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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Columns
2/21/2012 1:27:00 PM
Reminders of God's Promises

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland


The events and objects that evoke memories are personal for each of us. Sometimes these stimuli are unplanned. The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking always reminds me of my grandmother. Whenever I see the Columbia River, I remember walking along Lake Michigan with Sister Francis as she spoke about God whose breath moves the waters. Other memories are more deliberate. For instance, the ring that never leaves my finger was a gift from my staff in Chicago. I like to think it was an intentional effort to evoke my memories of them.
Israel first met Yahweh in the desert, and the story of the desert wandering remains an ongoing symbol of encounter between humankind and God. Again and again, the Scripture brings us to the desert as a place where one meets God—especially in a crisis. While the desert is a place of testing and temptation, it is also a place where favor is found with God.  John the Baptist began his preaching there and today we learn that Jesus went to the desert to pray and fast before he began his public ministry. Now—as we enter the Lenten time—we walk into the desert to pray with Jesus.
Today’s first reading tells us about a God who looks at a rainbow and thinks of us and our relationship to him. I sometimes wonder whether all of us carry that memory within us. Is that the reason everyone loves a rainbow? The story of Noah and his ark is a tale that has fascinated generations of Jewish and Christian children. It has preoccupied scores of archaeologists and scientists and has stretched the imagination of some and the credulity of others. The very idea of forty days and nights of rain is a bit more understandable to those who live in Portland than forty days in the desert. Still, the theme of this liturgy isn't an ark or the protection we can give one another. The liturgy is formed around the hopeful symbol of a rainbow.
Water is a destructive force. Floods devastate entire countries every year. Yet, water also brings life. It refreshes the earth and replenishes the spirit. The Letter of St. Peter adds yet another dimension to the story. He reminds us that the water of the flood that saved only a few prefigures Baptism. We enter into the waters that are so like the womb from which we have emerged and come to new life in Christ. This is the heart of the Lenten experience. Christ died for our sins once and for all so that we might continue to be born in him and to realize his continued presence in the Church. The Risen Christ that we celebrate at Easter is among us as the promise of continued and fuller life. We celebrate the presence of a rainbow that is always there even when it seems obscured by the clouds of our winter discontent.
At this liturgy, we celebrate the nearness of the Kingdom and remember that we do not need an ark to protect us from destructive forces. We need an "arc" to join us to one another in the Lord.
Feb. 26, 2012
First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 9:8-15
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15


The events and objects that evoke memories are personal for each of us. Sometimes these stimuli are unplanned. The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking always reminds me of my grandmother. Whenever I see the Columbia River, I remember walking along Lake Michigan with Sister Francis as she spoke about God whose breath moves the waters. Other memories are more deliberate. For instance, the ring that never leaves my finger was a gift from my staff in Chicago. I like to think it was an intentional effort to evoke my memories of them.


Israel first met Yahweh in the desert, and the story of the desert wandering remains an ongoing symbol of encounter between humankind and God. Again and again, the Scripture brings us to the desert as a place where one meets God—especially in a crisis. While the desert is a place of testing and temptation, it is also a place where favor is found with God.  John the Baptist began his preaching there and today we learn that Jesus went to the desert to pray and fast before he began his public ministry. Now—as we enter the Lenten time—we walk into the desert to pray with Jesus.


Today’s first reading tells us about a God who looks at a rainbow and thinks of us and our relationship to him. I sometimes wonder whether all of us carry that memory within us. Is that the reason everyone loves a rainbow? The story of Noah and his ark is a tale that has fascinated generations of Jewish and Christian children. It has preoccupied scores of archaeologists and scientists and has stretched the imagination of some and the credulity of others. The very idea of forty days and nights of rain is a bit more understandable to those who live in Portland than forty days in the desert. Still, the theme of this liturgy isn't an ark or the protection we can give one another. The liturgy is formed around the hopeful symbol of a rainbow.


Water is a destructive force. Floods devastate entire countries every year. Yet, water also brings life. It refreshes the earth and replenishes the spirit. The Letter of St. Peter adds yet another dimension to the story. He reminds us that the water of the flood that saved only a few prefigures Baptism. We enter into the waters that are so like the womb from which we have emerged and come to new life in Christ. This is the heart of the Lenten experience. Christ died for our sins once and for all so that we might continue to be born in him and to realize his continued presence in the Church. The Risen Christ that we celebrate at Easter is among us as the promise of continued and fuller life. We celebrate the presence of a rainbow that is always there even when it seems obscured by the clouds of our winter discontent.


At this liturgy, we celebrate the nearness of the Kingdom and remember that we do not need an ark to protect us from destructive forces. We need an "arc" to join us to one another in the Lord.




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