Previewing today’s readings, I knew right away the grooves my mind would fall into when they are read at Mass.
First we will hear about God promising Noah not to send any more floods and setting the rainbow in the sky as a reminder to himself. Funny, I think, how there weren’t any rainbows before that.
Following this is one of those psalms about God’s compassion and love. Pretty general. Not easy to find a handle to grab onto here.
The next reading scores 10 on a 10-point scale for obscurity. Between his death and resurrection Jesus preached “to the spirits in prison.” What on earth?
Finally, the Gospel. In the last line is the word “repent”! Of course! This is the first Sunday in Lent. I bet that’s what the homilist is going to focus on.
A superficial response but not, I assure you, out of character.
I thought I should go back and see if there wasn’t something that speaks to me in a personal way. And I did find something, in the center of the obscure reading. Peter says that baptism “is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 3:21).
I have known the guilt of saying and doing totally indefensible things to strangers and to those close to me. I know what it is like to make a tangle of a relationship with someone, contributing to problems over a long period of time. I know ... well, you get the point.
And I have also known the liberation that comes from owning up to it, face to face, when that’s possible, and also in confession — face to face with Jesus. And that’s where I have discovered “a clear conscience.”
It is like God deleting infected files from the hard drive of my soul. They are gone. They don’t show up on the screen any more.
As I think about this, other statements in today’s readings begin to light up. “Good and upright is the Lord, thus he shows sinners the way” (Ps 25:8). And “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15).
It always amazes me how Scripture comes alive if one makes a little effort.