“That we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.”
These words are taken from the Opening Prayer of this Sunday’s liturgy. So our prayer these days is oriented towards understanding Christ’s life, death and resurrection. We are invited to pray then to understand what it means to be loved beyond all our understanding, because that is what His redemptive life offers us. We are oriented to try in our little ways to comprehend in our meager human ways, the incomprehensible love of the creating, redeeming reality, mystery, person, we fumblingly call “God”.
To do this properly we must pray also for humble patience as our minds trip over images, metaphors, intellectual concepts, and human experiences of love. We are invited to pray as well for the grace to reflect our being so loved in the loving way we walk our paths. We pray then for the freedom to astonish this world by how our love for others and the dying to our selves that love demands to manifest itself. We will need more than forty days to advance these desires.
In the first few verses of Genesis, God is pictured as hovering over the waters and breathing upon them and bringing about light and dark, heaven and earth and God saw that it was “good”. In today’s First Reading, we hear a secondary creation narrative. The story goes that God’s creation forgot the Creator and lived unloving lives of selfishness and disrespect. God, the story runs, just almost brought back the waters of chaos and dis-created what God now saw His creation, and especially humanity, as “bad”. Just almost God did this, except for the second-chance “luxury” liner, the Ark. I deliberately use the word “luxury”, because its root meaning contains the image of “light” which was the very first of God’s creation.“ Let there be light.” So the Ark of “Light” extends God’s covenantal-creational love.
Noah and his crew of life weather the storm of God’s anger and when this storm blows itself out, God rested the case against creation and repented as the boat rested again on the earth. If you are sensitive to proper English usage, you have noticed that God, while pronouncing the new covenantal sign, says, “me and you” which violates our polite way of putting “you” before “me”. It happens three times in these verses and this is correct theologically, if not perhaps grammatically. In the “Covent” form, the initiation of the covenant is offered by the more powerful and generous party. God is doing the offering, the recreating, the redeeming of all creation. The “bow” in the sky, the rainbow is placed there by God as a reminder to God, of the promise to continue creation through God’s redeeming love.
The Gospel opens with Jesus having a little Lent Himself: forty days in the desert facing “wild beasts”. It is difficult to know why Mark’s account of this experience is so brief. What we do know is that immediately after the angels ministered to Him, Jesus began proclaiming His central truth, that the time has come for God’s love to flood the earth and of salvation and the Rainbow of God’s Fidelity.
God “repented” in Genesis from the dis-creational judgment. Jesus’ Gospel asks for a “repenting” on the part of humanity from its irreverent relationship with God and God’s creation. Jesus begins proclaiming that the reception of God’s love is the number one priority for living as one of God’s creation which God saw was “very good”. In the same first Chapter of Genesis, from verse 27 through 31 -the end of the chapter- God is pictured as creating male and female and giving them all creation as a gift to be received and reverenced. Jesus begins recalling God’s people back to their original relationship with God through creation.
All things were created in Him and so Jesus is the Ark containing all life’s meaning. All creatures, large and small, all things bright and beautiful, all these revelations of God can dominate human beings with their facility to be taken as gods. The repentance Jesus is calling for in today’s Gospel is a recovery of sight. The “light” has again appeared dividing heaven and earth and showing the earth as having come from the God of heaven and earth. Jesus is the new Ark containing the light to see once more who we are and what we are to God.
This Lent is a joyful time as we spend these days taking off the bandages from our eyes and earmuffs from our heads so as to see and hear again more clearly the goodness of creation, the goodness of ourselves, and all as a revelation of the goodness of God. We may have to face the “wild beasts” within us which just might be the causes of our being “wild beasts” in the lives around us. Forty days of repenting from disrespectfully eating, drinking, self-hating, silence-smashing, relationship-wrecking, beauty-marring, ungiftingly-grabbing, dark and numbing existence..We repent from calling this “very good” and return to seeing ourselves and all as “very good” in Christ.
Forty days we have, to prepare for reflecting the meaning of Christ’s life, death and resurrection in just how we relate with ourselves, with creation around us and with God. Forty days we have to get back into and on board the New Luxury-Liner where all are safe, blessed, and glad to be back home.
“The Lord will conceal you with his pinions, and under His wings you will trust.” Ps. 91, 4
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