Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tuesday in the 6th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Saved by the Man in the Boat

Readings: Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10; Psalm 29:1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9c-10; Mark 8:14-21

Today we are again presented with two stories that bear a close correspondence to each other. In each of them there is a chosen saviour gathering survivors into a boat. In the story from the book of Genesis, Noah is instructed to gather a remnant of creation into the ark to preserve it, not just from the waters of the flood, but also especially from the great wickedness of manthe thoughts in his heart fashioned nothing but wickedness all day long. Likewise, in the gospel, Jesus symbolically gathers his disciples into a boat on the lake and warns them to be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.

The warning is, of course, for our ears as well. For isn’t the same wickedness that was prevalent in the days of Noah and of Jesus also present in our own time? Do we not continue to witness the corrupting influence of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod? Although the Pharisees were as pious as Herod was decadent did they both not have in common the same avarice, the same tendency to rely on their own strength to grasp at and to hoard the things that each found important? Herod was quite obviously greedy for wealth and political power. But were the Pharisees not also greedy for ritual purity and perfection? And did not this common characteristic prevent both from recognizing and receiving Christ as the Chosen Saviour, the new Noah, appointed to gather all into God's saving embrace? (By the way, for those who are interested and old enough to watch it, I found the film Perfume: the story of a murderer a powerful indictment of the very thing we are talking about here.)

But there is one thing that presents an obstacle to Jesus’ attempts at warning his disciples. For while Jesus speaks to them about profound spiritual realities, his disciples attention is focused upon the fact that they have no bread. In their anxiety over their daily sustenance, they forget that they are called to seek first the kingdom and all these things will be given you as well. And aren’t we, the present-day disciples of the Lord, not unlike them? While we may not think of ourselves as being quite as wicked as Herod and the Pharisees, do we not often find ourselves in the same boat as the first disciples? Do the stresses and strains of daily living not threaten to dull our spiritual senses, making it difficult for us to discern and to act against the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod? Are we not often also without perception?

If so, then like the disciples, we need to be reminded of the different times in our own lives when the Lord has provided for us, when the Lord has multiplied our meager spiritual resources to meet life's challenges. For it is only when we allow such concrete examples of the Lord’s providence to overwhelm us anew that we can truly be brought back to our spiritual senses, to appreciate the things that are truly essential, and to heed the words of warning by which the Eternal Word seeks to save us from the flood waters that daily threaten to engulf us.

How is the Lord gathering us into the ark of God’s providential love today?

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I read the account of The Flood, my analytical mind kicks into over-drive. Are the Scripture writers saying that God had made a mistake in His creation, that was why He needed to wipe them out, to start on a clean slate, so to speak? If the waters indeed obliterated every living thing on earth, how did the dove return with a tree branch in its beak? And horror of horrors, Noah sacrificed some of the very creatures that God had instructed him to gather together in the Ark so they wouldn't be an endangered species!

    If you overlook all these, you will, I'm sure, still marvel at the story of Noah and the Ark. I marvel at it from the standpoint of God renewing (restoring)His creation. Never mind the burning question whether indeed God had second thoughts about what He created; it's about God constantly shepherding His creation and continuing with His work of creation even today. The 'mistake' if there ever was one, wasn't God's. It was (and is) as Fr Chris so rightly pointed out, rooted in the 'wickedness of humanity, the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod' all of which are very much alive and well today. God continues to restore His creation through Yesuah Who in today's Gospel reading, restored sight to the blind man. Sometimes the restoration comes slowly but it will be fulfilled. In my anxiety to 'wipe out all that is evil so God can start on a clean slate', i overlook the fact that God has bigger, better plans for all of His creation, the good and bad alike.