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Readings for the first Sunday of Lent: Noah, the Flood, and baptism

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During this season of Lent, my parish is using custom-printed booklets for "worship aids" (which we use instead of missalettes). The booklets contain all the hymns for each Sunday, as well as the first two readings. Each Sunday is prefaced by a little meditation written by Father Paul Turner, a priest in Missouri who has created a large body of writing for this purpose.

Some of Fr. Turner's "bulletin inserts" are quite though-provoking and provide good food for meditation. The blurb for this past Sunday is another story. With my mad Google skilz, I found it online, at the top of page 2 of this parish's bulletin (PDF link). The subject is the first reading for March 1, Genesis 9:8-15, the end of the story of Noah's nautical adventure, in which God makes a covenant not to flood the earth again. Fr. Turner's commentary includes this:

So, what did God give up? God gave up global floods. “There shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” God gave up giving up on people.

As I read these words, the catechist in me cringed. God did not give up giving up on people — because God has never given up on people. Though the Genesis account may make it sound as if God was intent on destroying his creation, our understanding of God makes it clear that nothing could be further from the truth. Old Testament stories like this are included in Scripture because they teach us something about humankind's relationship with God. It was sin that destroyed the earth, and God who saved it (through Noah). The covenant not to flood the earth is a prefigurement of the final covenant, when God sent Christ to save the earth from the flood of our sins.

The second reading for last Sunday is taken from the first Epistle of Peter. I rather think St. Peter had much more astute thoughts on the Noah story. From the reading:

[Christ] 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. (1 Peter 3:19-21)

The catechist in me was struck with wonder at this interpretation, which seems so obvious, but which had escaped my notice until now: The Great Flood, which symbolically cleansed and "purified" the world, prefigured our water baptism, in which our souls are really cleansed and purified from all original and personal sin. God did not give something up; he gave something to us.

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