The Pentecost Vigil liturgy has four readings from the Hebrew Testament, which we’ve not heard from since The Easter Vigil. This Vigil imitates the great Vigil of the Paschal Mystery in the structure of the Liturgy of the Word. These readings are rich.

Who can resist telling the story of the Tower of Babel? While on the surface it seems to be about the racial division and dispersal of the human family, it is more deeply about the contest between the will of God and the human will to power. The key phrase is, “nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do..” What is it exactly that we human presume to do? It seems that it is about power over the world and other humans and even to think to control God. History teaches us, if anything, that human power has always eventually been “out of control.” Most recent examples are the current of nationalistic and popularistic politics, our wealth oriented economy, the denigration of peoples as “less than”, and the corruption in the Church, to say nothing of our ravaging of the environment. I’m sure there’s a longer list.

Babel means according to some “gate of God”, and not “babbling”, as in incomprehensible sounds. That the scene is Babylon is highly questionable, although its markets were surely a place of much babbling. The presumption is that the tower “with its top in the sky” would allow human access to heaven and paradise without any dependence on God and grace to help us reach so lofty a goal in life. In other words, human power takes the matter into its own hands. This is a major theme for reflection in the modern world, because it means we are not attending to communion, community, and evangelizing, but rather to our own concerns.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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