Saturday, December 8, 2012
What Does Noah Have to Do with Me?
In reading the next chunk of the Catechism, paragraphs 54–58 about the early stages of God’s revelation to man, it strikes me that we might want to give these Genesis narratives another look. Dismissing them as fiction, we may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, not to mention Noah with the Flood.
The Catechism takes these stories seriously, if not literally (important distinction). The Compendium of the Catechism sums up their meaning this way—
“From the very beginning, God manifested himself to our first parents, Adam and Eve, and invited them to intimate communion with himself. After their fall, he did not cease his revelation to them but promised salvation for all their descendants. After the flood, he made a covenant with Noah, a covenant between himself and all living beings.”
The God of the Old Testament has had a bad rap, often thought of as mean, angry, vengeful. Genesis tells us that since the first man and woman turned away from Him, God has been trying to get us back. According to the encyclical Dei Verbum (1965), which underlies this section of the Catechism, God has “ceaselessly kept the human race in His care.” Despite man’s original sin and fall from grace, according to paragraph 55, God “has never ceased to show his solicitude. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing.”
After Eden came the Flood, and God’s covenant with Noah. Here (paragraphs 56-57) the CCC makes a striking point:
“The covenant with Noah . . . gives expression to the principle of the divine economy toward the nations,’ in other words, toward men grouped ‘in their lands, each with [its] own language, by their families, in their nations.’
“This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social, and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity, united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel. But, because of sin, polytheism and the idolatry of the nation and its rulers constantly threaten this provisional economy with the perversion of paganism.”
I never heard that before. That the division of the world into nations after the flood was meant to limit our pride. Or that sin leads us to idolatry of our nations and rulers.
Forty years ago, when I was young, liberals (like me then) accused conservatives (aka “hawks,” like my Dad) of making an idol of the USA. Today, liberals have made an idol of their ruler, President Obama. Both positions are equally “fallen.”
But if we think of Adam and Eve as early Bagginses, and Noah as fancy like Paul Bunyan, we won’t entertain these thoughts, will we?
[This post is one in an ongoing series of personal reflections about the CCC, using the Compendium as a point of reference.]