God spoke to Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, "As for me,
behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your offspring after
you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle,
and every animal of the earth with you. Of all that go out of the ark,
even every animal of the earth. I will establish my covenant with
you; neither will all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood;
neither will there any more be a flood to destroy the earth." God said,
"This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and
every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set
my rainbow in the cloud, and it will be for a sign of a covenant between
me and the earth. It will happen, when I bring a cloud over the earth,
that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember my covenant,
which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and
the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh."
1 Peter 3:18-22
Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake
of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the
flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach
to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient 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. 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the
right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the
desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the
gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is
at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
longtime national and international activist in the peace movement, Bishop
Gumbleton is a founding member of Pax Christi USA and an outspoken critic
of the sanctions against Iraq.
has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, and has published
numerous articles and reports.
** Scripture texts in this
work are in modified form from the American Standard Version of the Bible
and are available as part of the public domain.
For your convenience, the
Scripture texts, as they appear in the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the
Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright ©
1998, 1997, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.,
may be found at the website of the United States Conference of Catholic
|Our first lesson
today, taken from the Book of Genesis, is from the beginning part of that
book, which we call pre-history. We have to remember that Scripture
came into being thousands and tens of thousands of years, hundreds of thousands
of years, after creation began. No one really knew that early history.
There was nothing written. But the sacred writers, using various
myths and stories that were created in various parts of the world, used
some of these stories to help us to understand what had happened at the
beginning. And one was the story of creation, a story of how out
of nothingness, God's love drew into being all of the universe. God
loved into being every creature.
It is described in the
Scriptures as there being chaos everywhere and the Spirit of God comes
forth over that chaos and brings forth order and peace and tranquility.
But then, almost from the beginning, as we read in that early part of Genesis,
human creatures began to rebel against God. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel,
and then leading up to the story of the flood, the arrogance and violence
of the people were horrendous. Sin was rampant everywhere, and the
flood was a symbol of the chaos and the destruction that was brought about
by creatures rebelling against God.
We probably don't have
the same sense of what the symbol of the flood was for the people in that
ancient period of pre-history. Remember, people only lived in a very
circumscribed area. They didn't know any other part of the world
and when a flood came, it destroyed everything. So floods were the most
potent symbol of the chaos and the disorder that came back into creation
after God had brought the peace and the tranquility and God's love.
For those ancient people,
the flood was the symbol that would be comparable to our thinking of the
mushroom cloud as the sign of the destructive power of nuclear weapons
that could destroy the whole planet. But again, as we heard in today's
lesson, God's love continues to change that chaos into peace, into tranquility,
brings order back as God draws people back.
That first lesson reminds
us of what happened so long ago. But as we all know, sin continues
in our world. Human creatures, all of us, continue to rebel against
God. God's love draws us into being. God's love watches over
us and as God promised when God established that covenant with Noah, and
all of his descendants, that love would always be present. God makes
a covenant that is unbreakable because God's love is so constant.
"See, I am making a Covenant
with you and with your descendants after you, with every living animal,
birds, cattle. That is, with every living creature of the earth,
I establish my covenant with you. Never again will all of life be cut off
by the waters of a flood. Never again will there be a flood to destroy
the earth. And then God gives us that sign of the covenant -– the
rainbow set in the clouds -- to indicate to us that the Love of God is
unbreakable. No matter what we do, God is always calling us back.
And we live in a time
when that symbol of the total destruction of the world must be present
in the consciousness of all of us. We are on the brink of a war and
a war for which our leaders say every option is on the table. That
is their way of saying we will use nuclear weapons if we choose.
The mushroom cloud threatens us because chaos, evil, sin, greed, is still
present in your heart, in my heart, in this world.
God's covenant is unbreakable
but we can continue to rebel. We can continue to act against God.
That is why it is so important that we enter into this season of Lent with
open hearts, with sincere desire to do what St. Mark says in the Gospel,
or what Jesus says: "Change your lives! Change your lives. The reign
of God is at hand.”
It could all be different.
That peace and tranquility and order and beauty that God intends for all
of creation can happen. Jesus says that the reign of God is right
now. It could happen. But you and I must change our lives,
be faithful to the Gospel.
What that could mean
for us we might discover if we remember what happened to Jesus when he
went off into the desert for those 40 days and 40 nights. In Mark's
Gospel, he does not describe the struggle Jesus had with evil. In
Matthew's Gospel, it is spelled out in greater detail.
Two parts of that struggle
of Jesus are especially important to us. The first, where, you remember,
the devil wants Jesus to change stones into bread, to use miraculous powers
to have all that he wants. It is a temptation to use material things
in excess. And how does Jesus respond? He says, "Remember,
you do not live by bread alone but by every word from God.”
In Lent, we try to fast
and abstain and do penance to remind ourselves that it isn't the material
things of the world in excess that give us life. It is having enough
but not consuming beyond what we need. And it is being open, then,
to growing in our spirit lives when we are beginning to put order and discipline
into our lives.
Try to remember that
we do not live by bread alone -- that we do not need to constantly accumulate
more material goods but we live by the Word of God and we grow into a fullness
of life. During this season of Lent, we can try to do that. Open
ourselves to God's Word, and we'd be better prepared to do that as we discipline
our appetites and our desire to constantly have more than we need.
The other temptation
that is especially, perhaps most of all, pertinent to our current situation,
is the third temptation when the devil took Jesus and showed him all the
kingdoms of the earth. He said, "If you fall down and worship me,
I will give you all of these kingdoms.” In other words, it's a temptation
to power, to violence, to domination. That is what the devil is offering
to Jesus -- total power over all the earth -- a human creature would have
that kind of power.
And Jesus says, "No!
Be gone Satan!" Jesus rejects that. It is the first indication
in the Gospels that Jesus rejects violence, rejects killing, rejects that
kind of violent power that would give someone domination and control over
others or give one nation domination and control over other nations.
Clearly, we need to hear
and reflect carefully on how Jesus reacts to that temptation. It
seems very clear in so many ways that we are living in a nation that is
trying to get power and domination over other nations over the earth.
We threaten with nuclear weapons. We say that we are the only superpower
and we will do anything necessary to remain the only superpower.
Change your lives.
We must take that seriously, each of us, and try to bring the Spirit of
the Gospel of Jesus into the spirit of the world in which we live.
But it has to start with each one of us. I must change my life.
I must be ready to follow the way of Jesus.
“Believe the Gospel,”
Jesus says. "Believe the Good News, the way of love.” It is the only
way to bring that order and tranquility and peace into our own lives and
into the world in which we live.
In a few moments we will
come forward to be signed with ashes. These ashes are a sign of dying.
We die to our sinfulness. We say “no” to sin and “yes” to the Gospel.
I hope that each of us, as we come forward, forms deeply within our hearts
a commitment to turn away from sin and to believe and to follow the Gospel,
the Good News of Jesus.
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.