Lent. A devastating flood. A covenant. Suffering and promise. Desert, remote and raw. The tenor of the liturgical readings of the day ripples with the reality of the horror of Parkland, the outrage and fury. The journey begins again, faltering steps in a real world both temporal and spiritual. Catholicism holds the two intertwined, one informing the other and both leading to deliberate choice and decision.
There is a power in the Biblical story of Noah, the drama of the Ark and the flood. The first reading for the day is from Genesis; perhaps it is not at actually designed for children. Maybe it is about even more than the glory of the rainbow or the miraculous survival. Listening closely to the nuances of it is singularly powerful. It highlights what Noah heard, then what he actually did. There was no passivity in Noah, no casual response or nonchalant approach. The story enshrines the impossibility of a hope re-shaped as a reality. Essentially, Noah’s story is about making things happen.
It is a story about collaboration, critical thinking, responsibility. In all these ways, it is a story for our times. It carries a message far greater than expected: it is about survival and possibility under perilous circumstance. It is a story that can capture the hearts of children yet it clearly offers so much to adults grappling with the flood of contemporary crises. It is about seeing more than what is visible, and choosing to make a stand, to build something different.
In the same way, there is the starkness of the Gospel, the simplicity of response, of Satan’s callous testing of Jesus in the desert. Mark’s Gospel does not enshrine the particulars. But there it is again: Jesus taking action, dealing with the demons, and then coming forward. “This the time of fulfillment…Repent and believe….”
These readings for first Sunday of Lent, in the shadow of Parkland, in the grief that both unites and divides the nation, have a powerful invitation. This is our time, and at the heart of it all is a deep truth: actions matter. Choices make a difference, have a consequence and an effect. Attitudes matter; decisions matter. Each of us, and each of our choices, matter. Each one affects others.
The spirituality of Catholicism, the tender reminders from Scripture readings, are invitations to live fully in the temporal world, to appreciate and acknowledge, to dare to choose….to intertwine the secular and the spiritual. The time is now.