In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we hear a number of stories about man’s rejection of God’s authority and man’s attempt to seize that authority for himself. Of course, we’re all familiar with the story of the fall of Adam and Eve in their grasping for the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then there’s the story of Cain slaying his brother Abel out of envy. And then there’s the wickedness of virtually all humanity that leads to the flood out of which the only righteous man on earth, Noah, and his family are spared.
Another, perhaps lesser known, story of man’s rejection of God’s authority is the story of the Tower of Babel. Not long after the flood, men settled in the Kingdom of Babel. And Scripture tells us, they decided to build for themselves a city with a massive tower whose top reaches into the heavens and thus, make a name for themselves. The name “Babel” means “gate of God” and the tower was man’s attempt to force entry into heaven.
Seeing this attempt by man to elevate themselves to the level of God, the Lord scatters the people and confuses their language, thus halting their attempt to force their way into heaven.
Now, skip ahead several thousand years, to today’s first reading. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles as tongues of flame and empowers them to speak in all the known languages of the world, thus reversing the confused speech of Babel. The people, once scattered, are now re-gathered into Christ’s universal, or Catholic, Church. And following the multi-lingual preaching of the Apostles, nations of peoples hear the Gospel, are baptized by the thousands and enter the life of the Church.
I used to wonder to myself, not so long ago, “Why doesn’t God do that today?” There are still so many people who do not yet know the Gospel Why doesn’t God work a miracle today giving us the ability to speak new languages instantly so we could just run off as missionaries to China, North Korea or Iran and spread the Good News.
Well, I would argue that the Holy Spirit does in fact empower us to speak new languages. However, I also think He is calling most of us to speak new languages right here in our own country, in our own communities amidst our everyday friendships.
There is a single, common language that every human being from the beginning of time until now has spoken. And that’s the Language of the Body.
What is the Language of the Body? You are all familiar with it; you speak it everyday.
It’s what Blessed Pope John Paul II described in his “Theology of the Body” as the capability of the body to speak its own language and to communicate without words. This “Language of the Body” can be something positive like a hug, or negative like a not-so-friendly gesture in traffic. For example, consider when Judas kissed Jesus while betraying Him (Mk 14:45). Judas’ body said one thing, but his heart clearly said another. Like the men of the Kingdom of Babel, Judas’ rejection of God’s authority lead to him to speaking a confused language of the Body.
Sadly, this confusion has existed for all time. St. Paul talks about it in our second reading: “Desire of the flesh... against the Spirit... immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies and the like.” (Gal 5:17-21).
And this confused Language of the Body continues today. Hooking up and breaking up, sex without commitment, pornography, contraception
For every relationship, there is a specific Language of the Body. You kiss mom goodbye; you don’t kiss the mailman. You hold your younger sibling’s hand as you cross the street; you don’t hold the hand of a stranger.
Think for a moment about what is being said via the Language of the Body through sexual intercourse. What is being said? What is being communicated without words?
- “I am completely yours.”
- “I belong totally and exclusively to you.”
- “I am willing to be completely vulnerable to you.”
- “I entrust myself completely to you and you can entrust yourself completely to me.”
- “I give you everything that I am; I hold nothing back from you.”
- “I welcome God’s gift of new life through our love.”
- “I will be with you always, all the days of my life.”
- “This is my body, given up for you.”
So, what relationship is the proper place for this Language of the Body? Obviously, a relationship in which a man and a woman have vowed themselves to each other. A relationship in which they have vowed themselves to permanence, exclusivity, and fruitfulness. The relationship between a husband and wife in vowed, covenantal love.
Sometimes we speak the Language of the Body well for our particular state in life. Sometimes we stutter. And sometimes we need a refresher course. Here’s the Good News: Jesus wants us to know how to speak the Language of the Body with eloquence and beauty. In our Gospel, Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:12-13) Just as he empowered the Apostles to speak new languages at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit wishes to teach us how to speak the Language of the Body in truth; to change our babble into a new Pentecost.
So, teens, here is your Pentecost moment. This summer, we are going to teach you Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. You and Sarah Hill, our Core members and I will get together on Thursday nights at 7 throughout the summer beginning June 7th. And we’re going to study and live out this life-changing teaching.
And I don’t think I’m overstating anything when I say, I think this could be the most important lesson you ever learn. Because the Language of the Body spoken between man and woman is among the most profound expressions of human communication. How we communicate with one another, how we give and receive one another in love, how we enter into union with one another here on earth, has the most profound consequence for how we will enter into union with God.
A couple of weeks ago, I quoted from the movie “Gladiator” starring Russell Crowe. I’ll use his words again. Immediately before a battle, Russell Crowe’s character, a Roman general, says to his troops: “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” How we speak the Language of the Body in life, echoes in eternity. Join us this summer, learn the Language of the Body, and receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness [and] self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23)