Pushy people sometimes drive me crazy. Perhaps because sometimes, I am told, I can be a bit pushy myself! But if someone says a decision is needed immediately, or something has to be done immediately, my reaction is to move more slowly. Hold on a second. What’s the big hurry? Is someone bleeding? Can it wait for a more convenient time? I had other things I was planning to do right now! You get the picture.
I tend to be more of an introvert than an extrovert, so I need time to think things through before I’m ready to speak or act. Then, once I have figured out what I think, I’m not always as ready to go through the many questions and negotiations with others about why my analysis is correct…
As I thought about the readings for this First Sunday in Lent, St. Peter’s statement that God patiently waited while Noah was building the ark struck me as interesting. The two stories of Noah and the ark both include a recognition on God’s part that it takes time to build a boat/ship as big as the ark would need to be, to say nothing of the time to get all of those animals collected and safely on board. (Parenthetically, in one story only one pair of animals was required while the other story provided for seven pairs of the preferred animals and fewer of the non-preferred ones.)
So, God waited patiently until the ark was built, animals on board, and family safely accommodated. Then it started to rain. Forty days and forty nights, we’re told. The entire earth was covered with water.
When the rains stopped and the water gradually receded, a new relationship and legal agreement, a covenant, was proposed by God. This agreement was set up to be unending. “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come… a covenant between me and you and every living creature with you.” The sign, of course, was a rainbow. Whenever the rains come, a rainbow will remind God that they must stop before the earth can be flooded completely again. (Gn 9:8-15)
St. Peter mentioned God’s patience in waiting for the ark to be built when he was speaking of Christ’s suffering and death. He described Christ after his death going to preach to those who had had been disobedient to God in the past and had already died. They too heard the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness. Peter describes the way Noah’s family of eight were saved through flood waters as a prefiguring of the waters of baptism. Through baptism, we enter into the mercy of God, who is patient and forgiving with us even though we are not perfect. God is willing to wait for us to learn and grow towards perfection. (1 Pt 3:18-22)
Even Jesus spent time learning. Immediately after his baptism, St. Mark tells us, “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert.” While he was there, he faced temptation. Angels ministered to him as he spent time among the wild animals there and grew in understanding of his mission. When he returned from the desert, he immediately began telling others whom he met in Galilee, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Pay attention and hear this good news I’m bringing to you. (Mk 1:12-15)
Jesus spent forty days in the desert, the same amount of time the rains fell in the days of Noah. We too spend forty days in preparation to celebrate the great mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
God is patient. God waits for us. God doesn’t give up on us. God knows some things just take time for creatures whose lives are formed within the dimension of time.
As we enter the first week of Lent, may our eyes and ears be open to perceive the presence of God around us. In what way are we in a desert? In what way will we make room for encounters with the Lord? What do we learn from the rains and storms of winter or the heat of summer, depending on our location on this Earth?
God waits patiently for us. Let’s not be too slow!
Readings for the First Sunday in Lent – Cycle B