Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

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Somewhere over the rainbow
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

(Due to technical difficulties: no audio)

Remember when Dorothy sang, in The Wizard of Oz?
“Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly;
birds fly over the rainbow – why then, oh why, can’t I?”
Well, even if we can’t fly over the rainbow,
there’s a certain comfort in this scene in Genesis
where God's hanging a rainbow in sky
as a sign of his love for us.

The scriptures are all over the place today, taking us
• from the receding waters of a flood
after “40 days and 40 nights” of rain
-- to 40 days in a dry and barren wasteland;
• from an image of birds and animals, two by two, on Noah’s ark
-- to the wilderness, where wild beasts roam freely;
• from God highlighting the heavens’ beauty with a rainbow
-- to the specter of Satan tempting Jesus
under the heat of the desert sun.

Sharp contrasts, these images, but not unknown in our own lives.
We live every day under the same skies,
and though we may hope for rainbows,
it often seems that if the flood waters of worries and illness
aren’t rising all around us
then the heat of problems and difficulties
is beating down on us like a sun that never sets.

So, when a rainbow does come along
it’s hard to miss its beauty or dismiss its mystery.
Who ever shrugs off a rainbow?
Who hasn't the time to look up for a few minutes
and ponder such a gift from God?

But it’s helpful to understand how rainbows come to be.
What we see in a rainbow is the sun’s light refracted
through droplets of moisture.
No rain, no moisture? No rainbow. No sun, no light? No rainbow.
The rainbow is the place, the moment,
where the flood and the sun’s light meet
and without both, there is no meeting.

Noah’s rainbow didn’t appear until after rains had stopped,
the flood had subsided and the sun burned bright again.

But make no mistake about it.
The folks on the ark weren’t alone, abandoned in the flood.
God was with Noah and his family - in the rain -
for 40 days and 40 nights.
God told Noah to build the ark precisely so he might survive the flood.

And make no mistake about it.
Jesus wasn’t alone in the desert,
nor were wild beasts his only companions.
It was the Spirit who drew Jesus into the desert and sustained him
through 40 days of heat, hunger, thirst, danger and temptation.

It’s not unusual for us to wonder, when times are really hard,
“Where is God? Why has God forgotten me?”
Jesus himself, in the most difficult, painful, lonely moment of his life,
cried out from the Cross, “Why have you abandoned me?”

God never forgets us. God never abandons us.
God is always with us, especially in the most difficult times,
in our most painful and lonely times.

The rainbow comes in our hearts
when the light and heat of our burdens
are refracted through the moisture of our lives’ storms,
still freshly dripping, like tears, from our faces.
The rainbow is still the sign of the Lord’s covenant
and his promise to be with us
through the floods and in the deserts of our own days and nights.

Lent is a time to see more clearly how close is the Lord by our side
and to be grateful for times past
when he has guided us through our most difficult days.

The covenant of God’s love shines in a rainbow, yes,
but the beauty and depth and truth of the Lord’s covenant,
sealed in sacrifice of the Cross
is never more beautifully revealed than in Bread and Cup of this table.
In the Eucharist is the meal of new covenant
which nourishes us to be strong in stormy times
and to persevere when the heat of troubles threatens us.

For here in this sacrament the reign of God is at hand
and we are made one in communion with him
whose love for us knows no bounds and has no end.


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  1. Wonderful. Thanks for this.

  2. thank you.

    I am without other words- for my feelings, for everything-

    but I believe and trust (thank you) that it is okay not to have any words, to be silent, to be still...
    I am learning to sit and be still (and be okay with my lack of words)
    and know that God is there- here-

    thank you.

  3. Thank you Fr Austin for another beautiful homily!

  4. Wish I heard you preach this one. I really liked it. I am forever looking for the rainbow, and your homily makes me realize it is reachable, and God wants me to find it also.


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