A Better Way to Live Life

First Sunday of Lent

Gn 9: 8-15; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mk 1: 12-15

Deacon Larry Brockman


Did you know that Noah preached to the people of his time for 120 years before the flood?  For 120 years, Noah pleaded with the people to reform and turn to God.  And whether the 120 years is literal or not- the message is that God worked through Noah to bring people back to him for a long time.  But despite Noah’s patience and perseverance, only 8 people, his closest family members, believed and repented. 

Noah warned everyone the flood was coming as well, but that warning fell on deaf ears.  In fact, Noah was ridiculed and laughed at for building the ark.  So, virtually all the people of the time perished in the flood.  Ironically, those that were saved were saved by the same water that the others perished in!  Buoyed up by the ark, Noah and his family transcended the evil around them, and the devastation of the flood, to live.  And so, the covenant we hear about this morning was made with Noah and his descendants- those who listened to God.   

In the second reading, Peter refers to the flood waters as a prefiguring of Baptism, because the waters of the flood saved the few who were seeking God and his forgiveness.  Likewise, Peter says that Baptism “saves you now”, or immediately.  Indeed, when we were Baptized, all of our sins were washed away immediately. 

The same is true in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which was instituted so that persons who sinned after their Baptism might receive immediate forgiveness.  All we have to do is confess our sins and repent, and those sins are washed away for good.   

Peter also talks about the dead who were imprisoned by virtue of the flood.  The dead were the multitude that didn’t listen to Noah.  Peter says that Christ went “in spirit” to preach to the dead in that prison.  There’s a lot of discussion by Scripture scholars about what Peter’s words mean here.  But the majority of Scripture scholars seem to interpret that many of those lost in the flood had a last minute conversion when the flood actually came.  Christ had spoken to these lost souls through Noah for 120 years, that’s what the preaching of Christ was.  And although these people did not listen till the flood came, they remembered, and had this last minute conversion.  Some scholars quote St. Augustine who described this as a “miraculous” conversion. 

Nevertheless, those lost in the flood had to wait all that time- thousands of years from the flood till the coming of Jesus, till Christ redeemed them of their sin and released them from their prison. I don’t know about you, but this sounds very much like Purgatory to me and it sounds like a very, very sad condition.   

This reminds me very much of my experiences at a local hospital.  I go twice a week to help the Chaplain, where I visit the Catholics.  Many of the people I see have become estranged from the Church.  They either don’t attend Church, or they go to some other Church now.  Their faith is on the back burner while they live their lives.  Yet, when it comes to identifying what their religion is, they say they are Catholic.  Some of these people see their hospital stay as a wakeup call, and seek reconciliation with God through His is HChurch.  But many of them seem indifferent to God, and just want to get out of the hospital and resume business as usual.  There will always be time later to respond to God’s call and repent they think.  This sounds just like the folks caught in the flood.   

There is a different and better way for all of us- the way that Jesus shows us in this morning’s Gospel.  After his Baptism, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and fasted and prayed and reflected on the meaning of life.  In the midst of great temptations by the devil, temptations to use the talents God gave him on his own terms; to wield power; and to satisfy himself,  Jesus rejected all that.
Rather, Jesus emerged from the desert in harmony with God’s plan.  He was resolved to change his life to do God’s will for him and so, the simple Carpenter from Nazareth became a fiery preacher, a faith healer and messenger to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God.  His Gospel is his legacy; the crucifixion is the price he paid for doing God’s will; and the Resurrection and everlasting life were his reward.  Jesus showed us the way to do the same thing.   

We are challenged in these 40 days of Lent to make a change in our lives.  Lent is our desert time of the year, if we take the opportunity.  Let go of some of the clutter in your life, whatever it is that is holding you back from entering that desert.  Maybe it’s some of your TV time; some of your internet time; some of your shopping time.  But whatever it is that holds you back- cut some of it out.  That’s what you should fast from.   

And then, use that time to get with God.  Try the adoration chapel; or a quiet space in your home.  Pray for God’s help to identify and recognize your weaknesses and your sinfulness.   For example, reflect on whether you have a tendency toward any of the seven deadly sins-  Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Laziness, Anger, or Envy.  If you are honest with yourself, you will probably find something there that rings a bell.  And then resolve to do it, to change it.  Change is the key to success .  

There’s a saying used in 12 step addiction programs   That gives some insight into why change is necessary:  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”.  I think most of us are guilty of that.  We live our lives in a fixed pattern, and we’d like to change things, but we still keep going the same way.  And so, the results are no different.   

The people of Noah’s time did not change.  They never learned the lesson  They squandered more than a lifetime of God’s urging and patience.  Don’t repeat their mistake. 


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