The End Point in Christ is What Matters

02-18-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Gregory B. Wilson, VF

Our first reading this weekend, which is from the Book of Genesis, is a frequently told and fondly remembered story. Although this story is often considered primarily a children's tale, the meaning of the story of Noah has a powerful insight for adults of all ages, from teen years until eighties and nineties. Bear in mind that the tale of Noah relates the story of God's first covenant with the chosen people. In fact, we realize that this covenant comes as something of a surprise to Noah and also to one and all.

We cannot view this covenant as a nice, small, little agreement between God and Noah's personal family. This covenant is, in fact, explicit, unilateral, and universal. This is indeed big stuff! This covenant, unasked for and totally unexpected, is made with Noah after the entire known world had drowned itself in its own willfulness, self-centeredness and sinfulness.

Noah, who was very good and decent, escaped in the big ark with his family and a pair of each living creature. At the end, he had to begin all over again. This was the circumstances for both Noah and God. The "new" world is the beginning of the magnificent tale of a second chance given by a patient God to a faithful man and his family, and all their livestock and creatures. We must see the ark floating on the water is a miniature, saved world. Note that everything that is needed is present.

Our second reading this Sunday, which is from the second Letter of Peter, references the story of Noah and adapts it to illustrate a new understanding of water in salvation history. Bear in mind that Noah's "small" and sufficient ark escaped "through the water." The author of Peter views this image of water not as a drowning deluge, but as water that can support and sustain life. This water to which the author refers is the water of salvation, not of death by drowning.

The passage from the Gospel is so brief we almost miss it. Mark's Gospel asks us to have a world view that sees Jesus not only as the Savior, Son of God, but also bearer of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, in fact, drives Jesus into the waterless desert, where he meets and struggles with Satan. This struggle is a symbolic representation of his entire mission of struggling with and finally overcoming the power of evil. For forty symbolic days, Jesus takes on and then subdues the power of evil. Jesus then reappears dramatically into the quiet and relatively tranquil world of Palestine. Christ appears among people simply living their daily lives and announces a new time and new day. He announces that God is here and seeks our repentance and our faith.

Jesus tells the people that the reign of God is at hand. We do not hear or see him as a doom and gloom and hellfire preacher. He does not beat up the people with their wrongdoings and sins. Jesus first sets before everyone promise and fullness, and then he asks people to accept and take on the work of conversion.

We learn from this passage that we need to focus on what is to be gained, not on what is to be given up. Realize that only by focusing on the end of the Lenten journey - Easter - will we be able to develop the courage and persistence needed for renunciation and repentance. All of our readings point us to see what matters at all times, not the process that only gets us there. The end point in Christ is what matters.