Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pentecost and the Tower of Babel

"Christ's whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation."
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 518

Sometimes recapitulation can be a type of reversal of Old Testament events by those in the New Testament.  Pentecost is one example.  Do you remember the story of the Tower of Babel?  At one time, "The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words." (Gen 11:1)  Yet man, once again, became arrogant and thought he could be like God.  The people built a giant tower, with a goal of reaching heaven to make a name for themselves.  God thwarted their plans by confusing their language, hence the name Babel. (Gen 11:9

Does this mean that people literally started speaking Greek, Spanish, Italian and French?  Possibly not.  I like one interpretation that I heard a few years ago:  In modern times we talk of "speaking the same language" as sort of "being on the same page".  That is, we agree and want to work together.  At Babel, the people stopped agreeing.  Perhaps one worker wanted to use a certain type of stone and another thought that was a bad idea.  Or perhaps they disagreed about how high each level should be or when they should take breaks to eat.  Fights began to break out, and the project was abandoned due to all the hostility.  People drifted away to other parts of the world and slowly developed their own unique languages.  An interesting theory, I think.

Now what does that have to do with Pentecost?  Recall that after the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, they went outside and proclaimed the Gospel to the thousands of Jews from all over the region who had gathered for the Pentecost feast (see yesterday's post for more info). 

"They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, 'Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?  We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.'" (Acts 2: 7-11)

The Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, reverses the confused language of the Tower of Babel.  The people are once more united through the proclamation of the Good News of Christ.  Peter's words were so compelling that about 3,000 people were baptized that day.  The disunity of the Tower of Babel has become the unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church-- the "four marks" that identify the Church that Christ founded.

We modern-day Christians need to re-learn the lesson of "speaking the same language".  Too often these days, political correctness causes us to hold our tongues when we should say something, whether it be words of encouragement or gentle warnings that a person is on the wrong path.  We have oxymorons such as "Pro-Choice Catholic" and "Rad Trad Catholic" that drive a wedge of disunity into our Church.  The Holy Spirit is still alive and well in the Catholic Church today.   Like the Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost, we must spend much time in prayer to receive His grace.

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