About twenty or so years ago now, my home parish put on a production of the musical Godspell, and somehow I found myself part of the cast. If you’ve ever seen the musical, you know that it is based on the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel that we are reading during this current Church year. I remember the first song of the musical was kind of strange to me at the time. It’s called “Tower of Babel” and the lyrics are a hodge-podge of lots of philosophies and philosophers throughout time. I didn’t get, at the time, the significance of the song, but I do now. “Tower of Babel” represents the various schools of thought about God, over time. It shows how philosophy at its worst has been an attempt to figure out God by going over God’s head, by leaving God out of the picture completely.
Now the composer of the musical is an agnostic Jew, and so he didn’t really have great philosophy in mind when he wrote Godspell, but as often happens, God had the last word. The “Tower of Babel” song ends abruptly and goes right into the second song of the musical, “Prepare Ye,” of which the major lyric is “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” The message that we can take from that is that the useless, and in some ways sinful, babbling of the pagan philosophers was once and for all settled by Jesus Christ. If we want to know the meaning of life, if we want to know who God is, we have only to look to Jesus. That’s true of most things in life.
And Jesus didn’t build us a tower to get to God. Instead, he mounted a cross. The path to God, the path to heaven, was not some grand tower of our own design, but instead a cross on which our God laid down his life. The way to get where he was going, the way to get where we need to go, is to take up that cross, lose our lives, and gain the kingdom. Because what good is it to gain the whole world, to build a tower of our own design, and forfeit the life of heaven?