Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 5:5-8.7:1-5.10; Mark 8:14-21)

We should view Genesis as telling the human story from a philosophical and theological, not a historical, point of view if we are to garner its wisdom. Where today’s passage speaks of human wickedness, it means to decry the state of life without laws to guide people. We might wonder why God, who is supposedly omniscient, did not know beforehand that humans would turn out corrupted, but that is not allowing the story to unfold in its artistic way.

There is one man, however, who does not perpetrate evil. Noah finds favor with the Lord because, as is soon shown, he does exactly what the Lord commands him. He is unlike all the other men and women of his age. Because of him God will try again. But the next time humans are allowed to flourish they will have covenantal laws for guidance. More than one covenant, however, will be necessary to finally put humans firmly on the path of righteousness.

Some have belittled Genesis’ flood story as a mere retelling of part of the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh epic. Although it is more than likely that some borrowing went on, there are still critical distinctions between the two which highlight the biblical conception of life. Succinctly put, these differences amount to God being in complete control of the reestablishment of human society. The ark only preserves life which God will reshape. It does not attempt, as the ship in the Gilgamesh epic, to save a vestige of human civilization which has proved to be entirely wanting.