February 14, 2017
Tuesday, Week Six, Year I
Genesis 6:5 to 7:10; Psalm 94; Mark 8:14-21
Happy the one you teach, O Lord.
Genesis 6:5 to 7:10 begins the story of the Flood. Other cultures have flood myths, which we would expect, since most peoples probably included some massive inundations in their history, and folk tradition would have taken account of these. The most ancient Middle-East mythologies include stories of both a lost paradise and a deluge. What we have in Genesis is God giving his version of these stories — not to provide historical details, but to make them bear the message God wants to deliver.
The message of the flood story is triple: 1. The human race can (and did and does) get pretty corrupt. So much so that from a human point of view it would be understandable if God wished he had never made us. 2. We can never conclude from this that human nature is just bad. Individuals can be different, and “find favor with the Lord,” as Noah did. 3. As a matter of fact, God will not destroy anything he has made. He will always leave a “remnant” to continue what he has begun.
The Flood is a survival story. But the survival is due to two things: God’s own loving intervention, and human willingness to follow his directions out of faith in his word. Noah, as a faithful “steward of creation,” preserved both his family and everything for which he was responsible because of the authority given him:
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (1:26).
We will see tomorrow that it is also a promise story; one of the bases for the fundamental hope that should characterize human existence.
One immediate lesson we draw from it is the need to read God’s word. God doesn’t normally speak to people as he did to Noah. But he does speak to every one of us, and in a manner more powerful and reliable than direct revelation:
In times past God spoke to our ancestors in partial and various ways through the prophets. But in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he created the universe.
His message comes to all and to each one of us through the Scriptures. It is double, as it was to Noah. First: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Second: By responding to God with faith, save everyone and everything God made, by bringing them all into the “Ark,” the symbol of the Church.
The ship (bark or barque, barchetta) was an ancient Christian symbol. Its is the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of human souls. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah's family during the Flood (1Peter 3:20-21). Jesus protecting Peter's boat and the apostles on the stormy Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). It was also a great symbol during times when Christians needed to disguise the cross, since the ship’s mast forms a cross in many of its depictions.
The Church believes that in the Liturgy of the Word —or any reading of Scripture — the “Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them.” The only question is, will we listen? To save ourselves and others. Happy the one you teach, O Lord.
Meditation: Do I believe God teaches me personally through Scripture?