Saved from the flood of sin

By: By Father Douglas Grandon

Third Sunday of Easter, April 26

Acts 3:13-15,17-19; Psalm 4:2,4,7-8,9; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48

According to The Wall Street Journal, three billionaire brothers in Hong Kong have “just the answer for the rising waters threatening the global economy.” The Kwok brothers have built a life-sized replica of Noah’s ark — 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. The Kwoks’ ark contains “Noah’s Resort” hotel, a restaurant, a children’s museum, and an exhibition hall.

In fact, arks seem to be proliferating these days. In the Netherlands, Johan Hulbers built one (just a fifth the size of the original) that actually floats and contains live farm animals. A pastor in Canada constructed a 200-foot-long ark. Greenpeace made an ark on Mount Ararat to warn of “impending climate disaster.” And Richard Green, an evangelical minister, began building a full-sized ark 35 years ago in Maryland, but ran out of funds before completing the project.

The common factor with all these projects is that each builder sees his ark as a sign of hope. “People are experiencing a crisis right now,” a representative of the Kwok brothers observed. “And our message is: The doors of the ark are not closed, they’re open.”

These really are difficult economic times. The number of unemployed is steadily increasing and nearly all of us have family members and friends who are struggling. Financial hardships remind us all of just how vulnerable we are. Wiser souls realize that our primary concern is not our financial well-being, but the profound importance of taking refuge in God’s mercy.

In the New Testament, the ark is used to illustrate how Christ delivered us from sin and its consequences. St. Peter observed, “[In the ark] a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. . . . Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” (1 Peter 3:20-21). The church fathers compared Noah’s ark to the church, “which alone saves from the flood” (Catechism 845).

Each of this week’s readings emphasizes that Christ alone offers deliverance from the flood of sin. In our first reading from Acts, St. Luke provides a brief excerpt from Peter’s second evangelistic sermon. Having attracted a large crowd to the temple gate by the miraculous healing of the lame beggar, Peter first recounted the events surrounding Jesus’ passion and death.

He then described the significance of those events: “God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.” Finally, Peter challenged the crowd to respond: “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” Luke tells us that “those who heard the word believed” — some 5,000 people!

This week’s Gospel reading details Jesus’ very first post-resurrection meeting with the Twelve (minus Judas and Thomas), probably in the upper room in Jerusalem. It was Jesus himself who impressed upon the apostles how best to evangelize their Jewish compatriots. After demonstrating that he really had risen bodily from the dead, Jesus declared, “Everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled. . . . Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

St. John, in our second reading, emphasized the central role of Jesus as our Advocate. “My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.”

According to the Catechism, “To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s church. The church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation” (Catechism 845). As participants in the life-transforming power of the risen Christ, we now have the responsibility to share the Good News with all those in our circle of influence.

I would love to travel to Hong Kong and spend a night in “Noah’s Resort” hotel — just to experience the vast size of the original ark. However, much more eternally significant is the fact that, by God’s grace, I now reside safely within the protection of the church, Christ’s true ark.

The psalmist superbly expressed my immense gratitude: “Know that the Lord does wonders for his faithful one; the Lord will hear me when I call upon him. O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us! You put gladness into my heart. As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling.”

Father Douglas Grandon is parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Moline and assistant director of catechetics for the Diocese of Peoria.

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