THE FIDELITY OF GOD TO HIS CREATION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 9:1-13; PS 101(102):16-21, 29, 22-23; MK 8:27-33 ]
What is the most important lesson in the story of Noah? It is not about the Flood because there were many floods in the history of humanity and no doubt, there will be many more. Rather, the story brings out the increasing infidelity of man to God’s creation because of the sins of man. At the same time, even when sin increases, God’s fidelity to His creation remains. Nothing can change God’s love for His creation. Even when sin increases, His grace remains constant. God does not ever and will never withdraw His love for His creation.
Indeed, when we look at creation, the situation only seems to get worse. It began with the disobedience of Adam and Eve. It was then followed by Cain’s envy leading to killing of his own brother. As the human race populated, more sins were committed, sins of every kind. It is significant to note that even the way human beings treated creation changed over time. In chapter 1, the Lord said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.” (Gn 1:29) Man was first a vegetarian. Only plants and seeds were given to men because animals were His companions. “The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.” (Gn 2:20)
But by the time we arrive at Genesis Chapter 9, we read that this unity between animals and humanity was broken. Instead of being our friends, they now fear and dread us. “Be the terror and the dread of all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven, of everything that crawls and the ground and all the fish of the sea; they are handed over to you.” (Gn 9:1f) Not only that, we are given permission to eat the flesh of animals, but not its blood. “Every living and crawling thing shall provide food for you, no less than the foliage of plants. I give you everything, with this exception: you must not eat flesh with life, that is to say blood, in it. I will demand an account of your life-blood.” (Gn 3:3f) The reason was simply because blood was a symbol of life and only God is the source of life. Furthermore, the killing of man is absolutely forbidden because man is the image and viceroy of God. Thus to kill another fellowman is a very serious sin that demands punishment by death. “I will demand an account of every man’s life from his fellow men. He who sheds man’s blood, shall have his blood shed by man, for in the image of God man was made.” (Gn 3:5f)
The permission given to man to eat the flesh of animals was certainly a compromise to the growing and weakening harmony between animals and human beings. Yet this breakdown between human beings and animals is due to the disharmony among human beings due to sin. This is traced to man’s disobedience and separation from God. Once again, we see that human ecology is the basis for the ecology of nature. Indeed, in the New Testament, all food was proclaimed clean by the Lord and by the apostles Peter and Paul and could be consumed accordingly.
God’s fidelity to His unchanging commitment to His creation is brought out in the covenant with Noah. He said, “See, I establish my Covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; also with every living creature to be found with you, birds cattle and every wild beast with you: everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. I establish my Covenant with you: no thing of flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood. There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.” In truth, the threat of God to destroy the earth was never carried out, for creation was not destroyed. Even in the case of the flood, the remnant of creation was saved and so we cannot speak of the destruction of creation.
The sign of this Covenant with Noah was the rainbow. God said, “Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth.” Yet, the rainbow has always been there. It is not a new phenomenon. Again the same message is underscored. God is faithful to His creation. He will never abandon His creation even when everything seems to go awry. The rainbow is a sign of His fidelity to creation. The truth is that when we think that the world is coming to an end because of the atrocious sins and evil of humanity, the rainbow will reappear after the apparent storm, once the upheavel has settled. In other words, there is always hope. The beauty of God will shine again through the darkness of man’s sins. God will not allow Himself to be defeated by the sins of humanity regardless how grave the situation might be.
From this Covenant with Noah, God demonstrated that His grace is greater than the sin of man. No matter how much evil man could do to His creation, God will continue to show us His grace and mercy. Beginning from Adam and Eve, we see how God promised man ultimate victory over evil even though he banished them from paradise. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In the case Cain who murdered Abel, the Lord promised Cain that sevenfold vengeance would be taken on the man who tried to kill him, “And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him.” (Gn 4:15) In Noah’s circumstances, the Lord gave them a rainbow as a sign of His irrevocable covenant with humanity.
God’s fidelity to His creation is only possible because of His fidelity to Himself. If we are so confident that God will be faithful to His word, it is because He Himself will not and cannot do anything that is contrary to Himself. In the gospel, Jesus showed His fidelity to Himself by rejecting any titles that sought to qualify Him. He asked the disciples, “’Who do people say I am?’ And they told him, ‘John the Baptist,’ they said, ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’” The truth is that none of the titles, regardless how lofty they might be, could not fit the Lord. Hence He asked them, “’But you, who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’”
Again, it must be noted that although Peter gave the right answer, the injunction of Jesus was to give “them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.” For Jesus, understanding the meaning and implications of a title is more important than just getting the correct answer. This was clearly seen when Peter rejected the idea of a suffering messiah as prophesied by the Lord. So Jesus “rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’” Indeed, Peter, like everyone else, sought to impose his image of what the messiah should be on the Lord. But Jesus would not allow others to change His identity as the Son of the Father and the suffering messiah.
Jesus was clear of His identity as the Son of the Living God. He came to show the Father’s love even unto death. He was not like any of the worldly conquerors. He came not with power and might but as a servant in human lowliness. He conquered the world through gentleness, compassion and forgiveness. He remained faithful to His identity as the God of mercy and compassion. In this way, He could truly maintain His identification with the Father. To Philip, He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn 14:9) Whatever the Father does, He will do. “I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.” (Jn 5:19)
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
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