...Great was man's wickedness on earth, and... no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil...
We will be reading about Noah (or Noe, as the Latin text calls him - which I like because of Noe Street, here in SF) over the next few days. This whole story scares people. I get it. The entire world is damned except for Noah and his kin (and as we learn later even his kin are wonky). This bothers people. This bothers people a lot. I get it. I've also got one piece of advice: get over it.
I had a conversation once with a coworker at the California Institute of Integral Studies. We were drifting in and out of theological murkiness and finally he said, "Huw, you keep talking like truth comes in black and white. Truth is grey." My reply was, "That's just your truth, Brian. My truth comes in black and white." I feel like I successfully turned the Newage Parlance in on itself. Maybe. But I'd spent a whole lifetime by then devoted to the idea that there was truth to find - and I'd kept looking for it in the assumption that the quest, itself, would be a good thing. But what if there is, really, Truth to find? What if the quest, itself, is supposed to have an end?
The Fathers see Noe as a prophetic foreshadow of the Church. But, repeatedly, they see it as a mark of God's mercy. God takes care that the life of man will not parish, and he uses it (the Ark) to save mankind - even though many men die. The Church - as the barque of Peter - is the Ark of Salvation. Outside of the Ark there is no salvation. That does not mean that all Non-Christians are going to hell. It does, however, mean that anyone who is saved is in the Church - even those that do not know it. Who is saved in the ark? It's Noe and his household. Noah and even the Wonky ones that will get into some serious trouble later. Thy are all included here. And remember later in Genesis when Abraham is going to bargain with God for the life of his family in Sodom. Much later Jesus says the man dropped through the roof has been saved by the faith of his friends. And later again - in Acts - the Apostles tell their Jailer that he and his whole household can be saved if he will believe on Jesus. God hears and responds to the prayers of his people. God is not saving us through some institutional act, but rather through his Body, the Church which is, with us in prayer. You are saved because God's saints pray for you to be saved. As am I.
For whom will you pay this forward? Who will you pray into the Church?
I've been praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It's a bit of an odd thing to me, as it seems more of a mantra than anything else. But it presents a pray to God, celebrating the priesthood of all believers, to offer to God the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for "our sins and the sins of the whole world." Each prayer is offered that God will "have mercy on us and on the whole world". And at the end, the liturgical Trisagion is sung, begging the "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world." At Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin urged prayer for sinners. So too, at Fatima, Our Lady urged the visionaries to "pray much" for sinners.
This, really, is our job as Christians, as the "Worshipping Man" or Homo Adorans created by God. There are priests in the Church, yes, whose job is to offer Mass, but all of us share in the priesthood of Christ, offering himself on the altar of the Cross for the saving of all the world. We can participate in the offering of that sacrifice for everyone. We can pray God's mercy on all. And I do believe God will hear and will save those for whom we pray.
We will explore "mercy" more tomorrow, when Noah sends out the birds looking for land. But for today: pray God's salvation on all whom you see - even especially those who are convinced they have no need of it. You are bringing them into the Church - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. You and your whole household.