The Bishop's Homily
Brothers and sisters, dear confirmands!
Babylon. The Bible in the first chapters describes for us a strange undertaking of the citizens: "Let us go build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches to heaven! Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the earth" (Gen 11:4). The people that distanced themselves from God due to original sin, intended to build a city with a tower reaching to heaven. In their proud independence from God they were not able to make a more irrational decision. They began to create the foundation, lay bricks, build walls and made some enviable progress. But at a certain point the masons were not able to understand each other. They asked for bread and they got a stone instead, a hammer instead of a trowel. Babel or Babylon means confusion and chaos. God was not able to tolerate human conceit and "goes down to see the city and the tower that the sons of men built" and he jumbled their words "so they could not understand each other's speech" (Gen 11,5.7).
The sons of the same nation and language, of the same intention and trade, who were as one till yesterday, now cannot understand each other's words or signs. Someone might say that this is not a historical fact: how can you build a tower up to heaven? The Bible gives much more instruction on salvation than historical data. But we do know that a tower of sin in human hearts can be built to the pit of hell. And the more that people think of living without God, of removing his name out of their system and society, of bypassing God, wanting to create a common union or region, of making a name for themselves in this world, all the more do their economic and political dealings embroil them.
- The heaviest blow that strikes the Church is the disunity of the faithful, especially discord amongst its servants. God expects every one of us to dutifully perform his duties and to be responsible for one’s actions. Whoever dodges his responsibilities and works on his own, sidestepping the Church or acting against the Church, is building a new tower of Babel. He may even speak in various languages, but he is not uniting, he is rather tearing down and scattering.
Jerusalem. In the early days of Christianity the Holy Spirit was revealed not just as an invisible energy, a power from on high, but as a Person. He is the gift of the Father and the Son to the faithful of the world. Just as the Holy Spirit through Mary gave us Christ, the incarnate Son of God, so too the risen and glorified Christ, together with the Father gave us the Holy Spirit through the prayers of Mary to the same apostolic community in Jerusalem. The Spirit is known as the Comforter, Paraclete, Advocate and Leader into all Truth.
The historical "Apparition" of the Spirit was with an audible "roaring sound" and visible "tongues of fire". A consequence of this phenomenon was that everyone could perfectly understand each other, despite the diversity of peoples and languages (Acts 2:2-6). This is the result of the wisdom of Pentecost.
In Babylon the fruits of the human spirit are incomprehension of speech, the breaking down of unity, loss of name, the ruin of the city and destruction of the tower. Misunderstandings and chaos!
In Jerusalem the fruits of God's Spirit are unification, diversity of human gifts, respect of every language, nation and gift. Understanding and harmony.
All efforts and service flow into one organism. The Church is formed into the visible Mystical Body of Christ. Three thousand people were baptized on that day. So that day of the Holy Spirit is the supreme sensation of God on earth, the manifestation of God's power among us human beings. Only by the power of that Spirit are people able to build "a tower whose top reaches heaven", that will not be destroyed, and will "get a name for itself", that will last forever.
- Are we as Christians building a city of unity according to the plan of Christ at the Last Supper when he admonished his apostles: "Till now you have not asked anything in my name"? (Jn 16:24). Are we praying in His name for the gifts of the Third Divine Person, whose primordial attribute is unification and mutual understanding? The Second Vatican Council emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit, the one who enlightens, sanctifies, vivifies, unites, rejuvenates, teaches and purifies us. The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold gifts, the seven basic qualities of his Kingdom.
Whoever says that he renounces the devil, as you confirmands will now say, let them no longer even mention him, either by way of swearing or of cursing. Whoever has the devil in his mouth and on his tongue, will soon have him in his heart.
Whoever says that he believes in God, may he humbly revere him, and not blaspheme him!
Whoever respects his body and preserves himself in chastity and all those with whom he keeps company, will grow in virtue and yield the fruit of life. Do not live in dire want and misery, but be heroic, chaste and honest, healthy in heart and body, strong in spirit.
Whoever's heart and hands cleave to earthly things and forget God, will not go money-grabbing just to have more of it, but will also use fraud and slander and thefts, going from bad to worse, to achieve his heart's desire.
Getting rich, but not in God. The Acts of the Apostles tell us (5:1-11) Peter exposed the hypocrisy of a husband and wife in the first community. The Bible honestly portrays even the most dishonest actions, wherever they may be.
Ananias, one of the first Christians in Jerusalem, sold a piece of his property and in agreement with his wife brought the apostles only a portion of the money from the sale, the other part he kept for himself, yet he wanted to live from the community table. Peter called him for a discussion:
- Ananias, where were you this morning? - I was selling my property.
- For how much did you sell it? - For so and so much.
- Did you give all the money to the community purse as agreed? – Yes (but he didn't. He kept part of it for himself). And Ananias trembled before Peter's tribunal.
- And how much did you bury in the ground behind the house? Peter looked into the double-dealing eyes of Ananias. - I buried so and so many shekels, stammered Ananias, lowering his eyes in shame.
- Look at me! - Peter looked around him with a sharp voice: "Why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the Holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:3), and said that you brought it all?
- I was afraid of sickness and old age for myself and my wife, said Ananias.
- Does not God care for you in your old age and in your illness? And for your wife Sapphira? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? Could you have left all the proceeds, since it was yours? - I could have.
- It means, you not only stole, but you have also lied. A Christian and he lies. Not only does he lie but he also steals and he cheats. Do you not see that sin always produces sin. "While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours; and when it was sold, was it not still under your control?“ (Acts 5:4). Had you sold it and kept all the money, it would still all be yours. You could have sometime even come to the community meal. Had you even sold it and kept a portion for yourself and said that you had done so, everything would have been in order. But this way: "Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings but to God" (Acts 5:4). You have not stolen from the community but from God. At these words, Ananias fell before the Apostle Peter and died. "And great fear came upon all who heard of it" (Acts 5:5).
Sapphira. After about three hours, his wife Sapphira came in, unaware of what had happened with her husband. Peter was waiting for her at the entrance.
- Madam, tell me, did you sell the piece of land for so and so many shekels? - We did, the woman admits right away.
- How much did you bring for the community purse? - About half, so it seems to me.
- And did you say that you brought all the money? - Yes, we did.
- But where is the other half? - The wife stood trembling, the blood froze in her veins.
- They carried out your husband a while ago. As soon as the grave diggers get back, they will carry you out too. And at once she fell to the ground and she died.
Brothers and sisters, what kind of punishments these are! Those who stood around were struck with great fear. God in the beginning let the people learn a lesson and start on the right path. "And great fear came upon the whole Church" (Acts 5:11). In a charismatic way Peter disciplines the whole community. If we are to live according to God's commandments, then the seventh and eighth are of equal value, and the fifth and the sixth and every commandment of God!
What is actually the most painful thing in this event? Well, to us it seems to be that this couple - Ananias and Sapphira - did not have time to repent or to seek forgiveness before dying suddenly. "Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself, but is not rich in what matters to God" (Luke 12:21).
Dear faithful, confirmands! You have the opportunity to turn Međugorje into Babylon, into confusion and chaos; to show a false pride up to the clouds, to give in to the race for foreigners and their money, to allow tourism to flood and defeat you with a multitude of languages, to compete over who will build the most Babylonian floors and villas, over who will open a profitable business and get richer.
You have the opportunity to make a Jerusalem out of this parish, a place of the works of the Spirit of God, where a multitude blends into unity, where each one understands everyone in God, and not in false wealth: where Peter's word is heard: "Repent ... and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit " (Acts 2:39).
You have the opportunity to live devoutly, not in pride but growing in wisdom; not being selfishly avaricious, but advancing in good sense; not losing yourself in the immorality of your body, but gaining a true knowledge of God's saving law; not permitting a measure of envy, but rejoicing at true advice; expressing strength of spirit, all in the fear of God, and not weakness and a painful end like that of Ananias and Sapphira.
Get rich in God, and not in wealth that passes away! - is the Lord's word to us.