Here Anthony of Padua, one of the greatest preachers of the Middle Ages. interprets the tongues of Pentecost as different “love languages” whereby we witness to Christ by words and, even more importantly, actions. It is read on the feast of St. Anthony on June 13th.
The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.
St. Anthony of Padua – Actions, not Words
We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.
But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! For some men speak as their own character dictates, but steal the words of others and present them as their own and claim the credit for them. The Lord refers to such men and others like them in Jeremiah: So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets that steal my words from each other. I have a quarrel with the prophets, says the Lord, who have only to move their tongues to utter oracles. I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, who recount them and lead my people astray with their lies and their pretensions. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for this people, says the Lord.
Pentecost – Fiery tongues for confession the Faith
We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments.
Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.
This reading on tongues as different “love languages” whereby we witness to Christ, is taken from St. Anthony of Padua. It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for the liturgical memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua on June 13. It reflects on the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on Pentecost as told in Acts 2.
For more on actions being louder than words, see Dr. Italy’s reflection on the PARABLE OF THE TWO SONS.