Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday in the 6th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
From Babel to the Kingdom

Readings: Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15; Mark 8:34--9:1


In a city of skyscrapers and high-rise housing it’s understandable if we wonder what all the fuss is about in the first reading today. So what if the people built a tower? In some part of our world today, construction of some sort is probably going on with each passing moment. Yet this ancient story still holds an awesome power to illuminate our situation today. After all, even now, aren’t the movie theatres screening a highly-acclaimed film entitled Babel?

To better appreciate what’s wrong, we need to recall the context of the Genesis story as we have heard it thus far. In particular, we need to recall God’s word to Noah in the reading of yesterday: As for you, be fruitful, multiply, teem over the earth and be lord of it… Contrast these words with what we heard today: Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we may not be scattered about the whole earth... God wants the daughters and sons of Noah to pour themselves out over the whole world, to expend their energies in working for the flourishing of all life, to give of themselves for the building up of others. Instead, humanity chooses to remain in one place, to hoard its resources, to build a monument to the self. And we witness the consequences. We see a replay of what happened to the first man and woman who grasped greedy at the forbidden fruit in the garden. What was intended to be a monument of glory becomes a symbol of shame. Instead of happiness, disobedience leads to disaster. Against their wishes, the people are scattered anyway, but now they no longer understand one another. Like Adam and Eve, they are alienated from one another even as they continue to pine for that original nakedness – that intimate connection with self, with others, with all of creation and ultimately with God – that brings true fulfillment. The parallel to our own situation today probably needs no further comment. It’s portrayed very powerfully in the film we spoke of earlier.

It’s onto this sorry state of affairs that the words of Jesus in today’s gospel is smoothed like a healing balm. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it… Jesus shows us the way back to the vision of wholeness that was God’s original intention for creation, the way into the kingdom of God. It involves dying to self for others in loving obedience to the creator of all. In the words of an old hymn: to live is to die, and to laugh is to cry; to live is to love with all your heart…

Today, how are we being ushered out of Babel and into the kingdom of God’s love, joy and peace?

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