Peace with God
(First Sunday of Lent: Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15)
The noun “bow” occurs 77 times in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. It always refers to a weapon of war, even in today’s first reading. But God says he will set his bow in the clouds as a reminder of the covenant between himself and humanity, a covenant of peace.
After the flood, God had made a resolution: “Never again will I strike down every living being as I have done.” He was now renouncing forever the violence with which he had wiped out all but eight persons on the earth.
This explains why this passage from Genesis is the first reading at the Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette. One might even wonder whether Bishop de Bruillard had this same text in mind when he wrote of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette: “Their institution and existence shall be, like the Shrine itself, an eternal monument, a perpetual remembrance, of Mary’s merciful apparition.”
There are many Scripture passages after the story of Noah, in which God fights with the armies of his people, and Psalm 24 says that God is “mighty in war;” but Psalm 46 presents a different image. God “stops wars to the ends of the earth, breaks the bow, splinters the spear… [saying,] ‘Be still and know that I am God.’”
‘Be still’ can be variously translated as let go, stop, desist. It is not so much an invitation to be quiet as a call to refrain from acts of war and violence.
“Know that I am God” means acknowledging and, above all, respecting God. This is an important element in the Beautiful Lady’s words. She twice laments the abuse of her Son’s name and the failure to give God the worship and honor that is his due.
Today, Mark’s Gospel gives no details about the tempting of Jesus in the desert, but we know them through Matthew and Luke; there we find that Jesus holds fast to the importance of worshiping God alone.
There is always the temptation to forget who God is and who we are. This does not mean we are unimportant. On the contrary, God tells us, “I, the Lord, am your God, … you are precious in my eyes” (Isaiah 43:3-4). We are meant to be at peace with God. That is the message at the heart of the message of La Salette.