On this first Sunday of Lent we are treated to a review of God’s key artistic periods. He first shaped humanity out of the clay sourced from his creation of land and sea. Humanity turned out so beautifully that our hearts couldn’t avoid the sin of pride, and thus we claimed ownership of God’s artistry. That original sin proved costly—losing humanity its freedom, but granting it generations of descendants to whom it could bequeath that sin. Each generation would use its inheritance to further degrade God’s masterpiece until our Father decided renovation was in order.
That brings us to our first reading from Genesis (GN 9:8-15). This time God uses the power of water to reimagine his masterpiece. This period of his artistry is characterized more by sculpture—using water’s power to erode humanity’s heart of stone, chipping away at the ugliness we created until humanity was beautiful again—less numerous but more pure. Noah’s family survived its baptism of flood waters and reentered life with a new opportunity: protecting the beauty of God’s favorite creation. God so loved the beauty he sculpted that he took out some flood insurance.
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: 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.”
But somehow the passing generations managed to forget the terms of that covenant and started thinking they were owners again. God’s next artistic period is ushered in with the birth of Jesus the Christ. The Creator shaped this masterpiece in the sand of the desert for 40 days and finished it with the water of John’s baptism. This work of art emerged from that water to disperse the message of our gospel reading (MK 1:12-15)—“The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The grace of that message overflowed from Christ’s sacred heart and into the hearts of his disciples—who went forth bathing the world in its transformative power. As Peter states in our second reading (1 PT 3:18-22):
“It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.”
Let’s act like we belong in that picture.