I decided to start my Lenten book challenge off easy, I was already reading Mark Hart's Behold the Mystery and have most of Cardinal Dolan's Doers of the Word read so I decided that they counted as one book and would be read on Ash Wednesday and the days that followed. I did finish both of them, but they were easy reads. In Behold the Mystery Mark Hart suggests spending time with all four readings for Sunday's Mass. I always think of Small Christian Communities (SCC) at Seton Hall when I think of this, because that's exactly what we did. A bunch of us met each week with Fr. Bill to discuss the readings for the upcoming Sunday. I know we inspired a bunch of homilies for him and it was fun and interesting to discuss the readings for Sunday. We typically came up with about 4 or five questions to go over, and by we I really mean me. No, it was mainly Fr. Bill until one day I heard "hey, Mar, my newest, bestest, best bud, do you want to write the questions for SCC tonight." I know I had some sort of smart ass response but I can't remember it, but I do remember him saying, "but your's are good and better than mine" or something along those lines to me.
I've decided to do a digital version of SCC though it's more of a Lectio, which now that I think about it is what SCC was, but we never treated it that way. Now, I know why Fr. Bill suggested Lectio Divina years later, and that's what makes him one of the best priests I know. This also makes me laugh at how God works.
Any way I figured I might as well spend time with the readings and what better place to "talk" about it but the almighty inter-webs. I know that a lot of people don't read this and it's mostly for me, but hey you never know who might find it and learn something. Here's the link to Sunday, February 22, 2015 Mass readings . The USCCB page was giving me issues before, so I'm not sure if it will load correctly or not, but they should have an interactive calendar on the home page if the link doesn't work.
So the first reading comes from the Book of Genesis and it involves Noah and we can assume that the ark was involved too. The daily readings link doesn't give you the footnotes like the actual Bible pages do; the New American Bible Revised Edition aka the NABRE is on the site. I have to give credit to said Bible as my bishop, Bishop Arthur Serratelli, spent "7 years of his life" working on it. It's also the Bible we hear at Mass. I was going to look for the footnotes, but the website is not loading on Chrome anyway, not sure about other browsers.
Anyway, back to the first reading. Most of us know the story of Noah, the ark and the flood. In the first reading we get the promise from God to Noah that the world will not be destroyed by water again. God saved the world because of one righteous person, Noah, well eight people if we count Noah's wife, sons and daughters-in-law. God promised that He wouldn't use water to destroy the Earth again. I'm currently sitting through a Biblical Call Narratives class for my Masters and Certificate program, so we've been discussing the Old Testament far more than the New Testament and I'm fine with that because we so often skip over the Old Testament that we don't look to it for wisdom, even though it is one of the books of the Old Testament. God made a covenant with Noah and his family and the sign He gave them was a rainbow, or so we traditionally say it is. Even today we are always in awe when we see a rainbow in the sky. I remember a few times when my family was in Ireland that I was told, "get you're camera, there's a rainbow; oh it's a double rainbow; quick before it goes away." I happily oblige as there is something special about rainbows precisely because we don't see them that often. I usually think of pots of gold at the end of a rainbow long before I think of God's promise to Noah. I don't think oh that's a reminder that God will take care of His family, I think oh that's pretty.
We have a glorified idea of Noah and the Ark, that thing had to stink to high holy hell with all those animals on it; yeah think about that, gross isn't it. The stench didn't stop Noah or his family from doing what God told him and that ark wasn't small, it did have to fit two of each animal and 8 humans on it; so the hard work didn't stop Noah either. Noah trusted God and was rewarded for it; God saved the world because of Noah's faith and actions. One person saved the world, that sounds familiar doesn't it. As my pastor reminded us at his Lenten Friday Night Lights aka his seasonal sessions on Catholic things, we, the younger generation often look at the Old Testament as some nice stories that we hear but don't really pay attention too. It's true we look at a rainbow and think, oh that's pretty, we don't think oh God's reminding us about how He saved us all those years ago with Noah.
I was about to jump to the second reading when I read the psalm. So often the psalm is forgotten or not preached on. A few weeks ago Fr. Ray spoke of the psalm because it happened to be his favorite and the music ministry happened to play his favorite setting of it. I don't remember what psalm it was but it reminds me that as Mark Hart said in Behold the Mystery we so often forget about the psalm.
The refrain of the psalm is "Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant." My initial thought as I read it in church was, how the heck are we doing to sing this one. It's interesting that the psalm uses the work covenant. Today we don't think of covenants, we think of contracts which is sort of what a covenant with God is. I try to say Liturgy of the Hours every day, there are plenty of days where I don't say one or any of the hours, but it has allowed me to get to know the psalms better or least notice which ones they use all the time. The first verse of the psalm has us asking God to teach us His ways. The second verse has us asking God to be kind to us and to remember us in His compassion. The third and final verse reminds that God guides us, teaches us and shows us the way. When we pay attention to the readings we see how they are linked together. Noah followed God's ways and kept the covenant and therefore passed on the faith to the generations that followed him.
The second reading is from St. Peter's letter. It's rare that the second reading is not from one of St. Paul's readings just because he takes up the majority of the New Testament. When I went to type the blog at first I kept thinking where did I hear "prefigured baptism" it must have been in one of the books I read, no it was from the second reading as I realized as I sat in Church. I think my mind had wondered during this reading, and I laughed to myself as I thought of Mark Hart's comment of well, at least you will have gone over the readings in case you start to not pay attention at Mass. In this reading we are reminded that Jesus suffered for sins once, that righteous one suffered for the unrighteous. Here we have that righteous man saving the world again. Yes, that righteous man from the first reading is in essence a prefiguring of Jesus for one man saved the world. Rarely do we have the readings so connected, or at least it seems that it's rarely that the first and second readings connect; let alone mention the other. Noah was a prefiguring for our baptism, though the water of Baptism we are saved, but we can't forget about Jesus and how His saving act is what truly saved us. St. Peter reminds of that at the end of the reading. Our salvation is not about being physically clean but about having a clean and clear conscience.
The Gospel is one of the shortest ones I can remember. It's literally three verses long. It's five sentences from the looks of it. Of course on the first Sunday of Lent we are reminded that Jesus was in the desert fasting and was tempted by Satan. This reminds that Jesus knows exactly what we go through each Lenten season. Jesus knows that we are going to be tempted to eat what we gave up or tempted to not pray because I'm tired or some other excuse. In this short Gospel we get the idea that Lent will not be easy and that we will be tempted. In the second portion of the Gospel we hear the words that we also hear on Ash Wednesday, depending on what saying the person who is placing ashes on your forehead uses. "Repent and believe in the Gospel." The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save us all but we are so far removed from it that we often forget it.
I always try to get one thing out of the homily and while Fr. Ray actually preached on the first reading, using a great example of the Benedictine Abbey in Newark and how they because the ark for young men in Newark it was his preaching on the Gospel that stuck with me. Fr. Ray mentioned the idea that we are obsessed with survival shows. It got me thinking of Naked and Afraid, Bear Grylls' shows, the one with the military guy and the hippie guy and of course Survivor. The line that got everyone to laugh was, "Survivor: they send people out to a remote island for 40 days and have all these tests and rituals they have to go through; we've been doing that for 2,000 years it's called Lent."
It's so true we are throwing ourselves out into the dessert to hopefully be drawn closer to God by giving something up or whatever we planned on doing for Lent. It won't be easy as we will be tempted, but at least we've not voted off the island.
In cause you were wondering why the J.M.J. (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) randomly appeared; I've been writing it on my handwritten notes since college and after seeing another blog with it and Cardinal Dolan post a homily with the letters at the top I figured if they can do it so can I.