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Noah’s ark. How do you envision it? If you picture in your mind a large shoebox, about the size of a football field and about three stories high, then, Congratulations, you have read your Bible. The Bible gives the exact dimensions and the shape of the ark. But this is my question: why would God make a boat the shape of a shoe box. Let’s say I am back in the day and I am walking the dog. I pass by the Noah residence and in the front yard is this monstrosity. I stop and strike up a conversation with Noah.
Me: Hey Noah, that’s pretty awesome. What is it?
Noah: It’s an ark.
Me: Oh, an ark…what’s an ark?
Noah: It’s a boat.
Me: It looks like a shoe box; how are you supposed to steer the thing?
Noah: You can’t.
That’s right you can’t steer the thing, you can’t control it. So there is God, looking down at the world. People are buying and selling, marrying, building and everyone doing their thing. And God notices that no one needs God anymore. Everyone is living independent of divine assistance, so God tells Noah, “Alright, everyone in the shoebox.” So there you are in the shoebox for 40 days and forty nights. There is a storm outside, and you are bobbing up and down in the waves. All that time you can’t steer the boat which means you can’t control where you are going, you have no future, no direction, and you are entirely dependent on God. The way life ought to be. After the 40 days, God recreates that world, and it is beautiful again.
When the Israelites went into the desert for 40 years, they had no food, no water, no protection against pesky neighbors, the sun, poisonous snakes, and whatever else lurks in such places. They were utterly dependent on God. After 40 years God made a nation to be the light of all the nations.
God sent the prophet Jonah to Nineveh where he preached for three days saying: “Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days.” When the inhabitants heard the message, they immediately put on sackcloth and ashes, and they fasted. For 40 days they were absolutely totally dependent on God. At the end of the 40 days, God did something beautify. He saved a nation.
In the Gospel, Jesus goes into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Doesn’t Jesus have something better to do than hang out in the desert and have a theological conversation with the devil? Aren’t there more pressing needs in the world? What about the woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years? While she is running around spending all her money on one doctor after the other, Jesus is in the desert. And then there is a young boy who is possessed by a demon. His dad tells us that the demon threw him into the water to drown him and then into flames to burn him. While this boy suffers seizures and torment every day, Jesus is hanging out in the desert. There is also a man with a withered hand. You can’t work with a dead hand. You can’t even hold your child with a withered hand, yet another day in his life ticks by while Jesus is in the desert for forty days and forty nights. So why is Jesus in the desert? Because when we live a life that is absolutely dependent on God, people around us and the world around us are blessed. That is why Jesus was able to do such great works for others.
So here we are on earth buying, selling, building, and doing our thing and all of a sudden it is Lent for 40 days. We begin the 40 days with Ash Wednesday with the words: “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” In other words, the clock is ticking, and we are going to die someday. At that moment we are absolutely totally dependent on God. When we spend 40 days dependent on God, you will see: God will bless the world and the people around us. Great things happen when we need God.Back to All Homilies