"God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "See, I am now establishing my covenant with you.” (Gen 9:8-9)
This morning I began my day by preaching to the little kids, and I mean little. The class in charge of our school Mass was the Pre-K 4 children. I was surrounded by 4 and 5 year olds who had been talking about the story of Noah all week along with the other children from the congregation. We talked about different details about Noah’s story. They began to tell me about all the animals that were on the ark: elephants, hippos, lions, zebras, and, wait for it, tapeworms! One little kid said tapeworms! This was not the last I would hear from this 7 or 8 year old. Later on when talking about the flood and how all the bad people perished, this same little boy raised his hand and very seriously said, “I don’t get it. Wouldn’t it have been easier for God to just send his angels down to whip everybody?” The assembly lost it. How could I possibly proceed with a homily after that? Yet, I tried.
Here’s the thing about Noah: out of all the humans on earth, God chose him and his family. It was God’s initiative to establish a covenant with Noah. The children called it a promise this morning. God’s promise to us was to never again destroy all mortal beings. He is merciful, and during this Lenten season he has chosen you to enter into a new relationship with him just as he did with Noah. The floods washed away all the evil from the earth during those 40 days. Now we have another 40 days to wash away the evil from our hearts so that we can begin anew.
It was not lost on the children that Jesus spent the same number of days in the desert that Noah spent on the ark while the rain was coming down. Our short gospel today tells us of Jesus being driven into the desert by the Spirit to prepare himself for the mission to come. Once he emerges from the desert, he brings a simple message which we heard on Ash Wednesday when we received our ashes: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” We join Jesus in the desert because we are aware that we are in need not only of repentance, but that we need to truly believe in the life-altering message of the gospel. We journey for 40 days with our eyes firmly fixed on the celebration of the Easter mysteries where we will encounter new waters. God has chosen us as he chose Noah to do something extraordinary and to be part of his plan. It is up to us to respond to this invitation and to take advantage of the opportunity that Lent provides us to flood our hearts with God’s love and to wash away all the evil that keeps us from him.