by Fr. Tommy Lane
When I was studying in Rome there was a very powerful charismatic prayer meeting in the English language on Sunday afternoons. I was told that one Sunday afternoon someone from another country who didn’t know Irish (in Ireland Gaelic is called Irish) spoke in tongues in Irish (Gaelic). It is a modern day example of speaking in tongues similar to the apostles at Pentecost. Fr. Pat Collins C.M describes something similar at a charismatic prayer meeting he attended,
“I attended an extraordinary prayer meeting on a Thursday evening. From the outset a special anointing of the Spirit was upon it. At one point early in the proceedings a woman gave a powerful utterance in tongues. Subsequently we were told by Cardinal Ó Fiach’s secretary, a nun who had once ministered in Africa, that the woman had recited parts of the litany of Loreto in Swahili. Apparently, she had repeated the phrase, ‘Mary is Queen of Peace’ a number of times. (From Prayer in Practice: A Biblical Approach by Fr. Pat Collins C.M. and published by Columba Press, page 173 and used here with permission.)
It is another modern day example of speaking in tongues similar to the apostles speaking in tongues on Pentecost. Both of these incidents are examples of what Paul meant in our second reading (Vigil Mass),
“The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means…” (Rom 8:26-27)
These incidents of people speaking in tongues are examples of how the Holy Spirit can move us when we are open to the touch of the Holy Spirit.
I am sure you have all heard people say that we use only 1% of our brains and that we could achieve so much more if we put our brains to better use. I think we could say the same about our reliance on the Holy Spirit. Maybe we rely only 1% on the Holy Spirit. People praying in tongues led by the Holy Spirit are just a tiny glimpse of what could happen if the entire Church were vibrant with the Holy Spirit.
What would the Church be like if it were vibrant with the Holy Spirit? In his letters, Paul writes about the gifts given to the early Church by the Holy Spirit as if such gifts are commonplace in the Church. In his first letter to the Corinthians 12:7-11 Paul wrote,
“The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose. One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognizing spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses.”
If the Church were vibrant with the Holy Spirit it would be flying!!! But we must not idealize the early Church. As we read Paul’s letters, we realize that the early Church had many problems as the Church now, and the Church in Corinth, to whom Paul wrote that beautiful passage about the gifts of the Spirit, had more problems than any other church Paul founded.
So I ask you to pray that the Church may receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I have heard Irish missionaries on holidays in Ireland from Africa say “the Church in this country is dead and lifeless compared to Africa. There is great spirit in the Church in Africa.” Maybe we are relying only 1% on the Holy Spirit. During the Season of Easter, which concludes today, our first reading at each weekday and Sunday Mass was taken from the Acts of the Apostles. It is a beautiful account of the early Church being led by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless we also see in that account that the Church had problems to overcome. The Acts of the Apostles says that after Jesus’ ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand side of his Father and from there he poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church. I ask you to pray to Jesus asking him to continue to pour the Holy Spirit out on the Church so that the Church may fly!
More homilies for Pentecost Sunday
Related Homilies: How can we receive the Holy Spirit to raise us up?
my meditation on Pentecost in Let’s Talk to Jesus