Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Genesis Notes: Covenant Renewed

After all that Noah has endured and all that he has seen God do it is pretty disappointing to watch him get drunk and act just like a regular person. I always accepted it as part of Noah's human nature. However, there is a deeper lesson to be seen here.

I'll add that it took me watching the movie Noah to realize that wine wasn't invented until after the ark landed again — so we can soften our judgment of Noah. Though the commentary below still holds true in thinking of how we feel about flawed heroes.
Did you feel disappointed when Noah, a man so bright in faith and obedience, succumbed to drunkenness, which led to something even darker? In the bleak wasteland of a world given over to evil, Noah seemed like a man we could trust. He looked like a hero.

Why is it so difficult to accept flawed heroes? Is it because all humans long for a perfect human, one who will not disappoint us and let our dreams die? Ever since Adam, we have been looking for one who won't botch things up. We want to see a human be all that God meant for us to be.

The characters of the Old Testament, like Adam and Abel and Noah, begin to prepare us for just such a Person. Even though humans in the story until His arrival disappoint us from time to time, we should never let their humanity sour us or tempt us to be contemptuous of them. We must never forget that God's promise in Gen. 3:15 to defeat His enemy through humans means that step by step in this battle, God's work will have a human face on it. This is the magnificent condescension of God to man. It is also God's resounding confirmation that He did not make a mistake in creating him. God knows very well what weaknesses beset humanity. Nevertheless, He works relentlessly to make sure that someday our dream of human perfection will be a reality, not a dream. To be a Christian means not being squeamish about human beings doing divine work. This is especially true for Catholics, because sometimes our Protestant brethren protest that we have too many "mere humans" in our understanding of redemption. We have Mary, "just a woman," as Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Church. We have a pope, "only a man," who sits in the line of Peter and holds the keys of the kingdom. We have saints, men and women who are "just like us," to serve as our examples and advocates in their lives as God's friends. When this charge is raised against us, we should bow our heads, give thanks to God, and smile deeply in our souls. A "human" Church? Exactly.

I always loved the rainbow as a sign of God's promise to man. I never thought of it being a so called "risky" move on God's part until this reflection pointed out how man has a tendency to worship God's creation instead of the creator Himself. Certainly I never saw it as affirmation of the sacraments but that is pointed out as well.

Dankgebet nach Verlassen der Arche Noah, Domenico Morelli
Man, weakened by sin, has the potential to miss the messages God gives him. Was it possible that men would see the importance God attached to that beautiful rainbow and begin to worship it instead of God, Who created and used it? Certainly. We know for a fact that men regularly worshipped what God created instead of the Creator Himself. Nevertheless, God took that risk in order to communicate with man in a truly human way. As the Catechism says, "In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God." (CCC 1146) In our human lives, we make use of natural and social symbols all the time. In fact, we can't imagine life without them. God, in the rainbow, joins Who He is and what He does to an element in nature that will have meaning to mortals. We call these actions "sacraments." Scripture is full of examples of God working this way among His people. The culmination, of course, is the Incarnation-God taking on the most profoundly human form of communication, flesh, to reveal to men Who He is. The sacramental nature of Catholic life is deeply rooted in this biblical truth about how God works among men, glimpsed first in the beautiful bow in Noah's sky. [emphasis added]

All quoted material is from Genesis: God and His Creation. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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