The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, reminds us of the covenant between God and all humankind – those who have survived the Great Flood.
God spoke to Noah and his sons, ‘See, I establish my Covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; also with every living creature to be found with you, birds, cattle and every wild beast with you: everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. I establish my Covenant with you: no thing of flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood. There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.’
God said, ‘Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth. When I gather the clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the Covenant between myself and you and every living creature of every kind. And so the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all things of flesh.’
The Scriptures speak of other covenants too. That made with Abraham, and that with Moses, for example. In the New Testament a new covenant is established, made in the blood of Christ.
Each in their different way speaks of God’s love for his people. – but of them all those with Noah and that made in Jesus Christ are the most universal, directly available to all humankind.
In the recent re-translation of the words of Jesus quoted in the Eucharistic Prayer there can seem to be a restriction placed on the offer of universal salvation won for us by Jesus.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
for this is the Chalice of my Blood,
the Blood of the new and eternal Covenant,
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me.
The ‘and for many’ implies some are saved and some are not, and that this is Christ’s will.
It surely is his will that we be saved by his love. But not all seem willing to receive such salvation and live by his love: there is is failure of engagement on their part, not by Christ.
As we continue our journey into Lent, and remember the love of God, let us pray for the humility to know our faults, and to accept the sure hope offered us by the Lord.
Photograph of carving at South Door, York Minster. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.