Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflections
1st Sunday of Lent(B)
March 1, 2009

There always seems to be something timely and current whenever we hear God’s Word. God’s Word always convicts us, confronts us, and engages us in a task that is concrete, here and now. Thre is simply no skirting around it, no deying, no running away from it. Today, we are told about chaos, confusion, wilderness, flood, sin, wild beasts, desert, temptation, and arrest, on the one hand. But we also hear about a covenant, about a promise, about inclusiveness. We are told about all creatures as being part of this inclusive promise from God, no one excluded. Absolutely!

The promise from God was given in the heels of sin-induced destruction by flood. But as the creatures saved in the ark filed out into dry land, God, in His mercy promised a new covenant to be symbolized by the rainbow. Not only did God promise no more flood to destroy all mortal beings. He also included “every living creature” in this promised new covenant.

We are face to face with God’s all inclusive love for His creation, including, and most especially, us human beings.

Human beings must be the most difficult to deal with, if we think and speak of God in human terms. We hear Him in today’s first reading, in lovely anthropomorphism, literally begging Mr. Noah and his erstwhile shipload of the saved: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of the flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”

Too bad, we humans do not seem to learn very well. We seem to be hearing portions of God’s Word that suits our needs and tastes, to the total disregard of those that we do not feel like accepting. We know all about the phenomenon called selective listening. In the cognitive maps that we all have deep in our grey matter, we filter out those that do not jibe with our mental map of reality, of our expectations, of our needs and desires. We filter out those portions and snippets of reality that make us move out of our comfort zones, that make us uncomfortable and uneasy. Where God speaks of all-encompassing love, we talk of boundaries and limits and delimitations. The world now is rife with such artificial boundaries. Born-again christians endlessly talk about the “few and the chosen” who will be taken up during the moment of rapture, the second coming of the Messiah. Other christian denominations endlessly preach about their own exclusive group, numbering about 144,000, literally lifted from the apocalyptic and highly symbolic language of the book of Revelation, who will get to see salvation in the end times. The world is divided into freedom-loving (translate: those who are with America) and terroristic brigands (read: those who do not side with American economic interests). There are those whose lifetime goal is to destroy the world economy headed by the great superpowers. There are those who confuse religious issues with political and economic issues and who are dead-set on going to war in the name of God! Our very own country is made up of disparate groupings each one with its own political and economic agenda. Political office, for example, is something no poor man can ever hope to have. Politics and economics are some kind of an old-boys’ club, a private enclave of those who have money to burn.

God speaks today of a promise to ALL… all living creatures, all that sustain these living creatures in the world that God has created, in a world that is God’s perfect handiwork. But humans, supposedly the best of the lot, the highest and most dignified of all, seem unable to understand the will of God. We have understood so well one line of Genesis: Be masters of all of creation! Indeed, we have not only mastered creation. We have not only used it to our maximum benefit. We have abused it. And we have been in the business of abusing creation and all that is below us in dignity with impunity for so long. Why, humans even abuse fellow humans! We even do such gross acts of inhumanity to one another. Who has invented weapons of mass destruction but us human beings? Who has designed all the intricate and deadly plans for war but us human beings? Who has left out and manipulated so many ignorant and poor people but some of us who know a lot more than ordinary mortals know, withhold that information, capitalize on that knowledge, and still make the world believe we are still doing humanity a big favor, but some of us? Look now, who is forbidding some countries to produce nuclear weapons but the one who started it all, and who sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Look now, who are sending innocent people, women and children and the elderly to their untimely deaths all because of hatred, all because of an ideology?

You guessed it right… It is us! It is us who do it in God’s name, in the name of justice. And in the name of development, we also proceed to destroy creation and jeopardize the future of the generations yet to come, by our short-sighted – if, materialistic - interests!

The Lord promised no more flood. But it all seems that human sinfulness is just about to send fire roaring down from above with all our war posturings and wanton selfishness. The Lord promised PEACE to all…all men and women, all living creatures, everything that is part of His handiwork in creation.

That promise is set to be definitively fulfilled at some future time, we are sure. But we are called to take part in the fulfillment of that divine promise. We are called to take part in the building up of a kingdom of love, peace and justice. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ in order to make this a reality in the world we live in. We are supposed to give our little share to make this happen.

This we do, not in future, but NOW. Like Jesus, the Spirit leads us to our own deserts. We, too, are tempted by the new satans in our midst: the wish to get even, to need to put up a barrier of violence, ironically, to prevent more violence, our wish to get the upper hand, all the time, our distrust for others who do not share our own beliefs, our intolerance for all those who do not agree with us. The list is legion…We do not need satan to come to us…we have those temptation deeply embedded in our sinful nature and much more sinful culture.

But “the angels ministered to him,” we are told. We, too, are being ministered to by angels, by emissaries sent by God. We are being ministered to by the official teaching office of the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, who tells the world, as Christ did: NO TO WAR! NO TO VIOLENCE OF ANY KIND! And please do not put God into the picture. Please do not quote Allah and claim he is sending you to kill. For killing, violence, hatred cannot be godly at all. Those two can never come from God who loves us with an everlasting love.

“Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” Allow us, Lord, to be touched deeply by the angels you have sent to minister to us in these trying times. Grant us the humility to acknowdge our own roles in this messy and hate-filled world. And grant us the courage and decision to make amends and really do what little we can to make this world a more love-filled and enabling world, for ALL, ALL LIVING CREATURES, AND ALL THAT IS IN THE WORLD THAT SUSTAINS US IN THIS LIFE! Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


chrissyrudd said…
Maybe you can answer one of my most conflicted questions. I must warn you I am young, have much to learn, and seem most ignorant, but without asking the questions I will remain so. Is war ever justified? Do we have a duty as a nation to defend a people or nation by taking up arms? As a Catholic and as a history teacher I wonder about the role of war. In the catechism war is somewhat justified, although vaguely, for defense. And as a student of history I have a theory that there is never just one reason for a nation to go to war, there are usually three that go hand in hand: Moral/religious, economics/money, power/land control. But I just don't see Jesus ever condoning this? What about the holocaust, genocide in Iraq and Darfur, and oppression of people through multiple violations of human rights, past and present? What of the people that continue to try to harm us with weapons, regardless of diplomacy? I'm not sure how we make peace with that. It may be one of those questions I need to ask when I actually meet the big man, because I'm not so sure there is a simple answer.
you are right. there is no cut and dried answer. it is all very complex. one thing though is clear. war is no solution to anything and when we do engage in it, all we succeed to do is escalate the level of violence. the current trend in catholic social thought, despite the catechism's apparently condoning it is to say no to war in any form.