Homily for Feb. 15, Tuesday of the VI week in OT year I
Sometimes we can get discouraged by the daily news. Not a day passes that we don’t hear about violence, suffering, and every kind of immorality. We don’t even need the media to bring this to our attention; we see it around us every day. It seems like our world isn’t that different from the world Noah lived in, when the Lord saw “how great was man’s wickedness.”
However, we should not lose hope; God does not abandon us to the perversity of humanity’s self-destructive tendencies. Since the first centuries of Christianity, theologians have seen in the account of Noah’s Ark a symbol of the Church. Instead of drowning in the troubles of the world, we have this safe haven of grace, forgiveness, and spiritual sustenance to keep us afloat. In the Bible, water is a symbol of both destruction and creation; through the waters of Baptism we die to sin and become new creations in Christ, members of the Church, passengers and sailors on the ship of salvation.
The psalm today ties into this imagery. The references to the Lords’ voice “over the waters” harkens back to the creation narrative of Genesis that we heard in the first reading about a week ago, and when it says that God is “enthroned above the flood” it calls up this image of God destroying evil and making a new creation for those whom He has chosen, thus blessing His people with peace.
The Gospel today can be read in this light too. The disciples are with Jesus in a boat on the water, and the Lord warns them about the “leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod”. They are a little slow sometimes, and so they think He’s talking about ordinary bread. Jesus points out that He can provide bread any time He wants to; what He’s worried about is the bad attitude of those who are self-righteous and hypocritical, on one hand (the Pharisees), and self-indulgent and violent on the other (Herod). Jesus wants everyone in the boat of the Church, but He wants us to beware of being infected by the mentality of the enemies of Christ, or of holding on to our sinfulness and stowing it away as luggage on the ship. God will provide us with all that we need, so we must strive to “travel light”, seeking with His help to rid ourselves of our selfishness and sin.
The Church is a big ship, and despite our best intentions, we all do bring some baggage with us – some more than others. We see that in the sad reality of divisions and scandals in the Church. But, instead of jumping overboard, let us pray today that God will help the Church be constantly cleansed and renewed, so that all people will see the Church as that great Ark that God has built for us to save us from the destruction of sin and carry us safely to heaven.