Sunday Sermon for February 18, 2018, the First Sunday of Lent, Year B
Readings: Gen 9:8-15; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15
I had to smile when I read today’s Gospel where it tells us “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” to be tempted. We have recently heard that the bishop’s of several countries have decided to change the penultimate petition of the Lord’s Prayer based (lead us not into temptation) because God would never lead us into temptation. Not only it is astounding to think that we can change the prayer Jesus taught us, but before we can consider changing the prayer we somehow have to think one of two things: either we know better than Jesus or He was just plain wrong. Isn’t it wonderful to know we have become so enlightened in our day that we now know more than God?
I should point out, in case someone might think the translation might be bad and these bishops are just straightening things out, the Greek of the New Testament is very clear and it says “lead (or bring) us not into temptation.” It is so clear that all the translations done over the years have translated the prayer the same way. So, I am flabbergasted at this action because, first, we believe Jesus is God and, second, we believe the Sacred Scriptures are divinely inspired. I do not even know how to label such an attitude that suggests we can change the words of Jesus Himself. If I am not mistaken, there is a curse laid down in Scripture that is to alight upon anyone who would add to, change, or delete anything for God’s Word.
With that out of the way, we can now focus on the rest of the content of today’s readings. St Peter tells us in the second reading that what happened at the time of Noah when eight persons were saved through the flood prefigures baptism in which we are saved through the water of new birth. In the first reading we hear not only that Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives were saved along with the animals on the Ark. After the flood had subsided and Noah had offered sacrifice to the Lord, God establishes a covenant with Noah. Noah, at that point, was the patriarch and the origin of every person who would live after him.
We naturally think of Adam and Eve as our first parents, and so they are. But with all human life destroyed except Noah and his family, all human life can be traced to Noah and his wife. Therefore, as He had with Adam before him, God now establishes a covenant with Noah; however, rather than making a covenant with a humanity, God now makes a covenant with all bodily creatures. Never, again would all creatures be destroyed in a flood.
Every covenant has a sign to remind the parties of the agreement, so now God gives the rainbow as a sign of this covenant. The rainbow is reminiscent of a bow used for hunting, so when we see the bow in the sky, we can recognize that it is turned away from us. Using this analogy of a hunter seeking his prey, the arrows an only go in the direction the bow is pointed. So, if God’s bow which shoots an arrow that will flood the entire earth is pointed away from us, then we are reminded that such a deadly flood will not afflict the earth again.
Baptism, too, is a covenant whereby we are saved through the water. Entering into the water we symbolically die as the old way of life is put to death. Coming out from the waters we are clean from sin and granted new life. The order of sin and death, which are ultimately the domain of Satan, are destroyed so charity and life, which are the domain of God are infused into us. With this new life of grace we are children of God, members of Jesus Christ, and heirs to eternal life. With only two options for humanity regarding eternity, life and death, we have truly be saved through the waters in order to enter into life. We have become a new creation in Christ.
As we have seen, God made covenants with Adam and Noah, the first of humanity. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, and He Himself is the covenant into which we have been baptized and the Eucharist is the sign of that Covenant. Every time we received Holy Communion we should be reminded of our baptism: that we have died to self and we are alive in and for Jesus. Like our Lord, we will all have to die in the flesh, but we have the promise of being raised from the dead and sharing body and soul in the glory of God.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.