By faith Noah... with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household.
We had a baptism at Mass last Sunday, a rejoicing with the family and a chance to renew our vows as adult Christians making our covenant with the the new Child of God, to support her in her faith. What struck me was how Fr M made it explicit what is always implicit in a baby's baptism: the parents and the Godparents are making their own promises to rear the child in a Christian home. Of course, that's what they're doing, yet it seems to me that in today's world this is increasingly hard. What is Noah (or Noë, as he's called in Latin) supposed to be about for us, today.
We've been meditating on Noë for a week. What have we learned?
Noë built an ark for the salvation of his family. The Church traditionally speaks of the family as a "little Church". For much of history that little Church was the extended family: not just Mom, Dad, Buddy, and Sis. "The Household" in Rome was the Pater Familias and his wife, of course, but there may be generations of family living under the same roof, or on the same estate. Add to that the servants and the slaves, then you get the household. It less like a "Little Church" and more like a "Little Parish" within the larger community: each household an island, if you will, in the archipelago of the parish Church. Given the size of some ancient households, this "little church" might be larger that some parishes today! Into such is baptized the new baby. Is her family not promising to build something of a little ark for her, in which to keep her safe from the rising flood of secularist, anti-Christian culture?
That culture no longer stops at the door, nor is the TV the only source in our house, for it comes in on any device you can us. Most popular media has advertising that, a generation ago, would have been "risque" and four generations ago would have been unthinkable. We sexualize everything and say we are being "sex positive". No one wants to risk being called "sex negative." We refuse to allow critical thinking about "choices" which are moral violations. We defend the rights of those who violate the rights of the Church and we refuse to support those who make us feel uncomfortable by their piety.
What steps should we take for the salvation of our household? Can we build an ark that will help us weather this flood? It's not enough to hide. Until the flood comes we've an obligation to evangelize, to witness to the world, to preach the Gospel. We cannot, therefore, go hide someplace nor can we set up some isolationist Christianistan.
So, how do we in our households - and how do we, the Church - build an ark that will rise above this flood, carrying us and all we love with it? How will we find a place where this new Child of God can come into a full transfiguration of her own?