Our first reading is very familiar story,
Noah, the ark, and the flood.
We know that God told Noah
he would send a flood.
We know that, at God’s word,
Noah built a huge boat;
and he filled that boat full of animals.
But, there is an interesting detail
I bet you never noticed.
We all remember that Noah
brought a pair of each animal,
right? We remember that.
But if you look at Chapter 7 of Genesis,
you’ll find something interesting.
After Noah has done this, God says again,
Go get more animals:
“seven pairs, male and female.”
Did you know that?
Isn’t that curious?
Think about it: the whole thing
had been carefully planned by God.
Recall he gave Noah exact measurements.
So how did it happen
that there was unexpected room
for a lot more animals?
May I suggest that all that extra room
wasn’t originally intended for animals!
It was meant for human beings.
And that changes the story, doesn’t it?
That great flood?
It was about washing away sin and evil;
not about destroying human life:
that, God wanted to rescue.
Sadly, just a handful
of human beings took advantage.
Notice the animals responded better!
That’s a warning for us—a wake-up call.
The other point of the story is:
a fresh start.
After the flood,
after they all come out of the ark, God says:
“I am establishing my covenant with you…
for all ages to come.”
There are a lot of connections there,
for us, this Lent.
In our second reading,
St. Peter makes one connection:
Just as that flood of old
washed the world clean
of every trace of sin and evil,
so baptism does for us.
Baptism makes us a Christian;
In baptism, what happened on the Cross—
the shed blood of Jesus washing away all sin—
is applied to our lives, washing us clean, too.
So Lent is a time to prepare for baptism,
but for all of us who are baptized,
it’s a time to recall that awesome gift,
and to renew it.
That’s why the holy water
is still at the doors,
and there is water in the baptismal font:
we need to remember
our baptism all the more!
And when we make frequent use
of the sacrament of confession—
we are, in a sense, being “rebaptized”:
with our daily acts of penance,
our daily prayers asking forgiveness,
and especially in the sacrament of confession,
you and I reclaim
that awesome gift of baptism.
Just as a flood came over the entire earth,
a flood of God’s grace
poured into our lives in baptism.
Just as Christ died but once—
that was enough;
so one baptism is more than enough
for each of us.
And so powerful is that sacrament,
we never do it again!
By the way,
this is a chance to explain something.
We believe as Catholics
that whether a Protestant,
Orthodox or Catholic does the baptism,
if it’s done right,
it’s real—it counts.
And in an emergency,
anyone can baptize.
A few weeks back,
I came to the emergency room.
A baby was in danger of death.
Did they want me to baptize?
“No,” the grandmother said:
we had a previous emergency situation,
and when that happened,
“My husband baptized him.”
What if, in an emergency,
someone says to you:
“Please, I want to be a Christian:
What will you say?
I’m going to tell you right now how to do it.
You need natural, clean water.
Ocean water would work,
but fresh water is better.
Even bottled water,
as long as it’s nothing but water.
You pour water on the person’s head,
As much as you can,
but even a small amount, if need be.
You say: “I baptize you
in the name of the Father”—pour water;
“And of the Son”—pour a second time;
“And of the Holy Spirit”—pour a third time.
Now, this is serious business!
Don’t go baptizing someone
without his permission,
And never do it secretly.
This is only for an emergency.
Afterward, let the priest know.
Now, for us who are already baptized,
Our 40 days of Lent, our acts of penance,
Our frequent use of confession,
Help us become what our baptism promises.
It isn’t easy to obey Christ’s call to repent.
So we get 40 days of Lent, not just one.
That’s why we gather at Mass every Sunday.
We get a lifetime of opportunities.
God renews his offer of mercy again and again.
God’s everlasting covenant,
made on the Cross,
And shared with us through the sacraments,
are designed for people
who need lots of help.
In Noah’s time, that was…everybody.
And it’s still true today.