Babel and Pentecost

I went to my first Pentecost Vigil Mass this year… although it was not the “extended form” and was simply three readings (Old Testament, Epistle, Gospel). But I did hear Genesis 11:1-9, and the priest related it to the First Reading for Pentecost Sunday, Acts 2:1-11.

When I led a Bible study last winter on Acts of the Apostles 1-12 (which I cleverly called “Words on Acts”, look for the book in a year or two…), I invited the members of the study to compare the two passages and see what they had in common and how they differed.


Babel: they were speaking one language (11:1)

Pentecost: they were speaking many languages (2:8)


Babel: a plain in Shinar (11:2)

Pentecost: a mountainous area, Jerusalem (2:5)


Babel: their own city (11:4)

Pentecost: the Church, the kingdom of God (1:3)


Babel: making a name for themselves (11:4)

Pentecost: declaring the works of God (2:11)


Babel: man attempting to reach heaven (11:4)

Pentecost: the Holy Spirit descending upon earth (2:2)


Babel: coming together (11:2), then scattered abroad (11:9)

Pentecost: coming together (2:5), then scattered abroad (1:8)

Reflection on Matthew 25:31-40: Called to Solidarity and Service

(cf. James 2; 1 Corinthians 12)

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9)

What does it mean to keep? Today, we might ask: What is service? Service, simply, is doing works of love: it is being conformed to Christ. St. Paul and St. James agree on the need for service in a faithful Christian life; St. Paul wrote to the Galatians that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6) The words of St. James explain how faith works through love: “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (Jas. 2:15-17)

Who is my brother? Today, we might ask: What is solidarity? Pope John Paul II defined solidarity in one of his encyclicals on social justice. It “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual because we are all really responsible for all.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38)

Our Lord said that he came to this earth not to be served but to serve. He is the perfect King, a King who loves his subjects so deeply and truly that he serves them. We, who are baptized into his kingship, exercise it when we love as he loved, when we serve as he served. Our Lord returned to Heaven where now he is served, both in our worship (liturgical and otherwise) and in our service to one another. Christ tells us plainly that when we serve one another, especially the suffering, the poor, and the neglected, we are serving him.

These works of love call us to solidarity, they challenge us to recognize Christ in one another, where we might least expect to find him. In its final document, Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council boldly proclaimed that, because God took on human flesh in the Incarnation, Jesus Christ united himself in some way to every single human being, simply because they’re human! (cf. GS 22) In our Lord’s solidarity with our human nature, we find the source of all human solidarity.

Hear the (paraphrased) words of a sermon of St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th century:

Do you wish to honor Christ’s body? Then do not neglect Him when you see Him naked; do not while you honor Him with silken garments in here, neglect Him perishing of cold and nakedness out there. For the same Christ who said “This is my body,” … said, “You saw me hungry, and fed me not,” and, “Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” For in the Eucharist, Christ has no need of clothing, but a pure soul; but in our brothers and sisters, Christ requires much attention. (Homily 50 on Matthew, n. 4)

We’ve all heard the parable in Matthew’s gospel of the sheep and the goats before. This parable, like that of the Good Samaritan, is Christ’s clear answer to that selfish question of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, Christ answers, and in this one word “Yes,” Christ confirms that we are brothers and we must keep one another: that is, that we are in solidarity with one another, and we are obliged by faith and love to serve one another.

SCROLL – The SCripture Reference OnLine Library

I am attempting to begin a project I have wanted to start for several years now.

Whenever I read a book, I take record its scripture references in a notebook, using a simple notation:

Name of Book
Page#.Paragraph#, Type, Scripture Reference

For example, from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, I have made the following notations:

81.3 Q Ps 87:7
81.3 Q Is 35:10
90.1 M Josh 14:7-11
102.0 Q Mt 22:21

(The third paragraph on page 81 quotes two passages. The first paragraph on page 90 mentions five verses without quoting them verbatim. The paragraph at the top of page 102, continued from the preceding page, quotes one passage.)

The type of reference can be a quote (Q), a mention (M) such as “(cf. Jn 3:16)”, or an allusion (A) where the passage of scripture is referred to but without an actual reference provided.

I am keen on making this library available to others who want to use it, whether for Bible studies, or for writing of homilies/sermons, or for any other purpose. I would also like to expand it to include other media, not just books. Things like articles, hymns, poems, perhaps even not-written media.

To that end, I’m putting out a request for interest. If you would find such a resource helpful, or if you would be willing to contribute to it (and, if need be, verify other people’s contributions to it), please let me know.

I essentially have the code in place to support a web site interface (and API as well) to the database; if it becomes popular enough, I would need assistance in developing an app for it.

Scriptural index to the Divine Office?

Does anyone know of a Scripture index to the Divine Office? I would like to look up a Scripture verse and know if there are any hours on any days that use that verse.

The closest I’ve come is to simply search (for example) for a phrase like “1 John 2” in Google, and then comb through the results, but I imagine the Divine Office web sites out there have their information stored in a database, and it would be great to have access to such an index at a very high level.

If one does not exist, I am MORE than happy to develop one. I just need people who have access to the complete Divine Office (I only have the single volume “Christian Prayer” edition) to supply the information. 🙂