The First Sunday of Lent

Rainbow - Covenant.

Reading : ( Gen 9 :8-15 ) ) : God established a covenant with Noah
Second Reading : ( 1 Pet 3:18-22 ) : Jesus saved us
Gospel ( Mk 1:12-15 ) : Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven
Chinese Classics “Literary writing is Nature's landscape on (my) table; Nature's landscape is literary writing on earth.” (1)

“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (Gen 9:13-15 )

This verse in the Bible confirms my thinking that the Bible advocates environmental friendliness. It affirms the intimate relationship between God, humankind, the earth and all living creatures on earth. This relationship is a closely knit one, a covenant relationship.

Some people say that the verses in the Book of Genesis which record that God said to “let human beings have dominion over all the earth” (Gen 1:26) are the source of Christian churches in the West today abusing the environment. I think those who say this misinterpret the Bible.

To 'govern' or 'have dominion' over the earth in the bible has the meaning of 'taking care of' the earth. It does not mean to abuse and rob the earth of its resources. On the contrary, the Book of Genesis tells us that the earth belongs to God, human beings are only its guardians . God would never give human beings the earth as a “gift”, or encourage us to demolish it ruthlessly.

After the flood destroyed the world the human race was re-born, as if there had been a new creation. At the time of this new creation, God established anew his covenant with the human race. This covenant was not with human beings only, but “with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth I will establish my covenant” (Gen 9:10)

I now make between myself, you and every living creature” is repeated several times. From this we can see that God has a macro-view of the world, a world as a unity, an organic whole, not only a world of human beings.

In this verse of the Bible, the rainbow is a “sign.” A sign indicates, inspires and guides us to realize another important fact - the covenant between God and us. “To establish a covenant” means that God and we have an inseparable relationship. In God, we, the earth and every living creature have an intimate, close-knit relationship. In this relationship, God becomes our Lord, and we become his people. (Ref. Gen 17:7)

Today the catechumens taking part in the “Rite of Election” need to know they are choosing to enter into this covenant. They are preparing to accept God as their Lord, and become part of God's people. In this holy covenant, Jesus is by far the best and most perfect example. He is the most loyal of all God's people.

In today's gospel, we hear that “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:12-15)

Jesus accepted the Holy Spirit's urging to go to the desert for the final preparation for his public life. He obeyed God and remained in the desert forty days and nights fasting and praying. He followed his Father's plan to announce the Kingdom of Heaven. One may say that when Jesus began his public life, God had already been his chief planner and guide. Jesus urged people to repent and believe in the Good News. The content of that gospel is God and God's plan.

The rainbow is but a sign. God's presence on earth is subtle. We need to have the ability to “read” the sign, to distinguish between great and small events, to welcome the entire universe into our hearts, before we can appreciate the rainbow and see God. There is a famous quotation in The Shadow of a Beautiful Dream: “Literary writing is Nature's landscape on (my) table; Nature's landscape is literary writing on earth.” (1) These lines mean that some people have the ability to see through life. From literary writings they see the landscape, and from observing this, they see the ways of human beings. They gain knowledge from this and understand the truth. Such people read from the earth this 'great piece of writing' of Nature, what heaven and earth has revealed to them.

It is said that Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who discovered the fossilized “Peking Man” once forgot to bring the sacred vessels and hosts and wine for celebrating Mass on one of his archaeological trips to Northwestern China. At first he was a bit upset, concerned that he would not be able to celebrate Mass. Suddenly he had an inspiration and said, “Today I will celebrate a very special Mass. The whole earth will be my altar; Christ, myself and the whole human race will be my sacrificial offering.” And this is how he offered a truly unique Mass!

Do we have eyes as keen as those of Fr Pierre Teilhard de Chardin? Do we know there are rainbows? Have we looked at one? Are we willing to use a little time to appreciate a rainbow? Does our lifestyle allow us time to “lift up our heads” to look at rainbows, to enjoy them together with husband or wife, children, friends, those we love? Above all, when we look at a rainbow, are we able to see God ?

(1)文章是案頭的山水,山水是地面的文章。