LENTEN JOURNEY – WEEK 1
“This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you… I have set my bow in the clouds.” (Genesis 12-13a)
The rainbow is a sign of the covenant that God makes not just with humanity but with all living things!
God’s gift of life is sacred and we need to find ways to support and cultivate a culture of life!
When Abba Macarius was returning from the marsh to his cell one day, carrying some palm-leaves, he met the devil on the road with a scythe. The devil struck at him as much as he pleased, but in vain, and finally, said to him, “What is your power, Macarius, that makes me so powerless against you? All that you do, I do, too! You fast, so do I! You keep vigil, and I don’t sleep at all! In only ONE THING do you beat me?” Abba Macarius asked what that was. And the devil replied, “Your humility. Because of that, I can do nothing against you.”
Humility! —Being grounded, of the earth, knowing from where we’ve come and who made us! —Knowing our limits and also our potentialities! —Being unafraid of being God’s servants and of entering into a life-giving relationship with God! It’s a virtue that’s at the very heart of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who, though God, left the glories of heaven and became man —became one of us— so that by his presence among us, he might demonstrate the humility of shaping his will according to his Father’s will and thereby, demonstrate to all of us, how we can truly come to know and embrace the great destiny to which each one of us is called by the Father!
We see that in today’s first reading when Noah and his family leave the ark and in the gospel as well when Jesus is tempted by the devil for forty days before he’s about to begin his public ministry. It’s no mistake that the flood lasted for 40 days and that Jesus’ temptation in the desert lasts for 40 days! Mentioned 146 times in the Bible, the number 40 symbolizes a period of testing, trial, or probation. It’s a sign of completeness when the time is expired too! It’s meant to prepare the one undergoing the testing, trial or probation, for whatever lies ahead, in preparation for the vocation to which God has called him/her.
In Mark’s gospel, we don’t hear the specifics of how the devil tempts Jesus, but to be sure, all of the temptations that the devil threw at him, were attempts to chip away at Jesus’ humility— to show his divinity, to demonstrate His power over creation, to supernaturally save himself from all dangers to his death. At the beginning of the gospel, we’re told too, that it’s the Spirit of God who drives Jesus into the wilderness for this time of testing. Perhaps this was because the Spirit knew Jesus was ready to submit his life’s mission to the Will of the Father. And indeed, when he leaves the wilderness, he does just that, leaving his private life behind and beginning his public ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of God!
Being humble then, is at the core of the calling of every Christian, because humility acknowledges that all the good things we say and do, all the great ideas we can think or imagine, all the laud, praise, and honor that is bestowed upon us, originates in God. Being humble acknowledges too, that we’re merely the instruments of God who cooperate with God in bringing Christ’s salvation to all the world. But having humility doesn’t come spontaneously, nor easily. It isn’t a virtue that we don’t have to practice a lot before we get good at it. No, humility requires a commitment on our part and also on God’s part to keep us faithful to it. It requires that we know and accept our limits and that we’re willing to abide by them, at all times.
We see an example of such a commitment being made today in our first reading from the Book of Genesis 12: 13 when God declares, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you….I have set my bow in the clouds.” (Have the confirmation kids message, I have set my bow in the clouds.)
This covenant, this newfound relationship into which God enters with Noah, his family, and every living creature, was necessary because prior to the Flood, human beings were prideful and arrogant. They disregarded the limits set on them by God and disregarded the ethical obligations placed upon them by God. In short, they tried to usurp some of the roles of God for themselves.
And because of this sin against humility, we know from the story recounted in Genesis, that God destroys everything that is not on the ark with a flood and then begins anew with the creation saved on the ark— promising never to destroy the earth again with a flood, and giving us, as a beautiful reminder of this covenant, the colorful rainbow! Though this story is not historical, it can teach us a lot about ourselves and our relationship with God.
Just looking at a rainbow brings us a sense of hope and joy in the promise of a better world! This renewed sense of well-being or positivity may be due to the fact that rainbows are often produced after a rainstorm when the sun’s rays strike the raindrop. At that instant, some of the sunlight inside the droplet gets refracted, resulting in its splitting into different colors of different wavelengths. And so, when the light exits the water droplet, it produces a beautiful, colorful rainbow.
My sister told me a story that when she attended the World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, as the delegate from our parish, it was raining in the stadium while all the pilgrims patiently awaited the pope’s arrival, and then, just when the Pope–mobile entered the stadium, the rain suddenly stopped, and a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. For those who were there, it was an awesome sign of God’s presence coming to meet the pilgrims in the person of the Holy Father.
In our own lives, we too can look to the rainbow for a renewed sense of God’s presence in our lives and for a renewed recognition of our dependency on God for everything we’ve been given. We can look to the rainbow to re-connect ourselves with all living things and recommit ourselves to ensuring that all sentient living things are treated with care and respect. We can see in the rainbow, too, the connection that God has with our environment and seek to become better stewards of the earth’s resources, finding ways to combat global warming and climate change.
Furthermore, we can look at a rainbow and gain inspiration to repent of our sins, for the Kingdom of God has come near in the Person of Jesus! Just like a rainbow, we can be reconciled with God after a dark storm of sin has passed, and we see the destruction the sin has caused in our lives and in the world. It’s at these times that we come to acknowledge what we’ve done, that has harmed the Body of Christ. By humbling ourselves, wecan begin to see things in a new light! We do this by allowing the light of Christ to enter into us so that we can reflect once more, the beauty and the magnificence of God through our daily actions! This isn’t a one-time event, though. Whenever we’ve lost the humility to which we’ve been called, we can regain it by acknowledging our sins, repenting, and receiving the grace of a renewed life!
So as our First Week of Lent begins, let us make a concerted effort to keep the image of the rainbow in our hearts. Let it inspire us to renew our covenant with God! Let it give us hope for a better world, one marked by God’s justice, love, and peace. Let us seek as well, to live the humility to which the Lord Jesus himself witnessed, in his temptation in the wilderness. And let us never hesitate to seek the light of Christ who promises to dispel the darkness of sin and lead us through repentance to a new life in the Kingdom.
To download this page, please click below.