When Adam and Eve were trying to hide their nakedness they desperately made a desperate suit of clothes for themselves from leaves - the fig leaf has become the iconographical expression of their fall. In our reading from Genesis today we have another leaf - that of the olive, now symbol of peace, which informs Noah that the flood has subsided - the new creation is emerging from the waters.
As I was praying this reading today I was struck, in my imagination, by the silence which must have greeted Noah and his family as they opened the doors and walked out on to earth again. First there was probably all sorts of noises from the animals on the ark - imagine the sleepless nights there - they must have had a few tense moments during the weeks in the ark, perhaps even a few tense words were spoken. Going outside to an empty earth must have been strange. But then there is the silence which emerges when the cacophony of sin and chaos has gone - that silence which most equates with peace. Perhaps at that moment, perhaps even for just that moment, there was peace on earth. Noah then offers sacrifice, a thanksgiving, but also a desire to remain in that peace - to remain in friendship with God.
Noah and his family represented God's attempt to begin again: as Noah foreshadows Christ, his family foreshadows the Church, the silent earth and saved animals, the new creation. Here in this mysterious event the sacrifice of Jesus and the establishing of the New Covenant is prepared for, alluded to, promised.
Here also we see the new beginning - a second chance, hopefully to get things right. Noah, a righteous man, in peace with God, represents the hope that human beings can finally undo the damage and rise again to what God intends us to be. It was not to be so for some time. Noah's descendants would fall again: humanity would have to wait for the Messiah to come, and he, God and Man would fulfil the hope the silent and peaceful earth after the flood longed for.
This reading today brings to mind the new beginning all of us may experience in the Sacrament of Confession. In that Sacrament the waters of grace pour over us like a flood putting to death within us our sinfulness and seeking to heal the original wound of Adam's sin which manifests itself as weakness and pride. Emerging from the Sacrament - the confession box is a worthy image for the ark, we too face the silence and peace of reconciliation, of God's presence now felt more profoundly thanks to the grace of our encounter with him in his mercy. Like Noah, emerging from the ark, the first thing we must do in that moment is offer sacrifice, offer ourselves, so we will remain in his peace and become stronger and holier.