Glancing Thoughts

The Rainbow and the Goodness of God

This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, 
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you
(First Reading)

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

But why isn’t it bad enough that God did it once? God brought it about that every human being, except for Noah and his small family, died by drowning in one great natural catastrophe. Where is the goodness of God in the story of the flood?

Well, here is one way to think about God’s action.

Consider the medical treatment for certain fatal cancers. For those deadly diseases, doctors can try to save the patient with an autologous bone marrow transplant. The doctor takes bone marrow from the patient and hunts for any cells that are not cancerous. He saves those healthy cells, but he kills the cancerous ones. Then he clones the healthy cells and puts them back into the patient. By this painful measure, there is a chance that the doctor 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, doomed to die because of sin. 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. 

But, you might think, what dies in the treatment for cancer is only cells. What died in the flood is human beings!

True, but notice this other difference between the medical treatment and the flood. In the flood, the selection between the sick and the healthy people is made by the people themselves. Those who aren’t on Noah’s boat don’t want to be on it. 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, the righteous invited on the boat, if they repented. But this is what they refuse to do.

The boat is there for those who don’t refuse it. And, as the Gospel reading makes plain, that boat is always there, in Christ, who saves all those who do not reject him.

And so the rainbow is a sign of the goodness of God, who calls everyone to salvation.

Eleonore Stump


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson