Sunday, Feb. 26, (Liturgical Year B, Cycle II) is the First Sunday of Lent.
Genesis 9:8-15, Psalm 25:4-9, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:12-15
Catholic spirituality — starting with Christ himself — has great regard for the child’s perspective. So we asked our youngest children about today’s readings.
To show how important their perspective can be, we have matched their comments with theological categories.
First, on Noah’s Ark:
Said one: “It must have been really hard to get two of each animal that live up in the trees. It would be hard to climb up in the trees trying to catch monkeys.”
Said another: “I bet Noah wished Jesus had built the ark for him, instead of making him build it. But he wanted Noah to cooperate.”
Excellent points. This is exactly what God wants to demonstrate with the story.
God saved Noah; Noah didn’t save himself. Noah would have drowned if God hadn’t given him explicit instructions on how to build the ark.
But God didn’t just step in and deliver him; rather, he gave him the knowledge of the danger and the solution — and the free will to decide whether or not to follow his plans. And he didn’t just make Noah a lucky guy who preserved himself: He made him a hero who saved all the animals.
What was true of Noah is true of each of us. Says the Catechism, 323: “Divine providence works also through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to cooperate freely with his plans.”
We also asked the kids about the 40-day fast of Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Said our 4-year-old: “I bet Jesus got really fat before he went out there to fast.”
Said another: “He definitely drank water out there. Otherwise he would die.”
Said a third: “I would have snuck a loaf of bread out to the desert with me. But Jesus didn’t.”
Also very true. We are pretty sure Jesus didn’t fatten himself up before his baptism and days in the desert. But he probably did prepare himself humanly for the ordeal, and we’re sure he did drink water. Jesus was truly human; that is why we can follow his example.
Of course, our son who would have snuck a loaf of bread with him would decidedly not be following Jesus’ example. That was exactly one of the temptations given to Jesus — to get bread on the sly to satisfy his hunger. But he did not yield to temptation.
The Catechism, 470, stressed “the full reality of Christ’s human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. ... ‘The Son of God ... worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.’”
He was really tempted. But he refused the temptations. God gave Jesus help. The Gospel says that “the angels ministered to him” in the desert.
So, this Lent, we can pray to be close to Christ as we follow his example and fast, giving up things we love in order to put love of God first. He will help us. He has been there.
And we would point out one last thing to our children. In today’s second reading, St. Paul puts the stories about Noah’s Ark and Jesus’ sufferings together for us. He says Noah’s Ark is like our baptism. In both, God used water to save us and unite us closer with him.
Just like with Noah, God doesn’t just step in and deliver us. Rather, he lets us know the danger and the solution — and lets us decide whether or not we follow his plans.
His plan is baptism. He supplies the water and the priest. He tells us what to do: Be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. But we have to make all the arrangements. And we have to live the life of a baptized person once we are baptized.
God’s there to help us do that, too.
And Lent is a perfect time to try harder than ever, so that, at Easter, we can really mean it when we renew our baptismal promises.
And we will find that God won’t just keep us safe. Like Noah, his instructions are not just to save ourselves, but to serve the world, too.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.