by Fr. Tommy Lane
The biblical account of the Flood depicts life on earth after the flood as a new creation. Genesis wants us to understand that there was a new beginning after the Flood and to help us get the point it describes life after the flood in such a way as to recall the account of creation at the beginning of Genesis. For example, in the creation account at the beginning of Genesis there is one couple Adam and Eve and after the Flood we have only Noah his wife, and their three sons and their wives. God gives the same command to be fertile and multiply to Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28) and to Noah and his family (Gen 9:1). Although there is not a total return to the innocence of Eden after the Flood (because Genesis 9:3 tells us people became carnivorous after the Flood), yet evil has been cleansed from the earth by means of the flood. There is a new creation after the Flood. The waters of the Flood brought cleansing and life began again. The Flood was a type or anticipation of baptism as Peter indicates in the second reading when he writes, “This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.” (1 Pet 3:21) The Flood cleansed the world of sin and new life began. Baptism washes original sin and we become a new creation in Christ. The new life we receive in Baptism flows, in a flood, from the pierced side of Christ on the cross (John 19:34). The deadly flood has been replaced by the life-giving flood from Christ.
Though we have become a new creation in in the floods of grace from Christ’s side, we are still tempted or threatened by worldly floods. The floods that threaten us now are the noise of the world and the images of the world and the lies of those who try to push their agenda on us while distorting or ignoring the truth. These floods are attempting to change our way of thinking. They are trying to drown us. That is why we need this time of Lent every year to reflect on how we live the graces of the waters of baptism in the midst of a world flooding us with glitter. During Lent, we are conscious of the catechumens preparing to be baptized during the Easter Vigil during which we will all renew our baptismal promises. Cardinal Ratzinger in Dogma and Preaching (page 48) wrote that we are all sinners who have need of the catechumenate once more every year to become more accustomed to what is Christian and outgrow what is merely worldly. Commenting on Paul’s description of Baptism as dying with Christ and rising with his new life, he wrote,
After all, no one enters fully into the spirit of being baptized until he has completely died with Christ and has been submerged with him in death, so as to be one with him and to live with him. (Dogma and Preaching pages 48-49)
Lent is a time to escape the floods of the world and like the catechumens ever more to become a new creation in in the floods of grace from Christ’s side.
As Jesus began his ministry, Mark tells us in the Gospel today, Jesus proclaimed “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) As you know, “repent” in Greek of the Gospel, means “change your mind.” Jesus asked for a change of mind. Then he said, “believe in the Gospel.” So Jesus asked to turn from whatever is not the Gospel towards the Gospel. Put in other words, Jesus said to turn from the floods of the world that are threatening to drown us, to turn from the images and noise of the world, to turn from the lies and deceptions of the world, to him and his Gospel.
Turning from the world to the Gospel of Jesus obviously takes concrete form and expression in the lives of each of us. One example struck me recently when I was visiting priest friends early last month in Vienna. While visiting the seminary one afternoon, I was looking at pictures of various Prelates hanging on the walls and one struck me. Upon enquiring, I was told it was Cardinal Theodor Innitzer, the Cardinal in Vienna before, during and after World War II. Although he initially supported Hitler’s takeover of Austria by Germany (Anschluss), he changed his mind when he saw the persecution of the Church and he repented, to use the language of today’s Gospel. In October 1938 in a homily to Catholic youth at the Cathedral in Vienna, Cardinal Innitzer, made one statement for which he is ever since remembered. He said, “There is just one Führer: Jesus Christ.” The following day his residence was attacked and ransacked by Nazi mobs, many of the contents of his residence were thrown out the windows and burned on the street and cries such as “send the Cardinal into a concentration camp” could be heard.
Jesus proclaimed “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) The Greek word, euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), translated in the New Testament as “Gospel,” in secular Greek meant news of victory in battle. Its Latin equivalent, evangelium, meant news of any kind good or bad. But in the New Testament, euangelion always means the Gospel of Jesus. Only Jesus and his Gospel bring the Good News of Salvation. “There is just one Führer: Jesus Christ.” There is just one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2018
More Homilies for the First Sunday of Lent Year B
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