Bishop's Column

True Globalization: Uniting the whole world in Christ

This past Sunday we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost, often referred to as the "birthday of the Church" – the day when the first Christians, filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, went out from the "upper room" to set the world on fire with Good News of salvation, uniting all the nations in Christ. The early Church Fathers, when reflecting on the feast of Pentecost, often contrasted it with an earlier, very different event: the destruction of the Tower of Babel, in the book of Genesis. The contrasts they found were striking and relevant to our modern era of globalization.

The Tower of Babel was a human effort to unite the world, without God. The Lord destroyed the tower and confused the languages of those trying to build it. He made it clear that the human race could not be united, or fulfill its great destiny, without the aid of divine grace.

The Tower of Babel was a good thing undertaken in a wicked way. God wants unity in the world and he wants us to do great things with our talents. But nothing should be done in a godless, self-centered manner. The Tower had to be destroyed and its builders reduced to "babblers," because they built on the wrong foundation. They sought brotherhood and progress, without the Lord’s help, without his grace and his truth.

At Pentecost, this punishment is dramatically reversed. Instead of becoming incomprehensible to each other, people from all parts of the world were able to understand the Apostles’ preaching: "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?" In his mercy, God lifted the confusion of languages that he imposed at Babel.

On Pentecost, the false and artificial unity of Babel is replaced with the true bond of Christian charity.

God wants the world to be interconnected and unified. But our Father’s plan is not based on things like political integration, trade agreements, or electronic media. God’s plan is based on the unity of faith, the bond of sacramental grace, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our hearts. This is God’s vision of globalization, and it is the only kind that will succeed in the long run.

Today, new kinds of connections are forming across the universal Church, especially between historically Christian countries and the growing churches of the Global South. These connections are part of God’s providential plan -- to gather his faithful from every nation, and unite them in the bond of charity.

On Saturday, May 25, I will ordain three deacons to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, my first priestly ordinations as the Bishop of Lincoln. Please pray that these three men will be holy and zealous priests; priests after the Heart of Jesus Christ, the one High Priest of God.

On the eve of our priesthood ordinations, as is the custom in the Diocese of Lincoln, I will ordain six seminarians to the order of deacon, including two men from the South Asian island of Sri Lanka. They are all good and holy men, and their ordination bears witness to the unity of our Church.

The Diocese of Lincoln has taken responsibility for training two seminarians from Sri Lanka, where Bishop Bruskewitz’s friend Cardinal Ranjiith serves as the Archbishop of Colombo. This commitment has been a blessing both for them and for us. Both are excellent candidates for the priesthood, and I believe they are destined for great things in their ministry when they eventually return to their native land. Their presence is a testimony to the grace of Pentecost, which unites all peoples in the truth and love of Jesus Christ.

Because of the generosity of the people of this diocese, we are blessed with the resources that allow us to make this commitment -- to build this globe-spanning bridge between Nebraska and Sri Lanka. The ordination of these two deacons, together with their four American brothers, is an example of the kind of globalization God wants. It will be a sign of the true unity and progress that Pentecost makes possible: our unity in faith, and our progress in sanctity.

Today globalization is a frequent topic of political and economic discussion. This can be a good thing. But we should be skeptical of efforts toward human unity and progress that do not have the Lord as their foundation.

As I prepare for this week’s sacred ordinations, I am confident in God’s vision for globalization: that there will be one Flock, and one Shepherd; and "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

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