The Rainbow and the Goodness of God

First Sunday of Lent

In the First Reading, God gives Noah the sign of the rainbow as a sign of his covenant: God will never again do what he has just done, destroy everything with a flood.

But why isn’t it bad enough that God did it once? Where is the goodness of God in the story of the Flood?


The medical treatment for certain cancers gives an analogue helpful here. For certain deadly cancers, doctors can try an autologous bone marrow transplant. The doctor takes bone marrow from the patient and hunts through it to find any cells that are not cancerous. He kills the remaining cancerous bone marrow cells. But he clones the healthy cells and puts them back into the patient. By this severe and painful measure, there is a chance that he can save the life of his patient.


In the story of the flood, God tries the analogue of this same procedure on the human race, which is infected with the sin of Adam and doomed to die because of it. God takes a few morally healthy human beings and puts them into a new world, to reproduce there. The morally sick and destructive population of the old world dies in God’s flood.


Only there is this difference: in the story of the Flood, the selection between the sick and the healthy is made by the people themselves.  Those who aren’t on Noah’s boat don’t want to be on it. They mock Noah for even making the boat.  To get on the boat, they would have to acknowledge their sins and accept God’s means to safety.  They would be among the healthy if they repented, but this is what they refuse to do.


And so the rainbow, which is the sign of God’s covenant, is also a sign of his goodness. Even in the flood, God’s boat was there, to keep those willing to be on it from death.


As the Gospel reading makes plain, that boat is always there,  in Christ, who calls to repentance and carries to salvation all those who do not reject the goodness of God.