SBCA Home Red Homilies Red Homilies FRIDAY 6th Week OrdTime 17 February 2017
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Red Homilies

Audience: 6:30am mass SBCA Church
Genesis 11:1-9; Mark 8:34-9:1
(Fr Aelred Nilo, OSB)

A lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to warn another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in the separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. “UNITED THEY STAND, DIVIDED THEY FALL.”


Likewise the story of the tower Babel in today’s first reading portrays the rebellion of people or humanity with God. It teaches us THE HARD TRUTH OF A PERSON’S SELFISH AMBITION that MAKES HIM COMPETITIVE, UNSCRUPULOUS AND HOSTILE TOWARDS OTHERS.

We were told that the descendants of Noah all spoke a single language. As they increased in number and began to spread eastward, they found a fertile area called Shinar and settled there. They decided to build a city with a tower that "reached to the heavens." THEY WANTED THE TOWER TO BE A PROUD MONUMENT TO THEMSELVES AND A SYMBOL THAT WOULD KEEP THEM UNITED AS A POWERFUL PEOPLE.

However, God was not so pleased. So God made the people speak many different languages so they could not work together on building the city and tower.

Brothers and sisters, the real cause of division of the people was not because God confused their language. Rather, because of their AMBITION, they could NO LONGER SPEAK THE COMMON LANGUAGE OF LOVE AND UNITY. For anyone who wants to climb to the top must necessarily step on others.

Similarly when we are ambitious, we want to compete with others because we want to be the winner, often at the expense of others. When we are ambitious, we are more concerned about achieving our objective than about the feelings and well-being of others. So AMBITION IS THE CAUSE OF DIVISION AND DISUNITY AMONG HUMAN BEINGS BECAUSE AMBITION IS BASICALLY INWARD-LOOKING AND SEEKING FOR SELF-FULFILLMENT WITHOUT OTHERS.

Saint Chrysostom explained: “Notice how the human race, instead of managing to keep to its own boundaries, always longs for more and reaches out for greater things. This is what the human race has lost in particular, not being prepared to recognize the limitations of its own condition but always lusting after more, entertaining ambitions beyond its capacity. In this regard, too, WHEN PEOPLE WHO CHASE AFTER THE THINGS OF THE WORLD ACQUIRE FOR THEMSELVES MUCH WEALTH AND STATUS, THEY LOSE SIGHT OF THEIR OWN NATURE, as it were, and aspire to such heights that they topple into the very depths. You could see this happening every day without others being any the wiser from the sight of it. Instead, they pause for a while but immediately lose all recollection of it and take the same road as the others and fall over the same precipice” (Chrysostom,Homilies on Genesis 30.5, quoted in Louth, 167).

Today’s gospel contains a saying of Jesus which belongs to the so-called “hard sayings”. Jesus summons the people and said: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. FOR WHOEVER WISHES TO SAVE HIS LIFE WILL LOSE IT, BUT WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE AND THAT OF THE GOSPEL WILL SAVE IT.”

Here Jesus contrasts two forms of activity: taking up one’s cross and acting for personal ambition. The cross, which threatens to destroy us, is actually the one that gives permanence to our life. But the action, which seems to affirm and enriches us personally, turns on us and destroys us.

This is the paradox of Jesus’ teaching. To act against our selfish inclinations and pious camouflage, to reach out spontaneously with practical help to the neighbor in need, means to take up one’s cross. To stand by someone in need and disgrace is to follow the way of Jesus who befriended prostitutes and tax collectors.

The story of Babel reminds us that, “THE FUTURE OF A NATION WHICH EXCLUDES GOD IS DISPERSION NOT UNITY” (Gn 11:9). If a nation's faith in God is not firm, that nation shall not be firm (Is 7:9).

Jesus tells us, “WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE AND THAT OF THE GOSPEL WILL SAVE IT.” Yes, where we seem to have lost everything and to have died, we become fully alive in a way that can never taste death.