February 18, 2009

Noah and Linz

I've been following the uproar over the auxiliary bishop-elect of Linz, Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner, who has asked to have his election rescinded. People have been outraged, they claim, because of his comments suggesting that hurricane Katrina was sent to punish the people of New Orleans for their sins.

On the one hand, the suggestion is offensive and unacceptable, for reasons I will explore below. On the other hand, there is also the suggestion that the Lentians (?) might not want him for a bishop because he has the reputation of being orthodox and theologically conservative.

Wagner's comments about hurricane Katrina reveal a common pitfall in Christian reflection. There are many who reflect with unspeakable pleasure on the punishments that God is going to inflict on other people. But this reveals more about them and their passions than it does about the God who is revealed as the tortured, suffering, condemned criminal on the Cross.

In this regard it is providential that we are hearing the Noachide (Noachic?) covenant in the lectionary today and tomorrow. After destroying and re-creating the world with the flood, God receives the sacrifice of Noah and vows, despite the wickedness of human thoughts, never to destroy the world again.

True to his promise, when God saw the need to again recreate the world through water, he did not destroy it by a flood but renewed it quietly from within. This is the new flood of baptism, which we receive from and with Christ. The first flood overwhelmed the world into re-creation. This new flood, our baptism, is a quiet and tranquil renovation of the world, but nevertheless an insistent revolution against sin, suffering, and death.

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