(Editor’s note: The following excerpts are from a Lenten homily by Father Ed Dunn, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Oxford and St. Peter Parish in Cosgrove. In the homily, Fr. Dunn alternates between the Old Testament story of Noah’s ark and the New Testament story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert).
Noah’s ark is a great symbol of how God wants us to wash away all in our lives, all in our world, that has run amuck, that has gone down the wrong way, that has, and is, keeping us away from the life God wants us to have — at peace and in friendship with all of nature and with one another. To wash it all away in 40 days and 40 nights of rain, yet secure within the ark with a few companions, loved ones, and with every kind of fish and bird and beast. A new beginning, a change of life, of lifestyle, a metanoia.
The desert is a powerful symbol of a place, where in the stillness and barrenness, choices are clearer; when the two opposing forces of good and evil meet and spar for the soul, the very heart of a person. Mark in his Gospel relates Jesus’ 40 days in the desert so sparsely: “He was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” Jesus was tempted; he had to decide what type of life he would lead, what kind of message he would spread, as he sought to follow the will of his Father.
Noah and his companions: 40 days in a rough ride through the flood. Jesus: alone, yet with the wild animals threatening, and Satan seducing. We can image what it must have been like for them, can’t we? We’ve all been through rough rides, tough times and temptations in our own way. Yet in the midst of those two stories (taken here symbolically, not literally) there was also something else present; and there is something else present in all of the rough times and temptations that we go through, in our attempt to change and follow the Gospel more faithfully.
“I will place a rainbow in the sky,” God assures Noah, “as a sign of the agreement I have made with you and all living beings. Never again will I abandon even those who have turned away from me; never again will I destroy all mortal beings.” The rainbow is a sign of God’s abiding presence with us, even though we only get to see it now and then when the clouds break and light shines through the rain. Let that light shine through the rainy days of your life during this holy season. Turn to the Lord and accept God’s invitation to conform your manner of living to God’s ways.
The desert — Jesus alone there, but with wild animals lurking and Satan seducing, still God was there with him through the angels — the angels who ministered to him. Through all of our rough rides, our falling down and picking up, God is present to us through his angels — sometimes through the angel who is present in the person right next to you.
During this season of Lent let us be thankful for those “angels” who minister to us in our needs, and let us change those things that keep us from seeing the rainbows in our lives.