God Is Committed to Us Forever

02-21-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our Old Testament passage is the first reading during the Sundays of Lent and it holds a great deal of meaning for us. We do not start the reading at the very beginning of the story of Noah, but much later when all the trouble and travail have passed and the flood waters have gone back down. Indeed, the beautiful multi-colored rainbow is now showing forth across the sky for one and all to see. Earth and heaven are connected by this beautiful display of light that tells us God is with us and He is committed to us forever. What a great thought to hold in mind as we launch out and begin the great Season of Lent.

As people who live near the sea, the story of Noah captures our attention and imagination. Although it sounds much like a children’s story, it is a story for all of us of any and all ages. This story of Noah is actually about God’s first covenant with His Chosen People. This is in fact a big event and truth. The story and this covenant are not just about Noah and his family, but about all the people of then. What makes this covenant with God so significant is its timing; it is made after the world has drowned itself in willfulness and sinfulness. The story of Noah is of a good man who must begin again; in fact, even God begins again with His now publicly Chosen People. This is the story of the second chance for people. The ark is a symbol of a miniature saved world that allows for a new beginning for all of us.

Our second reading this weekend, taken from the First Letter to Peter, helps us to gain a new insight into the meaning of water in Salvation History. Peter does not focus on the water in Noah’s tale as a destroying flood, but as water that supports and maintains life. Peter sees this water as the water of salvation, not at all as the water of death.

Water is a contrasting image in the Gospel. Jesus goes into the desert where there is no water. Here he struggles with the devil. For forty days Jesus struggles with evil and ultimately subdues it. When He returns from the desert, he announces the great news that the kingdom of God is at hand. He does not focus on all the negatives of the people’s lives, He does not tell them how sinful they are. Jesus instead sets before them promise and fullness and asks them to take up the work of conversion and the changing of their hearts. The significance is that Jesus wants us by conversion and the changing of our hearts to focus on what we gain, not what we give up.

If we pay attention this Lent as we walk with Jesus towards Jerusalem for the Great Events that will take place during Holy Week and Easter, we need to have courage and strength to change our hearts and seek a new beginning. As the rainbow promised Noah a new and beautiful life, we too can have a new beginning with Jesus that will give us a deeply spiritual and fulfilling life.