostles’ lack of communication skills, sent the expert in languages: the Holy Spirit. This master has corrected and healed the linguistic or auditory distortions of hate, violence, racism, greed or envy in millions of apprentices, yet there are still many millions of others who also need to master God’s language of love.

Just as 2,000 years ago, the Lord Jesus continues to send us to preach to all nations with the same universal love language that touched, healed and trained the first disciples to communicate with everyone. Jesus knows that we are not capable of accomplishing this alone; for this reason he sends his Holy Spirit upon us — to make us polyglots, not only in contemporary languages, but also in new languages.

Today we need to speak a new language ​​of justice, inclusion, dignity, passion, mercy and purity. Only a patient master as the Holy Spirit can form us into reliable communicators shaped by him as he did with his best disciple, Mary.

Let us ask the master to send us as interpreters of his language of love throughout the world.

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - May 2018

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.

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