Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 8:6-13.20-22; Mark 8:22-26)
Perhaps you have wondered about why Noah sends out a raven first and then a dove. And maybe you have asked why the dove but not the raven comes back to the ark when land cannot be found. And then, what is the purpose of Noah’s animal sacrifice to God? We should not think that these actions are arbitrary or, much less, that they comprise a historical record. As in much of Genesis the author of the story is telling us something of nature – both human and non-human. These questions have answers which may be ascertained through attention to both the Scripture and the environment.
A raven is a scavenger bird which is particularly fond of rotten flesh. Evidently the raven was having a difficult time onboard the ark where there was only vegetative food. It waited out the drying of the land rather than go back to a vegetarian diet. The dove, which is content with eating vegetables, does not mind returning to the ark. Noah burns animals as a sacrifice because he too enjoys the taste of flesh. But God has always frowned on animals tearing apart one another and also on humans doing it. He accepts Noah’s sacrifice but is not pleased with it. He realizes that the plan to renew creation with both humans and beast living in harmony will never work. So He makes a covenant with humans. They can eat the flesh of animals and even offer Him sacrifices with it, but they will have to obey His law. They may not eat the blood of animals and, most importantly, may not spill one another’s blood.
In time God will give humans other laws, but none will calm their hearts. That will come only when God sends His Son to make up for humanity’s sins and to bestow on humans the Holy Spirit. Jesus will bring about the new creation that turns women and men into true daughters and sons of God.