The distance imposed by not sharing a common language does not excuse acting as if the French virtue of Fraternity is not our vocation. In Psalm 133 David extols Fraternity: ‘How good and pleasant it is, brothers dwelling in unity.’ He compares it to the extravagance of precious oil running down the head and beard. We can think of sun tan lotion applied to hot, cracked, dry skin. In David’s time olive oil was precious: it represented hours of physical labour by man and beast to harvest and press the fruit.
Think, too, of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment (Luke 7: 36-49) or Mary Magdalene with her spiced oil, hurrying to the tomb on Easter Morning (Luke 24:1-10). Jesus greeted her (John 20:15) and she knew her Lord; he gave her her mission and filled her with joy.
While on holiday I knocked on a door for directions. My ‘dzien dobry’ and ‘djien kuje’ – ‘good day’ and ‘thank you’ – led the elderly gentleman who answered the door to commend my few words of Polish as ‘enough to communicate’. His English was impeccable; his encouragement of my stumble into his tongue both humbled me and lifted my spirit after a long day’s travelling.
Let’s pray that the Spirit of Pentecost may be on our lips when we need to speak.