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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

The Spiritual Lessons in Noah's Ark

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

A Meditation for Sexagesima Sunday

In the traditional Divine Office on Sexagesima Sunday, we hear the story of Noah’s Ark. Of course, in the Ark were found every sort of creature, all of God’s handiwork. If we compare the Church to Noah’s Ark, as St. Anthony of Padua does in his sermon for this Sexagesima Sunday, we can see how we can group all the inhabitants of the ark into three groups: 1) domestic animals, 2) birds, and 3) men. Likewise, St Anthony says we can imagine three categories of Christians in the Church: 1) married couples, 2) single persons practicing continence, and 3) consecrated souls (priests and religious).

As St. Anthony notes, in Noah’s ark the domestic animals symbolize those faithful who are married, those who are fruitful and multiply, peopling the earth with children. The married people, the families are to be good people who do works of charity and penance, giving to the poor, and injuring no one. These families are to be good people bring forth spiritual fruits thirty-fold. Today’s Epistle refers to them:

You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. (2 Cor. 11:19-20)

Married couples and families, therefore, give Christian witness by overcoming the foolishness and hatefulness of the world by the warmth of the Christian charity that comes from their very hearts.

Single persons who embrace chastity according to their state in life are people who live active lives, living and functioning in the world, doing good to their neighbors, seeking the face of Christ in everyone they meet. They give witness to the beauty of our Christian life by word and example, watching over themselves and those in their care. These chaste single persons bring forth fruit sixty-fold, as St. Paul says, “in labor and painfulness; in much watchings; in hunger and thirst; in fastings; often, in cold and in nakedness.” (2 Cor. 11:27). By their resolve to live perfect continence in the midst of the world they are crucifying their flesh and its worldly desires by generosity of charity towards their neighbors.

St. Anthony sees that the birds of Noah’s Ark represent consecrated souls who live the contemplative life. These are priests and religious, monks and nuns, religious brothers and sisters, who are lifted on the wings of virtue and contemplate the King in all his beauty, as we read in Psalm 45.

Like the birds, the souls of religious are called to assiduous union with God. They are called to contemplate the glory of the Trinity, in pureness of spirit, rapt in the contemplation of the third heaven, where they hear with the ear of the heart what they cannot express in words or even comprehend with their mind. Religious consecrated to God are to be the souls that bear fruit a hundred fold, as they work the whole day in the vineyard of the Lord, tilling the soil for God’s graces, rooting out the weeds and watering the good ground by tears of love.

As St. Anthony teaches us in his homily for Sexagesima, the universal call to holiness is meant for all Christians: for married couples with their families, for single persons living continence, and for consecrated religious. Let us pray that Word of God we have heard today and the Word made Flesh in the Most Holy Eucharist that we receive, will bring forth in our souls the fruits of true repentance and lasting conversion so that we may be found worthy to live in the presence of God’s eternal glory in heaven, bearing fruit, thirty, sixty, and even a hundred fold. Amen.


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