Leaving our Lenten ark, we come to shore of God’s love, mercy

Maybe we had to work hard this Lent, but for an excellent purpose: Through our prayer, fasting and works of charity, we tried to learn to be God’s people once more

 

Sadly, the Lenten season did not bring me a question in my inbox or mailbox for my column during the Easter Octave. Perhaps would-be questioners were busy participating in the beautiful liturgies of that holy time. If so, I sing “Alleluia!” and I offer you one of my homilies for the Easter Vigil. This particular one recalls the story of Noah’s ark that we heard on the first Sunday of Lent. Happy Great Fifty Days of Easter!

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The ark has landed safely. Did you enjoy the ride? A long cruise, wasn’t it? — 40 days and 40 nights.
I’m not speaking about Noah’s ark. I’m speaking about the spiritual ark that we entered on Ash Wednesday, the ark of Lent, so that together we might set sail for holy Easter. And here we are!

ark-300x164.jpgOn the first Sunday of Lent, we heard about the happy ending to Noah’s voyage and caught a small glimpse of God’s glory in the rainbow.
Now, having left our Lenten ark, we hear the gladdening word of the Lord that the prophet Isaiah proclaimed to his people long ago: “This is for me like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah should never again deluge the earth; So I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you” (Isaiah 54:9).

This is what Easter means: “God’s ark, like the raising of Jesus from the dead, is a sign of divine compassion and love” (Gail Ramshaw, “Words Around the Fire” [Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1990], p. 36).

Divine compassion and love for Jesus, God’s only son, divine compassion and love for you and for me and for everyone, more than we could ever imagine or deserve, just like the divine compassion and love that the escaping Israelite slaves found in crossing the Red Sea, just like God’s chosen yet sinful people found in the comforting words of the prophet Isaiah.

Reconnecting with God

Long ago, the story goes, God condemned the filth of the world. God washed its evil away in the flood, saved the faithful, ensured a renewed universe and promised an everlasting covenant of peace. And, for the past 40 days, God has been doing all of this, all over again, for all of us, in all of us — with our necessary cooperation, of course.

Maybe our Lenten days in the storm-tossed ark weren’t easy or comfortable. Just think how tough Noah must have had it, trying to feed all those hungry animals!

Maybe we, too, have had to work hard this Lent, but for an excellent purpose: Through our prayer, fasting and works of charity, we have tried to learn to be God’s people once more.

Have you tried to deepen a right relationship with God, to find time to reflect and pray? Have you tried to bring hope and joy to others, to delight in God’s work of creation and redemption? Have you tried to live anew as a son or daughter of God? Then receive God’s gifts to you this day in the risen Christ.

But there’s a certain kind of work we have had to do before receiving these precious gifts. There’s a certain kind of cleaning out of our floating barn that we have had to do this Lent, the removing of a certain unpleasantness that our sins cause us and other people. Sometimes shoveling out our sinful ways of speaking, thinking and acting can be hard work. But isn’t it necessary? And hasn’t it been worth it?

Reason to rejoice

Have you fasted from sin this Lent, but feasted on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus? Then rejoice now in how much good God has accomplished in you and celebrate the power of the risen Christ.

Have you opened your heart and hands to others this Lent, and have you given yourself away in works of charity? Then rejoice now in how God has brought you close to God’s heart and find yourself again in the risen Christ.

Have you opened your eyes to God’s presence in the world, in yourself and in other people, maybe even in people and situations where you never expected to find God? Then rejoice now in how God has enlightened you with God’s truth and behold the glory of the risen Christ.

Have you dwelt in the desert of repentance, turning away from sin by turning to God in love? Then rejoice now in how God has been with you during these journey days and receive the mercy of the risen Christ.

Have you done none or only some of these things, or done them less than 100 percent successfully? Then rejoice now in knowing that it is not by our own efforts, but by God’s grace, that we die with Christ and come to life again. And feel the compassionate touch of the risen Christ.

There is reason for everyone to rejoice today, for the risen Christ has led us to the shore of God’s covenant of peace and spreads a lavish feast of divine compassion and love for us to enjoy.

As St. John Chrysostom says, “Let no one bewail her poverty, for the fullness of the kingdom is revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for forgiveness shines forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.”

Amen, alleluia!