Making a Name
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”
At first glance, it can seem to be the case that the desire of the people to speak one language could have all kinds of benefits. Think of how much easier it would be if without effort we could understand the words that anyone else on the planet was speaking. What’s wrong with that?
On the surface, nothing. But as with all things, the problem is under the surface. Sometimes the problem in our spiritual life is not what happens on the surface, but has more to do with our internal motivations. It is not unlike the question I used to ask as a child about whether or not I had to continue whatever I did for Lent on Sundays. Were Sundays really a part of Lent?
It was not that I was really trying to celebrate the resurrection, and so an act of penance would not be as appropriate. Rather, I wanted to find the loophole that meant I did not have to sacrifice so much. I wasn’t trying to grow in holiness, I was trying to find a shortcut and to take the easy way out.
The motivation for the people in this reading is to make a name for themselves. But their name has already been made into something great. They have been created by God for something wonderful and outstanding. It is really amazing what God has done.
But the temptation is that sometimes we want all the credit for ourselves. Name something that you have not been given, reminds Saint Paul. While we are all secondary causes, the primary cause which enables us to do and to have all we do and have comes from God. The relationship by the people in today’s first reading is really about changing places with God.
The people think they are the ones who are really important. They forget that all they have comes from God. And all good actions only happen when we cooperate with God’s grace.
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