Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 28/04/2013

Fill the Hearts of Your Faithful

Tower of BabelOne of the artworks included in the Diocese of Westminster’s 2013 Lenten resource, Amazing Grace, can be found in the Bedford Hours, a medieval manuscript once owned by the King of France and which is now housed in the British Museum Library. The illustration, shown right, depicts the story of the building of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). The Bedford Master prominently detailed a pulley, a winch mechanism and callipers as well as other items that were used to build a tower intended to take humankind into the heavens – all on their own, for their own personal benefit.

At the outset, one might think that the people in the painting are working together. However, on closer scrutiny, one can see several squabbles underway, people going off in different directions and one individual is actually falling from the upper reaches of the tower. The intent of the builders: ‘Let us make a name for ourselves’ is clearly set forth in Holy Scripture (Genesis 11:4). Adam found himself expelled from the Garden of Eden by his own selfish pride (Genesis 3:23) and God responded to the tower builders’ initiative in a similar manner. Where Adam and the people of Shinar (where the tower was built) decided to go it alone, to turn away from God’s help, the result was a lesson in humility. They no longer spoke the same language and were scattered throughout the world. Hence, the tower was termed ‘babel’, from the Hebrew word for confusion*.

Even amidst this chaos and confusion, God chose Abraham to begin the task of reconnecting humankind to himself. Eventually, God’s own plan, the story of our salvation, came to fruition when the Holy Spirit was sent forth on the day of Pentecost. No longer competing amongst themselves (Mark 10:35-45), the apostles met together ‘in communio’ as a community. Most importantly, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the message of Christ in different languages. The barriers to communication spoken about in the Babel story had been swept away.

Those basic building mechanisms used by the Babel builders may have long been replaced with modern technology enabling us to probe the far reaches of outer space or the confines of the tiniest of cells. Yet, the desire to reach that pinnacle of success, to be God-like, albeit in our work or personal lives, continues to prevail. Self-sufficiency and personal privacy remain highly valued, however the Scripture passage we have just read is one of unity in diversity and of interconnectedness. Our communion with one another in Christ’s body and the gift of the Holy Spirit, sacramentally given to each of us in baptism (CCC, 1241), must not be forgotten.

For whom am I trying to make a name – for myself or for God? If I take any pride in my own efforts do I acknowledge their start in the gifts I have received from God and the work and influence of others?

* the same word also means the ‘gate of the God’

To use this as a small group session, you can download a fully edited version by clicking on the link here: Fill the Hearts of Your Faithful


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