From New Testament lesson for Wednesday in the week of Proper 6B (Pentecost 3, 2015)
7 Amazed and astonished, [the crowd] asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
At an earlier time, and with regard to another context, Jesus had told his followers, “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time.” (Mt 10:19) Some years later, Paul would write, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:7) ~ So, I’m wondering how long do these gifts last? Are there some that last a lifetime and some that manifest only as long as context requires? For how long after the day of Pentecost did the apostles retain the ability to speak the various languages of the empire? Legend has it that many of them scattered to distant places, to Ethopia, to India, to Spain: did they go to the countries where the languages they’d been given were spoken because they retained that ability? Or did their linguistic talent fade, as mine always does, with lack of use? I’ve studied and gained some degree of fluency in four languages other than English: Spanish, Italian, French, and Irish Gaelic. To my sorrow, I’ve retained not much more than a few phrases of any; lack of opportunity to converse has meant a loss of ability, an atrophy so to speak. Is it the same with the various gifts of the Spirit? “Use it or lose it”? I suspect so.