Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
“Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” How often do each of us individually, or as a community, parish, or country, make vanity or pride the driving theme of our lives?
Pope Francis recently commented that “The Tower of Babel is exactly the attitude of those who build walls, because to build walls is to say, ‘we are powerful, and you are outside.’ Walls always exclude, they prefer power, in this case the power of money.” A wall epitomizes a “monument of exclusion.” “Walls make you closed,” and close your heart.
Vanity and pride can themselves become walls, separating us from God. How do we open our hearts and get beyond that wall of “making a name for ourselves”? Through service–to the poor, marginalized, outcast, refugee, all we have walled out from our lives.
―George P. Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, Chicago Chapter. He and his wife, Dorothy Turek, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and four grandchildren.
May our country, our community, our parish, and each of us, heed Pope Francis’ challenging words. We pray that each of us, in our own lives, will make every effort to open our hearts and respond generously to the many forms of the ” beggar Lazarus” who stand before our personal doors.
―George P. Sullivan, Jr.