When the world seemed lost and gone too far astray, God brought mankind back by means of the great flood. Two-by-two, representatives of every creature had to pile onboard the ark to be saved.
Even now, God uses the same mechanism to bring us back. From the earliest Christian centuries, the great saints and Fathers have always seen in the ark a symbol of the Church. Indeed, now, in our times, we must all pile onboard the ark of the Church to be saved.
Although we can never be baptized again, God empowers His Church with another Sacrament that can bring us back from the evil and sin that still persists in our lives. God offers us the Sacrament of Penance so that, “through the ministry of the Church,” we may be kept safe from the floodwaters that surround us.
This Lent, let’s get on board. Let’s make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let’s climb aboard the ark of the Church. Waves are coming, I assure you. As a priest of Philadelphia, I know well that the tide is rising and, before this Lent is over, we will be surrounded by many floods. But the solution is not to break free—to somehow try to make a go of it on our own, jumping ship in the hope of finding our way to some illusory island of refuge.
Doing that, we are destined to drown. The real solution, as always, is actually to step closer to the heart of the Church. The Church, after all, is not just some incorporation founded by men. The Church is our Mother, given to us by Christ, Himself. The Church is the Ark of our salvation! This is what it means to believe that extra ecclesia nulla salus (“outside the Church, there is no salvation”). It was the ark that spared Noah from the flood; it was Baptism that spared us from original sin; and it is confession that spares us from our personal sins. Apart from Christ & His Church, we are nothing but hapless sinners.
Perhaps each of us could reach out to someone we know who has somehow become disenfranchised from the Church and invite them to come onboard with us. Even today, thousands of years after the flood, it’s still easier to go two-by-two than to do it alone.
God’s promise to Noah was that “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings” (Genesis 9:15). How similar are Christ’s words to Peter: “Upon this rock, I will build My Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). From another angle, Bishop Sheen once reflected that “there are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”
This Lent, let’s fall in love with the Church for Who She really is. She is not a sinking ship. She is the Ark of our salvation.