And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.
Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these, that speak, Galileans? And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.
And they were all astonished, and wondered, saying one to another: What meaneth this? But others mocking, said: These men are full of new wine.
But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.
[Acts of the Apostles, 2:1-21]
The Pentecost, which we commemorate today, is generally regarded as the birthday of the Church. Well that it should be so, for the Church Temporal is inherently an active body. Christians are a corpus of workers in Christ’s vineyard, whose labor, it is hoped, will bring the world more in conformance with His teachings with every day and every effort.
Like it or not, all Christians share in the Great Commission to “Go and teach all nations” the Gospel of the Redeemer. Some have the “pure” form of that gift. They become active evangelists: priests, ministers, deacons, nuns, lay brothers, catechists, and other servants of the Faith. Others are more indirectly equipped, and serve the Gospels with their deeds. They perform as vital and as meritorious a variety of service as anyone in Holy Orders. They demonstrate the Faith and its value by example. This was also the style of Saint Francis of Assisi:
Saint Francis of Assisi was known for his embrace of poverty and utter simplicity. His evangelism was largely by example. An illustrative story about his style of evangelism concerns a brother in a monastic order where Francis had taken lodging. One day the young monk begged Francis for permission to accompany him on a day’s preaching. The saint assented, and they went forth from the monastery at daybreak.
First they came upon a group of men laboring in the field. Francis said “Let us work beside them,” which they did, in silence, for several hours before passing onward.
Next they came upon a village where they found a group deep in prayer. Francis said “Let us pray with them,” which they did, in silence, for another hour before passing onward.
Late in the day they entered a village where a wedding celebration was in progress. Francis said “Let us rejoice with them,” which they did. At last dusk was upon them and it was time to return to the monastery.
When they had returned to the monastery, the young monk said to Francis, “Brother, was it not your intention to preach today? Yet we spoke not a word of preachment from departure to return.” Francis smiled. “Brother,” he replied, “from dawn till dusk this day, we have done nothing but preach.”
It’s a simple prescription, but to be effective it requires that its practitioners be known as Christians…and those are fewer than they should be.
The Faith asks little: adhere to the Ten Commandments and the two Great Commandments on which they’re based; bring our petitions and contritions to God in prayer; do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and follow the dictates of our consciences as best we can. Yet those willing to uphold its banner where others can see are fewer than we should be.
If you’re a Christian, of whatever denomination, ask yourself in the silence of your soul:
Have I been called?
What is the nature of my gift?
How might I exercise it effectively?
Am I doing so?
Alternately, have a query that’s made the rounds of the Web a few times:
Would there be enough evidence to convict you?
May God bless and keep you all.