25. THE FLOOD THAT IS COMING. A boat in the middle of the waters

A boat in the middle of the waters

1. Due to ignorance or negligence, some chapters of the Genesis can be a loft, that high part of the house where useless or for lack of use, id est, old junks, are stored. That can happen with the narration of the Flood and it can happen what the poet sung: “Of the sitting room in the dark angle, of his owner perhaps forgotten, silent and covered of dust the harp could be seen”. Years ago, in 1977, the musical “The Flood that comes” was performed for the first time. The perspective is of a future more or less imminent. Also in the Gospel. To look backwards is not the case, but forward. We must be vigilant before the flood that comes.

2. There are two mixed narrations in the Bible (Gn 6 – 9). The last writer has respected the two testimonies received from the tradition, without avoiding repetitions and differences. Such as the biblical text reached us, we find a prologue (Gn ,1 – 8), the two mixed narrations (6,. 9 – 8, 22) and an epilogue (9, 1 – 17). The present catechesis is a triptych, a retablo that has three pictures: a denounce of the general corruption, a boat in the middle of the water and a signal of alliance.  

3. In the first pictures we see a denunciation of the general corruption: “When people began to increase on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that men’s daughters were very beautiful, so they married those they chose.” And also: “At that time there were giants on the earth, and afterwards as well, when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. These were the heroes of old, men of renown. Seeing Yahweh saw how great was the wickedness of man on the earth and that evil was always the only thought of his heart, he regretted having created man on the earth and his heart grieved.” (6, 1 – 6). The earth is corrupted by violence and vice:  “the earth filled up with violence”, “it was vitiated, because all flesh had a vicious behaviour upon the earth” (6, 1 – 12). However, “Noah reached the Lord’s favour” (6, 8). Noah is the just side present in the humanity. Thanks to it there is “a rest” on the earth (Sir 44, 17).

4. Some problems: is it bad that God´s sons get married with men’s daughters?, who are those God´s sons? In the book of Enoch (about year 150 b. C) they are “angels”, God´s messengers who corrupt themselves. In the first centuries Christians are the “descendents of Set” (4, 25 – 26), believers who get contaminated by the pagan environment. According to another interpretation, they are “gods” (sons of god)

5. About the twenties of the past century, in the ancient Phoenician city of Ugarit,  some texts that allow to know better the religious environment surrounding Israel are found. In this context “gods”, ancient heroes, famous men are mentioned. The sexual commerce of the gods with the daughters of men is considered normal, nothing is seen reprehensible in it; on the contrary, it is attractive. This clearly appears in the Syrian epic story of Gilgamesh, where – conversely – Goddess Istar courts hero Gilgamesh. It was said about him that he was “divine in two thirds and human in the other one”. What in the pagan environment is good, is bad in God´s eyes. It is vicious to surrender to the stellar cults with the practices that accompany them; for instance, the “sacred prostitution”. At the bottom, the pagan style of life is the radical temptation (Gn 3, 5). In the photograph  a Cananean stela can be seen, with hands that rise towards a half moon, with a disc and two small circles (Bible Atlas). It is possible that human life is measured in months. (Gn 9, 29).

6. Let us see the second picture: a boat in the middle of the waters. Flood narrations (it is to say about a large inundation), are present in many peoples. Names and some circumstances change. So happens, for instance, in the Assyrian tradition. In the middle of XIX century are found in Nínive rests of the royal library (VII century b. C). Among them is the epic story of Gilgamesh, written in clay boards about 2600 b. C. Its original is in the Britannic Museum of London. In its board number eleven (attached photo) the epic story tells that the hero Gilgamesh initiates a trip to visit an ancestor who has reached the immortality. This talks to him about the flood that he lived in pass times. The gods decide to exterminate the human race. They see only him virtuous and they order him to build a vessel, to renounce to the wealth and to save his life: “Demolish this house, build a ship! Leave you possessions, look for your life”.

7. In the biblical narration, God tells Noah to build a vessel in firm land: “build an ark”, “you shall come into the ark, you, your wife, your sons and your sons’ wives with you”, “You shall bring into the ark two of every kind of living thing, male and female, to keep them alive with you”. (6, 14 – 19), “The flood lasted for forty days on the earth”, “the waters rose and increased greatly on the earth and the ark floated on the surface of the waters.” (7, 17 – 18)

8. Last time that the biblical text is drafted, the addressee of the alliance is the people who lives in the exile: “This is for me like Noah’s waters, when I swore that they would no more flood the earth; so now I swear not to be angry with you and never again to rebuke you”, “my alliance of peace shall not move” (Is 54, 9 – 10). The exile is a flood that has devastated everything. The people is invited to understand the meaning of the alliance with God: peace, life, salvation. It is said in psalm 124: “Had not the Lord been on our side, the raging waters would have swept us away.”

9. In the third picture we find an alliance with a signal. Noah offers a sacrifice and God pleases himself in it: “Yahweh smelled the pleasing aroma and said to himself: Never again will I curse the earth because of man” (8, 20). After the tempest the calm comes. God´s project goes forward: “Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth” (9, 1, 1, 26). Human life must be respected (9, 6). It is said in the psalm 24: “Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain, and never swear to a lie.”. The alliance has the rainbow like signal: “This is the signal of the alliance” (9, 17). According to God´s project, “large waters cannot turn off neither love nor the rivers inundate it” (Cc 8, 7)

10. In the frame of the conventional Judaism, John calls to conversion: “Produce now the fruits of a true change of heart, and do not deceive yourselves by saying: ‘Abraham is our ancestor!’ For I tell you, God can make children of Abraham from these stones. The axe is already laid to the root of the tree and every tree that fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Lk 3, 8 – 9). It is an image. John refers to Jesus: “I baptize you with water, but the one who is coming will do much more: he will baptize you with wind and fire. He comes with a winnowing fan to clear his threshing floor and gather the grain into his barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.” (Lk 3, 16)

11. In the Acts, Peter invites to escape from the general corruption: “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2, 40) Those who embrace his word, are baptized: “Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (2, 47). In times of Noah “the hope of the world took refuge on a raft” (Wis 14, 6). Like then, it is necessary a raft in the middle of the waters. The community is a raft in which we are able to confront the floods that are coming. The raft can be tossed by the waves, but the Lord opens a way among the waters. (Mt 14, 22 – 34).

12. The flood is symbol of the judgement that surprises to those unconcerned, but he saves the just. It is necessary to be alert so we are not surprised, to avoid the general weakness, to be watchful: “Keep yourselves avoiding that your hearts become boring due to the licentiousness, drunkenness and life worries, and that day come upon you without warning” (Lk 17, 34), “At the coming of the Son of Man it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. In those days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, and marrying, until the day when Noah went into the ark. Yet they did not know what would happen until the flood came and swept them away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Of two men in the field, one will be taken and the other left. Of two women grinding wheat together at the mill, one will be taken and the other left.” (Mt 24, 37 – 41). In the middle of ordinary life (they ate, drank, married wife or husband) the flood burst in. It is human condition. At the end, in the flood of the death, the void is not present, but the Son of man, the Lord is present: “When you see the first events, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near”. (Lk 21 – 28)

* Dialogue: Over the flood that is coming
- it is necessary from the general corruption
- it is necessary a raft in the middle of the waters
- it is necessary to be watchful
- present floods

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