Reflection for the Sixth Friday of Ordinary Time / Year I

The optional memorial celebrating the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order may be celebrated today.

Today’s Readings: Gn 11:1-9; Ps 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15; Mk 8:34-9:1

We must not presume on our salvation. By building the Tower of Babel, the people of the Shinar valley were presuming to be greater than God. In the English translation, we do not see some of the subtleties in this story. The people say that they will build this tower to “make a name for themselves.” The Hebrew word for “name” is the same as the name Shem. Shem was one of Noah’s sons, and was a righteous man. He was the father of the Semitic peoples, and his descendants were their rightful leaders. Jew and Christians—as late as the 16th century—have understood the old testament priest Melchizedek to actually be Shem.

By “making a name for themselves” the people of the Shinar valley were intending to throw off the leadership of Shem and to take control of their own destiny. They presumed that they knew better than Shem’s line, and ultimately that they knew better than God. By confusing their language, God was doing the people a favor, because he shattered this presumption. They could no longer even communicate from one another. They would, thus, be able to accept the guidance of others.

We see a similar theme in today’s Gospel. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” We cannot presume to be in God’s favor simply because of our worldly successes. In fact, these often lead us to act against God and his plan for our happiness. Instead, we must lay down our very lives in service of God: we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus.

When we do this, we take up our true mantle as citizens of the Kingdom of God, which is present on this earth. Jesus promised that the Kingdom would come into power before all of his disciples perished, and it did. The Catholic Church, established by Jesus Christ, led by the apostles, and handed down through the ages by their successors, is the Kingdom of God. Christ gave his apostles extraordinary powers to forgive sin and distribute grace in his name. When we participate in God’s Church, when we fully become citizens of the kingdom, then we can call ourselves friends of God.

So let us take up our crosses, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, so that we may all be friends of God, and participate in the eternal joy of his Kingdom.

2 Replies to “Reflection for the Sixth Friday of Ordinary Time / Year I”

  1. Thanks Matthew ! I ask Father Birket one time who the priest Melchizedek( sp)was and he couldn’t tell me. I am really enjoying reading your posts each day. Thanks for making time to help us in our spiritual journey. ? u mom.

    1. Well, the Shem = Melchizedek thing is a theory through much of Ancient Judaism until the Middle Ages at least. I’m not sure how good of a theory it is though. On the one hand, the theology works, but on the other hand, Shem would have been really old. If you use the actual ages listed for the people in the Bible, however, the math works out OK. It’s just very hard to believe that there were people who lived 600 or 800 years. That’s why many people struggle to believe that Shem is Melchizedek. I think that this is one particular area where more research and work could be done or presented if it is already done. It would also be good to consult where Jewish theology has moved in this area. They’ve been studying Genesis for longer than Christianity has existed, so they may have something we could learn!

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