First Sunday of Lent (and below another Lourdes Miracle)
The First Reading Genesis 9:8-15
God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings.”
The Rainbow and the Hound
This year the first readings for the Sundays of Lent present various covenants. The religious term of covenant means a binding agreement between God and His people. Today we have the Rainbow Covenant God made with the people at the time of Noah. Next Sunday, we’ll hear about the Covenant of Faith made between God and Abraham. Then we’ll come upon the Covenant of the Law made with Moses. We’ll hear about the Covenant of the Heart prophesied by Jeremiah. This will all lead to the Paschal Mystery and the Blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant, which is renewed on our altar at every Mass.
God’s actions at the time of Noah are center stage today both in the first reading from Genesis and in the second reading from the First Letter of Peter. God was going to destroy all with a flood, but the life of one just man tempered God’s wrath. So, while the water destroyed the evil of Noah’s day, eight persons survived. Water took away life at the time of Noah; however, water would restore life for those who believe in Jesus Christ. That is why St. Peter wrote, the waters of the flood prefigure the waters of baptism.
The rainbow was to be a reminder that God will never use water to destroy mankind and that God would never give up on his people. This is the Good News that God has rescued and is rescuing His people from evil. The Good News that everyone who accepts Christian Baptism, and is willing to fulfill the responsibilities of Christian life, will share in the victory of Christ. The rainbow of Noah proclaims that God does not give up on mankind.
The poet Francis Thompson wrote about God’s continual pursuit of the human person, even as that person tried his best to avoid God. He called his poem, The Hound of Heaven. Once a hound has a scent, he will not quit the chase and God has our scent. The poem goes on to present the many ways that the poet tried to hide from God in the things of the world. God refuses to give up on us, any of us. No matter what our sins, no matter where we try to hide from Him, His pursuit is relentless. Are we suffering from an addiction that we keep falling back into? Have we done some thing or things that we still cannot believe we did? Do we let hatred determine our choices? And then we feel rotten. Do we want to throw in the towel and say, “I’m just not any good? I belong with evil people.” We have to keep fighting it. We can’t give up on ourselves because God has not and will not give up on us.
Lent is the time for a new beginning. Whenever we see a rainbow it should remind us of our covenant with God. The Hound of Heaven is real. God’s love is pursuing us. May we have the determination to begin anew and may we allow the Hound of Heaven into our lives.
Miracles Do Still Happen
The official recognition of the 70th miracle that took place in Lourdes was announced today, Sunday 11 February 2018, by the Bishop of Beauvais, Monsignor Jacques Benoit-Gonin. The miracle involves the healing of Sister Bernadette Moriau, who had been suffering from severe paralysis for many years.
The Religious Sister, who is now 70 years old, had been suffering since the late 1960s from the “Cauda equina syndrome”, caused by a spill of the softer central portion of the disc that causes pressure on the bundle of nerves below the end of the spinal cord. Since 1987 she was unable to walk after having undergone four unsuccessful operations.
The miracle took place on 11 July 2008, but announced only ten years later, on the day of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (11 February), on the 160th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the visionary Bernadette Soubirous.
Sister Moriau visited the holy shrine in July 2008, at the age of 60, like millions of other pilgrims each year. Shortly after returning home, her crippling ailment disappeared for the first time since her condition was diagnosed at the age of 27. After her visit to the shrine she experienced an unusual feeling of relaxation and heat in the whole of her body and heard a voice telling her to take off her equipment, the corset and the leg brace.” For the first time in over 42 years she was able to walk perfectly normal and without any pain.
After further examinations by doctors and three meetings with church officials in Lourdes, the medical committee in the town confirmed that Sister Moriau’s recovery could not be explained medically or scientifically.
“Sister Bernadette Moriau now has a perfectly normal life,” the committee’s president Alessandro de Franciscis reported. “She is in very good health and she herself visits the sick on a regular basis.”