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Lent 1B Genesis 9:8-15 / 1 Peter 3:18-22/ Mark 1:12-15

 

The story of Noah and the Ark.

 

We just heard the end of

this great Biblical Story.

 

What’s the best way

for us Catholics

to read this great piece

of theological literature?

 

Well, very early on—

I’m talking second and third centuries early. . .

 

Catholic theologians recognized that

some stories in Scripture. . .

 

especially some in the Old Testament. . .

 

have so much more to say

than just their literal interpretation.

 

That some parts of Scripture

are best read in a spiritual

or allegorical sense.

 

For example,

what does the Israelites crossing

through the Red Sea. . .

 

Or the Israelites crossing the

Jordan River into the promised land. . .

 

prefigure or represent

for us Christians?. . .

 

Well, they prefigure the story of our salvation

as we pass through the waters of baptism!!!!

 

Or God feeding the Israelites Manna

in the desert

on their journey

to the promised land?

 

Well, that forecasts the Eucharist!!!

 

And the slaughtered Lamb eaten

during passover. . .

 

That’s Jesus. . .

 

the Lamb of God who takes away

the sins of the world!!!

 

You see, it’s all one consistent story. . .

when read the right way.


So what’s a spiritual reading of Noah and the Ark?

 

I got most of this about Noah’s Ark

from a talk Bishop Robert Barron

recently gave

at the Naval Academy.

 

And when read this way—

It’s pack with spiritual wisdom and insight.

 

To fully understand the Noah and the Ark story. . .

 

We need to know how the

ancients thought about the sea.

 

The sea frightened them!!!

 

The sea was terrifying!!!

 

When they sailed—

they would stay as close to the shore as possible. . .

 

sailing the sea was dangerous!!!

 

And think of the opening verses in Genesis . . .

in the first creation story. . .

 

The earth was a formless waste. . .

A great abyss. . .

 

Meaning a watery chaos. . .

 

And the Spirit of God hovers

over the watery chaos. . .

 

and brings order to it all.

 

So the sea and the storms. . .

 

the watery chaos. . .

became an ancient symbol

for things not of God. . .

 

things that brought chaos to God’s creation. . .

 

brought disruption to God’s order and harmony.

 

Think of the many issues we face. . .

 

Division. . .

 

Cruelty. . .

 

Violence—

 

all the physical and verbal and emotional violence. . .

 

Wars. . .

 

Discrimination. . .

 

So many without health care. . .

 

Poverty. . .

so few with so much. . .

and so many with so little.

 

Think of the uglify-ing and exportation of  God’s creation.

 

It’s all caused by sin, isn’t it?!?

That’s the root of it all!

 

All sin. . .

from the most mortal. . .

 

to the minutest venial. . .

 

in one way or another. . .

disrupts the order and harmony

that God meant for creation. . .

 

A watery chaos. . .

A dangerous storm.


But the overarching story of the Bible

is God’s love for humanity!!!

 

And God is always engaged in

some human rescue mission to

save us from sin and death. . .

from the watery chaos. . .

from ourselves.

 

So in the midst of all of this. . .

 

God picks out a righteous man. . .

Noah. . .

who walked with God,

as the story says.

 

I love that image. . .

walking with God.

 

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Enoch. . .

 

Enoch walked with God every day. . .

 

And one day. . .

Enoch just walked step by step with God

right up to heaven.

 

Walking with God. . .

 

Step by step. . .

 

Not going our own way. . .

Our own path. . .

 

Not racing ahead of God. . .

 

Or falling behind God. . .

 

But step by step WITH God. . .

 

That’s the great Spiritual Dance of the Saints!!!

 

What a great image.

 

So God chooses Noah. .

Who walk with Him. . .

to help in this rescue mission.

 

And God tells Noah “go and build an Ark. . .

 

build it with cypress word. . .

and cover it with pitch. . .

 

so the watery chaos can’t get it. . .

 

so sin and death can’t get in.”

 

Build a ship where Noah can still walk with God. . .

 

in the midst of the storm. . .

 

and the watery chaos.


Now here,

it’s important to realize what the flood. . .

what the watery chaos. . .

represents.

 

It is not God sending the

flood as punishment. . .

 

It is not God looking down

getting peeved off. . .

throwing a temper tantrum. . .

by destroying the earth.

 

This can’t be the correct interpretation

because when we read the Bible as whole. . .

we know that God is love!!!

 

God is in the rescuing business. . .

 

Not the destroying business!!!

 

The flood isn’t God’s doing. . .

 

It’s our doing.

 

God doesn’t force Himself on us. . .

we can reject God. . .

God allows that. . .

 

But when we reject God. . .

there will be consequences. . .

all the cruelty and hatred and violence and betrayal.

 

A breaking apart of

God’s order and harmony of creation. . .

 

That’s the flood.

 

And notice it’s not just humanity

that God seeks to rescue from the

watery chaos caused by human sin. . .

 

it’s the animals too.

 

You see when one walks with God. . .

 

then one is connected to

and concerned about all parts of

God’s wonderful creation


That’s one way the Rabbinic tradition saw this story. . .

 

Rabbis pointed out that during the 12 months in the ark. . .

Noah was so busy with the animals that

he didn’t even have time to sleep!

 

So this Noah and the Ark story is

A God’s rescue mission

to save humanity and the rest of creation. . .

 

from ourselves. . .

 

about restoring order and harmony to God’s creation. . .

 

So Noah becomes another Adam. . .

 

God makes a new covenant with Noah!

 

That’s the role of those who have placed themselves in the Ark. . .

 

Those who walk with God. . .

 

That’s us. . .

That’s the Church. . .

 

That’s really what the Ark represents. . .

Prefigures. . .

It’s the church. . .

 

To be part of a new Creation. . .

 

part of the New Kingdom of God

ushered in by Jesus.

 

So when we become tempted. . .

like Christ was tempted in the desert. . .

 

tempted to turn away from God. . .

 

tempted to run from God’s mission of rescue. . .

 

tempted to destroy. . .

instead of restore. . .

 

Or when we feel overwhelmed. . .

 

that the waters of chaos are encroaching in on us. . .

 

we know where to go. . .

 

we go with Noah into the Ark. . .

 

where we can walk step by step with God. . .

 

and when the door opens. . .

 

be part of the restoration. . .

 

Jesus’ rescue mission. . .

 

the Kingdom of God.


When this story is put in a Lenten context. . .

 

Lent is a time for us

to paint our Ark with pitch—

to slap on the tar. . .

 

that helps keep the watery chaos out!

 

That’s the prayer. . .

 

And the fasting. . .

 

And the almsgiving. . .

 

And the sacraments. . .

 

All the things the Church gives us

to grow closer to God. . .

 

So we can walk step by step. . .

with Jesus.

 

Lent, just like the story of the Bible—

is part of God’s great rescue mission to save us from ourselves.

 

Holy Spirit 02/20-21/2021