Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
So as to be more available to the graces contained in today’s readings, imagine a multicolored rainbow. One foot of this arch rests right next to Noah who is removing his raincoat and hat while he listens attentively to a voice from above the slowly diminishing dark clouds. The other foot of the rainbow rests on the shoulders of Jesus who seems to be eating quite hungrily and is holding a sign which reads, “Good News, now available.”
There is something in our hearts and souls, which longs for the “better.” We desire to think of ourselves as progressing and achieving a self of whom we can be proud, or happy, or at least content. Lent is a beginning of a kind of sprint to “betterness.” Forty days, not counting Sundays, of doing or not doing so that we can, can, can what? We have been “lenting” for a long time and always we seem to be at the starting line and with a sense that when we cross the Easter finish line, we won’t be much, much, much what?
We have many things about which to pray and with which to walk in God’s presence. Lent is both a holy and a joyful season. Giving up things which are gifts from God will aid us in sensing God’s goodness in such wonderful offerings to us. God tells Noah after the flood that all things are in order now. Jesus says to his first listeners to repent from disorder so that there will be peace again on this earth; this earth which is aflood with the goodness of God. We pray for that peace; we pray for a sense of repenting from the disorderly relationships we have with various gifts of this relenting God.
These first days of Lent we pray to live with a desire for the innocence into which we were born at our baptisms; the great watery flood of the new creation we were and are called to live. The Easter finish line is the recelebration of that “unharmness” which we will liturgically recall as we welcome the newly baptized at the Vigil. WE are to repent from our false attempts at loving ourselves more because we are “better” and receive the Good News that Jesus is what is, for us and all creation, “better.”
Perhaps you have been in a sorority/fraternity, club or some kind of organization into which new members enter after some testing and strict orientation. The new members have been instructed about the goals, programs, and characteristics of the persons who constitute the whole body.
When I was about to enter the Society of Jesus, I was quite worried about whether or not I was good enough, worthy of and adequate for living with such men of high quality, education, holiness, and dedication. Well as you can imagine, I fit right in as I found out, and continue to discover, how far short they fell from what I expected. Of course, now I am a member of more than a few years and new members joining our ranks find a soft disappointment in how I live and act.
Lent is a bit like this. People of all ages and backgrounds have been desirous of entering our church communities. They have been studying and listening and praying to become members of the Body of Christ. They too might wonder whether they are worthy and holy enough. Lent for us is the time to become worthy of their entering our group, our business of living the Gospel. We are invited these days to “re-up”, re-dedicate, “re-Lent” so as to live the Good News in ways that will encourage our new members even more. Is the life of holiness possible? Yes, in our lives as humans who try.
Noah is given a promise and a sign in today’s First Reading. The flood is over; God is seen as having compassion on the earth, the birds, tame and wild beasts and all Noah’s descendants. Once there was order, then disfigurement, and now a new relationship. God promises never again to be angry with creation.
The sign of this promise is a rainbow spreading over the entire world. The text says that when God sees that brilliant bow, God will remember the promise and never punish the earth again.
There continues to be new forms of de-creating, disordering, and defacing this earth, ourselves, and each other. We may bring floods of destruction upon this earth and ourselves, but the rainbow continues to be seen.
Humans have been throwing stones, hurling fire, shooting bullets, evaporating creation in a flash, and raining bows of terror on each other throughout our history. The “rainbow” still circles the globe.
We hear in today’s Gospel Mark’s version of Jesus’ beginning his ministry of bringing about the reordering of human life by going out into the desert of intimacy. Hosea, in last-week’s first reading lured Israel out into the desert so as to speak intimately to her heart. The Jews had been met deeply by God as they were led out of Egypt and into their new land. Jesus as a faithful Jew is led out to be met and sent to reclaim all of creation as God’s holy land. Jesus is the “New Flood” of God’s creative love. Jesus invites his listeners to bend back and away from all that is hurting them and others and believe that he is the “Good News” and all are called to believe in him.
As I was writing this Reflection, a young woman called me on the phone and said she had a quick question. I have learned that when people say that, that they are lying. The question is long and the answer is even longer. “What can I do to 'please' God.” I wanted to tell her to read this Reflection, but it wasn’t done yet. If pleasing God means believing in the Good News, and that the Good News is that we are already loved by God and can not please God by doing, but being, then we can “please” God. We “please” God by taking into our hearts and actions the belief that what the Good News really is, has been revealed by what God thinks of us. Jesus is what God is pleased with about us.
“Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” 1 Peter 3: 18
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