by Fr. Dick Bayuk, C.PP.S.

As I write this, I am focused on the Scriptures for the First Sunday of Lent. God’s covenant with Noah following the great flood. Peter’s assertion that the flood and the ark tell us something about the baptism which saves. Jesus is driven into the desert immediately following his baptism in the Jordan. Hope and a new life, a different way of living, a better way, hopefully. The deserts that test and tempt us, but ultimately bring us near to God and one another. These themes permeate the  time of Lent. I am remembering Josefina and Antonio, a young couple who crossed the Rio Grande and almost drowned—and then traveled two days through the desert to find a new home. She was pregnant with their first child, Jose Antonio, as their journey through the water and the desert brought them to a new life—and as they brought new life with them. At Jose’s baptism, the gospel relating Jesus baptism and subsequent time in the desert was heard with great impact, for they had already lived it. I remember also a homily preached by one of our priests, in which he talked about leaving his country in 1975, one of the so-called boat people. Amid the feelings of terror and hope and powerlessness and smallness in the boats, the water for them represented salvation, knowing it was the only way to freedom, to life.

It is the image of the boat, the ark, that stays with me. Speaking of Noah and the flood, Frederick Buechner points out that the ark is “wherever human beings come together as human beings in such a way that the differences between them stop being barriers.” The ark is where we need each other and know that we do. The ark is “where we have each other and where we have hope.” Noah of course looked like a fool, but in the end he saved the world itself from drowning. However, as the scriptures remind us this weekend, there is one whom Noah foreshadowed, one who also looked like a fool and who also saved the world from drowning. It seems that most people who have found a home here came through the water or across the water, or through the desert or wilderness, some more literally than others. Our spirituality reminds us that in Jesus all are brought near. To quote Buechner further, “We must not forget him because he saves the world still, and wherever the ark is, wherever we meet and touch in something like love, it is because he also is there…. So into his gracious and puzzling hands we commend ourselves through all the days of our voyaging…. We must build our arks with love and ride out the storm with courage and know that the little sprig of green in the dove’s mouth betokens a reality beyond the storm more precious than the likes of us can imagine.” Sometimes we have a boat, and sometimes we cross without one. The journey through the desert is sometimes long and arduous. It’s all much easier if we don’t try it alone—and if we encourage and welcome those who seek to be brought near, even as they struggle with the current or the barren landscape.

We have each other and we have hope.

This article appeared in the New Wine Press, February-March 2009.