Sunday, February 22, 2015

The great flood foreshadows Baptism: 1st Sunday of Lent

(Listen to this homily here).

            Our first reading came from the first book of the Bible and in the opening pages.  The portion we heard came right after the great flood and featured God’s promise to never flood the earth again. 
            Whenever I think of the story of Noah and the ark, I always picture illustrations from the kids Bible.  You know the one with the elephants and giraffes walking onto the boat with Noah and the family?  This is one of the most well known stories in all of the Bible.
            This morning I would like to talk about how this great story foreshadows a great sacrament—Baptism.  Our second reading features a unique occurrence in the Bible—an explicit interpretation of the Old Testament in the New Testament.  Listen again to what St. Peter wrote: “…while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water.  This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.”  Peter points to Baptism as the key to interpret Noah, the ark and the great flood.
            In seminary my professor taught me some easy phrases to remember the effects Baptism has on our soul: sin out, God in, in the Church.  Sin out, God in, in the Church.  These phrases can be helpful in connecting this great account in Genesis to our very lives.
            Sin out.  Why did the flood happen in the first place?  The sacred author attributed it to human sinfulness.  God was reported to wanting a “fresh start” after the wickedness of man became so great.  The waters of the great flood symbolized this fresh start, something that was cleansing.  The waters of Baptism does the same thing—we receive forgiveness for both original and actual sin.  As Peter wrote, “It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”
            God in.  God saw Noah’s faithfulness—that Noah and his family was faithful to God.  Because of this, God made a covenant with Noah—a promise never to flood the earth again.  Baptism forges a covenant between us and God.  We receive a seal on our soul—in a way we are branded for God—that will never go away.  In a special way God comes into our soul.
            In the Church.  Just as Noah was saved through the ark, so too we are saved by boarding the Church.  In fact, since the time of the Church Fathers the Church has been compared to a ship.  Think about some of the big cathedrals or basilicas in the Gothic style.  The flying buttresses are meant to look like a ship.  Also, you are currently sitting in the nave of our church—this word comes from the same Latin word for ship—navis.  The Church is an ark—a ship—that carries us over the waters of chaos, sin and devastation.  And she will carry us faithfully.
            As we begin Lent, a couple of questions for you to consider.  First, how are you living out the great call of a baptized Christian?  Your baptism was the most important event in your spiritual life.  Would people know you were baptized?  Are you striving to grow in your faith?
            For you parents—you promised at your child’s baptism to be faithful in helping them grow closer to Jesus.  You promised to keep the light of faith burning.  How has this been going for you? 
            Lent is a time to think about such things.  May we live out more fully our call as baptized Christians.  May our prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us be more faithful to God’s covenant with us.  May the Church continue to lead us over the waters of darkness as the ark of salvation.

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