Continuing with the book of Genesis, our first reading this morning presents us with the story of the Tower of Babel. As with the other early Genesis accounts, we can focus more on the message of the story than on an analysis of the historical veracity of the details. The moral of the story is fairly clear: as the saying goes, “pride goes before a fall”. Every sin is destructive and leads to division, but perhaps pride more than others. Pride was the sin of the angels who turned against God, and it urges us to resist God’s legitimate authority and hardens us against asking forgiveness. It divides us from each other as well, because we put ourselves first and treat other people as inferior, or even as a means to achieve our own goals. Sometimes, as in the story of the tower of Babel, God punishes the proud to help them realize their folly and to invite them to recognize their need for God’s mercy and help.
Pride is the exact opposite of the attitude we need to be joined with Christ and go to heaven. Jesus’ message was one of unity, not of division; of self-sacrificing love, not egocentric pride. This is what the Lord explains to us in the Gospel reading today: if we want to follow Christ and receive the gift of salvation, we have to give up our own plans and be willing to sacrifice everything to be faithful to God. If we focus on ourselves in this life, we will have nothing when we die; if we put our hearts and hopes in God and serve Him, we will have an abundant reward after death.
Keeping this long-term perspective is anything but easy. By nature, we tend to seek the goods of this world, whether by enjoying its pleasures now or by storing up material wealth for the sake of security. It goes against the grain to put God’s interests first and to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our neighbors. Not that it’s evil to look out for ourselves to some extent as well; within reason, it’s important for us to enjoy the good things of the world that God created and to make provisions for our future and that of our families. However, we need to be sure that we are not making this the main goal of our lives. God has chosen us, but we can only receive the full benefits of His love if we also chose Him above all else.