GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The third and final element I want to highlight here has to do with the speaking in tongues, because this is one I get questions about all the time.
The reason being is that if you look in the letters of St. Paul, especially in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14, Paul will talk about speaking “in tongues.”
He used the Greek word glossolalia. Glōssa
meaning tongue, lalia
is to speak.
So speaking in tongues is something Paul will talk about.
And Paul, although this is debated too, seems to be referring to a kind of supernatural speech, an undecipherable language that requires a gift of the Holy Spirit even to be able to interpret it, or to be able to understand it.
Now if that's what Paul's talking about, and again that's debated, but let's just consider that to be the majority interpretation for now, and it is, there is a difference between what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians and what Luke is describing here in Acts, because in context, what Luke appears to be describing here is not an indecipherable language, like a spiritual language, but rather a supernatural gift of being able to speak in other human languages and be heard as such so that the gospel can be proclaimed to all nations.
You can actually see this if you look carefully at Acts 2:8 there when it says — if you go back to the reading — each of the people gathered says “how is it that we hear each of us in his own native language.”
And the Greek there is idia dialketō, we get the word dialect from that.
So they are each hearing them in their own dialect, they're hearing them in their own language, even though they have been from all these different nations here.
So what appears to be going on here is that the Apostles have been given the gift of speaking in tongues, which is just the Greek word for other languages, like a foreign tongue means a foreign language, so that the good news can be proclaimed to all the nations of the world.
So that appears to be what is going on here in Acts 2, which I mentioned this in previous videos, but just as a side note, is a kind of undoing of the Tower of Babel, in which humanity was divided through the multiplication of languages; so now the Holy Spirit is going to reunify humanity through the church.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
This is really interesting. You'll notice that although Paul emphasizes there are varieties of gifts, there are lots of different spiritual gifts, lots of different charismatic gifts in the Church, it's always the one Spirit, the same Spirit, who's the author and animator of them all, right? So he says:
"there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one."
Now, you might miss the allusion, but if you were a Jew in the first century and you were hearing these words of Paul, it might make you think of another passage in Scripture that emphasizes the oneness of God, and that's the Shema, right? So, the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy. Basically, the Shema was a kind of creed of the Jews that they would repeat several times a day.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”
So, it's emphasizing the oneness of God. And Paul's taking that emphasis on the oneness of God, but here he's applying it to the Spirit. It's the same spirit. It's the same Lord. It's the same God. Oh, that's interesting. The spirit, the Lord and God. What does that make you think of? It should make you think of the Holy Spirit, Christ the Son, who's the Lord. When Paul uses the word Lord, he invariably is referring to Jesus. And then God. So Paul, again, when he uses the word God, if you look at it in context, that's his preferred term for speaking about God the Father. So there's an implicit reference in this passage itself to the three persons of the Trinity. The Spirit, the Holy Spirit. The Lord, Jesus Christ the Son. And then God, God the Father. So it's so powerful that on this Feast of Pentecost, which is where we celebrate the public manifestation and revelation of the third person of the Trinity, of the Holy Spirit, that the Church chooses for us a passage from Paul's letters where we have an implicit reference to the three persons of the Holy Spirit, here in First Corinthians 12.
And then the final aspect of this that's important for us to remember is the connection between the Spirit and baptism. So not only is the Holy Spirit the author and agent of our confession of faith. He's the one who bestows the gift of faith on us. Not only is the Holy Spirit the author of the charismatic gifts, the one who gives those gifts to the Church. Not only is he one of the three persons of the Trinity. But he's also the one who comes to us through the gift of Baptism. This is very important. Paul uses this powerful image here where he says:
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and all were made to drink of one Spirit."
So Paul here is using the imagery of the Spirit as the author of Baptism. It's very interesting, very interesting to think about it that way. It was by the Spirit that we were baptized into the Church. And through that Spirit, Paul reveals here the mystery of the Church. Namely, it's the mystery of both unity and diversity within the Church. I don't know if you've ever taken time to ponder this, but this is a great mystery. How is it that we can have one Church, like we profess in the creed? "I believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." And yet, at the very same time, have so much diversity within the church. And I don't just mean diversity of individuals, I think of diversity of states of life amongst all the saints. Can you think of a more diverse body of people? As well as the diversity of rights within the one Church, right?
Even in the liturgy itself, we have diversity between the Roman Rite and the Byzantine Rite or the Coptic Rite or the Armenian Rite. Whatever it might be, the various rites of the liturgy that have come down from the Apostles through the various peoples, they are diverse, but they're also one. They're within the one Catholic Church. How is that possible? How can you maintain unity in the face of so much diversity? Because if you've ever tried to either run a business or some kind of human institution, you realize these things are in tension. They're always in tension. And it's very difficult to achieve unity without destroying diversity, right? Sometimes we want to strive for unity, we end up with uniformity, trying to make everyone into carbon copies of one another. But at the same time, if you overemphasize diversity without unity, you can end up with chaos and a brokenness. A lack of cohesion, a lack of singleness of purpose that gives the institution, or whatever it might be, its mission.
So Paul here emphasizes that it's the Spirit who both enables the Church to be one in Christ and yet at the same time consists of many different kinds of people, many different persons, whether they be Jews or Greeks, who in the world would've been opposed to one another, or whether they be slaves or free. So again, within human society, these were two groups of people that were often pitted against one another. Here, Paul says that in Christ, these divisions that take place within the earthly human family are overcome. And who is it that overcomes them? Who is it that makes possible unity within diversity? It's the Holy Spirit.
That is why I believe that this passage is chosen for Pentecost in particular, because what happens on the Feast of Pentecost in the Book of Acts, where we had the account of Pentecost itself, is that all the different pilgrims who have gathered for the Feast of Pentecost, who've come from the various nations together to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast. When the Apostles receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and it comes down upon them in the form of tongues of fire, it's through the Spirit indwelling the Apostles who then begin to preach, who begin to speak and say what? "Jesus is Lord." That the divisions between those nations begin to fall down and they are all baptized and become one in the body of Christ.
As Acts tells us in chapter two, Peter baptizes 3000 people on that day, after his sermon on Pentecost. So what Paul's describing here in the Letter to the Corinthians, using the language of these different theological categories, the variety of gifts, the charismatic gifts, faith, baptism, sacramental issues, is what we see being enacted on the Feast of Pentecost itself. So this is just a beautiful, beautiful passage that gives so much insight into the third person of the Holy Trinity, who, let's face it, sometimes gets overlooked, right? A lot of emphasis on God the Father. A lot of emphasis on God the Son. Sometimes we tend to forget about the Holy Spirit. Some people have called him the forgotten person of the Trinity, right? Out of the three, he gets the least attention, but not from St. Paul. St. Paul's very focused on him. And not from the Church, because every year we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost and the revelation of the spirit.For full access subscribe here >