Suffering And Salvation:I Peter 3:15-22


Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit. In it He also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him. 

Peter begins this this section by reminding us to always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, something we can only do in a growing and thriving relationship with God. Yet we must be gentle and reverent sharing our explanation. There are certainly times when we must teach the commands of God to live a moral and upright life, but is that the reasonfor our hope? So many times we hear the bashing and degrading of groups of people and particular sins, have you ever wondered, “Where is the love. Where is the gentleness and reverence? Is this the way to put to shame those who malign us? Or does it give them the excuse they need  to discount the truth of Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings?

It all starts with loving and respecting allpeople. I am no better than you, and you are no better than I. We are both however, significant I we must respect each other – even if we have different values and ideas. My love and respect for those with these differences, may very well be the actions that lead others to Christ and His Church. For just as Christ suffered for sins once that He might lead you to God, our good conduct shall do the same for others.

Peter then gives us some insight as to what Jesus did and why in between His death and resurrection; He went to preach to the spirits in prison as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraphs 632 through 635:

The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection. This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell”—Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek—because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

“The gospel was preached even to the dead.” The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus, “the Author of life,” by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades,” so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

His power over death reveals His power to save us through water. You may ask, “Are you saying that baptism brings us salvation?” Well, yes I am. Yet not I, but the scripture. At the same time, it isn’t baptism alone (we have another instance of a both/and thing happening here). The flood waters prefigured baptism through which Noah’s family was saved. If the flood waters prefigure baptism then naturally the ark prefigures Christ. As Noah and his family passed through the water in the ark, so are those who pass through baptism into Christ.

Our appeal [which can also be translated pledge] to God through baptism, is to live before the Lord with a clear conscience, and a sign [pledge] from God to us, of forgiveness and a cleansed conscience. All this power, we are taught is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This resurrection is the validation of the sacrifice and thus He is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him. Yet with all this power, He still gives us the freedom to choose.

So this week let us choose to:

  • be ready to explain our hope
  • be gentle and reverent when explaining
  • keep a clear conscience
  • maintain good conduct
  • reflect on our Baptismal promises
  • let Jesus have the power over our lives

Amen.

Christ Our Example: I Peter 2:11-25


Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.  Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God. Give honor to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse. For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Keep away from worldly desires and maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, these two things, seem not to be able to co-exist, according to Peter. For if we don’t keep away from worldly desires we can then be accused of acting as evildoers. But if our good conduct can be seen not only is God glorified by it, we reveal the hearts of our accusers!

Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, this should be our lifestyle, even in the political arena. This isn’t a suggestion that Peter offers, it’s a command! And a hard one to live up to at that. I certainly do not agree with all the legislation and actions of our politicians today, and some of the governments decisions. I also know it is merely a human institution. I do not put my faith or trust in what they say or do, even though I abide by their laws. Instead, I put my trust and faith in Jesus Christ, who established an institution that is both divine and human; His Holy Catholic Church. For it is Jesus’ Church which has proclaimed the Gospel, from the beginning and will continue to proclaim it after we are long gone – or until He returns for His Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 771:

“The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.” The Church is at the same time:

  •  a “society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ;
  • the visible society and the spiritual community;
  • the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches.”
These dimensions together constitute “one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element”:
    The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.O humility! O sublimity! Both tabernacle of cedar and sanctuary of God; earthly dwelling and celestial palace; house of clay and royal hall; body of death and temple of light; and at last both object of scorn to the proud and bride of Christ! She is black but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, for even if the labor and pain of her long exile may have discolored her, yet heaven’s beauty has adorned her. 

Peter continues his exhortation in doing good and even says it is God’s will for us stating, that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people.

He then goes on to give the “freedom and responsibility” speech, that every teenager has heard and every parent has given. Again, the command is to not use our freedom as an excuse for sinning. The freedom that Christ has given us is, in fact, the freedom to say “NO” to sin. Before our baptism, we were powerless to say “NO” to sin, but Jesus baptizes us with “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11). This fire, as a refiners fire, purifies our souls, making it possible to say “YES” to Jesus and “NO” to sin.*

Peter also tells us this freedom allows us the grace to endure suffering as Christ did, for in all things He is our example. If we bear the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace, if we are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps…. This is something I didn’t hear preached in my former faith tradition, “Called to suffer.” Who wants to hear about that? “By His stripes we are healed!” That’s what the people want to hear! And therein lies the problem; the people want to hear it so the preacher has to preach it, that is, if he wants to remain their preacher!

Because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. So not only have we been called to live as Christ lived, we’ve been called to act in our sufferings as Christ acted in His sufferings. It’s so easy to bless those who come to you and ask you for help, but it’s much harder to say, “Father forgive them, they no not what they do” in our times of persecution and trials. Do we really act like Jesus then, or do we act like spoiled children, stomping our feet and screaming at the top of our lungs, “It’s not fair!!” or “Why me?!?”

Peter also tells us that Jesus  bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin*[as stated above], we might live for righteousness. He is our example in every aspect of our lives, whether in peaceful times or times of suffering.

So this week, let us evaluate where we are in developing our Christian “lifestyle.” Is Jesus my example? Can people see Him in me, through my life in suffering or contentment? Let us also reflect on our Baptismal promises and determine ourselves to walk in “newness of life.” Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1694:

Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord. Following Christ and united with him, Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love” by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind . . . which is yours in Christ Jesus,” and by following his example.

Amen.