“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues.”

Acts 2:4 

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Acts 2:1-11

I must confess: I am not very good at languages. I pretend fluency in two and can read three others to varying degrees of competence – but can’t really speak them. So when I read how the disciples started speaking in different tongues, I must admit to a certain degree of envy! 

Linguists say that confidence and willingness to speak a language, even if you make many mistakes, is the first step to learning a new language well. In this context, I think we see this confidence among the disciples. It is not primarily about suddenly learning to speak Greek or Persian or Arabic, but the confidence to speak to others outside the Jesus Movement about their experience. 

In short, it’s all about having the courage to be missionaries.

Now in case one imagines that being a missionary is a special task of a select few in the church, let me suggest that this is the task of every Christian. How one does this is, of course, the challenge. So before you think I’m advocating that you all come hammering at the doors of the Jesuits (though, of course, if you feel the urge…), let me suggest a little riff on ‘different tongues’. These tongues for us may be languages, may even be the language of theology to help proclaim the gospel, but it may be the language of how one proclaims the gospel through one’s life. Witness of life lived in Christ may be the most articulate form of evangelisation. (And this is inclusive – many who do not believe in Christ give witness to him by their lives).

As St Francis of Assisi is reputed to have said: “Proclaim the gospel always. When you have to, use words.” 

What language do you use to express your deepest beliefs?

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we will be courageous, so that you can renew the face of the earth.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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1 Comment
  • Mitzi
    Posted at 14:44h, 25 May

    Thank you, Fr Egan, for enabling me to renew my thoughts about the gift of speaking in tongues. Your words here are inspiring.

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