By Whose Authority?:I Peter 5:1-14


So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you younger members, be subject to the presbyters. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ (Jesus) will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen. I write you this briefly through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it. The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son. Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

In this section of sacred Scripture, Peter addresses the presbyters. I noticed in researching this, the actual word in the Greek language is presbuteros. In short, this word carries with it a connection with Jewish religious leadership; the Sanhedrin. In Matthew 23:2, Jesus references this style of leadership: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. This word chair (also seat in some translations) is the Greek word kathedra. We as Catholics see the connection instantly with the authority of the office of Moses in the Old Testament, and with that of the authority of the office of Peter in the New Testament.

Jesus is the fulfillment of Judaism. This fulfillment is called Christianity. Would Jesus really tell us to toss the baby out with the bath water? I doubt it. There was already a hierarchical system in place. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraphs 1539-1541:

The chosen people was constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance. A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”
Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer, this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.
The liturgy of the Church, however, sees in the priesthood of Aaron and the service of the Levites, as in the institution of the seventy elders, a prefiguring of the ordained ministry of the New Covenant. Thus in the Latin Rite the Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:
    God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . .
    by your gracious word
    you have established the plan of your Church.From the beginning,
    you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
    You established rulers and priests,
    and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you. . . 

 All this to say, our presbyters [priests] are here to lead us and we are to follow their example as they willingly oversee God’s flock. Peter reminds them that upon their faithful service, they will receive the unfading crown of glory when the Chief Shepherd is revealed.

Peter then turns to us, the flock [the younger members] and commands us to be subject to the presbyters. With all due respect to the sacred Scriptures, he doesn’t say “be subject to the Scriptures” but to the presbyters. They are assigned to us by God through His Church the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15).

This submission to the truth can only come about as we choose to clothe ourselves with humility. It is so easy to hide behind scripture as my only authority. After all, my relationship with God is my own business…right? Wrong! My relationship with God is personal, but it should never be private; especially to those in my own community. If we won’t humble ourselves God opposes us. If we do [humble ourselves] He bestows favor on us, and will exalt us in due time. God knows humility hurts, He experienced it on the cross. So cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

We must also be sober [straightforward in character] and vigilant [watchful] for the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. So what do we do? Resist him! As we learned in the James study, Whose Lover Are You?:

By allowing God’s Spirit to work within us we submit ourselves to God. If we think to highly of ourselves, God will resist us; “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” When we submit to God (give Him the authority over our lives) several things happen. He bestows a greater grace because of our humility. With this greater grace we are also able to resist the devil, assured that when we do, he (the devil) will flee from us! How amazing is that grace!

We are not alone; there are others suffering all over the world; but we must remember the God of all grace… will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you after you have suffered a little. The Holy Spirit through Peter, wants us to read, listen and hear these words; this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it.

So this week, let us submit to the presbyters who oversee us willingly and not by constraint, not for shameful profit but eagerly, for they are our examples to follow. Being humble in spirit before God and His Holy Church, as well as being sober and vigilant; steadfast in faith, to the God of all grace.

Amen.

Sharing In Christ’s Sufferings:I Peter 4:12-19


Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? “And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?” As a result, those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful Creator as they do good.

 Why are we surprised when we (as Christians) suffer? Are we really that ignorant of the sacred Scriptures (Jas. 1:2-3, Phil. 3:10, Col. 1:24, Jn. 15:18-20)? Or do we avoid these texts altogether, hoping that God will forget these parts if we over emphasize the “Sabbath rest” and the “abundant life” passages?

Could this be the reason that the gospel that is being preached in the 21st century is seemingly so weak and ineffective; this lack of mentioning suffering? Yet, if we look closely at the book of the Acts of the Apostles, it reveals to us the  power of the first century Church in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit, to be sure, but we also see the suffering, persecution and even God’s judgement upon it’s members, as a means to effective growth, ministry and maturity. Are we not called to share in the sufferings of Christ? Peter reminds us we are!

This should also call to mind, Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matt. 5:10-12 (or His sermon on the plain in Luke 6:22-23). As a disciple of Christ, I would not be preaching the “true”gospel, if that gospel does not mention suffering. As the Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 1505 and 1508:

Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the “sin of the world,” of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.

The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church.”

 Yet Peter says to suffer as a Christian, not as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. There is no shame in suffering for righteousness on account of Christ, but there is shame in suffering for that which is unrighteous – for that which goes against Christ. All suffering may not be the result of good Christian conduct. It could be the result of our own selfish and/or evil desires. It could also be the result of the “curse” of the “fall”; but it is always intended to bring us toward redemption. Again in paragraphs 517 and518 of the CCC, it states:

Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
  • already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
  • in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
  • in his word which purifies its hearers;
  • in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
  • and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.

 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said, and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:
 When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a ‘short cut’ to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.

Suffering is a powerful tool that God uses to “conform us to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29) yet we must be willing to walk the way of the cross. As Jesus Himself said “…and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me,” (Matt. 10:38). Nothing said suffering and death in first century Palestine, quite like a cross.

Now, what exactly does Peter mean by it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God? Could he have been thinking back on his experience with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) knowing that lying to the Holy Spirit, as well as to the members of the Christian community, brings about His sure and swift judgement? Maybe so, for Peter knows that if God judges His household [Church] by such a measure of judgement, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God?

The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31). Peter also quotes from Proverbs 11:31 and consoles us with the promise that when we  suffer in accord with God’s will we hand our souls over to a faithful Creator.

So this week, let us rejoice when we suffer knowing that Christ suffered in love for our redemption. Glorify God when we suffer and continue to obey His commands, for He is a “faithful Creator” to whom we have entrusted our souls.

I also would like to close with a quote from Father Benedict Groeschel, who says before praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the most Holy Rosary, “Whenever good comes into contact with evil – there is suffering.” It helps me to remember that!

Amen.

The Christian Mind-set:I Peter 4:1-11


Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), so as not to spend what remains of one’s life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God. For the time that has passed is sufficient for doing what the Gentiles like to do: living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry. They are surprised that you do not plunge into the same swamp of profligacy, and they vilify you; but they will give an account to Him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God.  The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

As Peter continues his apostolic teaching through sacred scripture, he exhorts us to arm [y]ourselves also with the same attitude of Christ. What was Christ’s attitude? He willinglysuffered. What may seem a forfeiture of our “rights” we, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, are called to do this; For the time that has passed is sufficient for doing what the Gentiles like to do. As we can see by the following list of sins [living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry] these are contrary to the fruits of the Holy Spirit that we are called to live by [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control]. Those who engage in a lifestyle such as the Gentiles will render to Christ an account for He stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

The preaching of the gospel demands a response! It requires a decision! Will we give up our “fleshly” desires, in order to live the spiritual life? Or will we reject the spiritual and cling to the flesh? Peter tells us that this is why the gospel was preached, that even though the flesh may die the spirit shall live in the estimation of God.

The end of all things is at hand. This  is a recurring theme in the New Testament. The Apostles themselves were expecting Jesus to come back before they died. Ever since Jesus ascended into heaven it’s been “the last days.” Yet, his message for us is the same as it was for the first century church; be serious and sober for prayers. These aren’t “gimmie” prayers, these prayers are intended to be the support of your love for one another which is to be intense. Intense? Our love for one another is supposed to be intense? I’ve heard of church business meetings being described as intense (not in a loving way I assure you) but never Christian love. This should be a real concern for the church today, for if our love is not intense for one another, how will love cover a multitude of sins? Jesus’ intense love for us, shown on the cross, is the love we should have [and show] for others.

Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Yes, this is possible and it is not optional!

We must also use our gifts to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. In doing so, we are serving God. All ministry, all vocations should be directed toward others that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

And lastly, when we preach let it be with the words of God.These words of God come to us through two distinct ways. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraphs 81 and 82:

Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.””And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.”
 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”

Also, whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies. Since it is the Spirit that gives life, we should realize that it is the Spirit that gives us the strength to love as God loves-which is “to  serve and not be served” (Matt. 20:28).

So this week, let us give up our pursuit of the things of the flesh and pursue the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let us also intensely love one another; in our prayers and our ministries and in our teaching and our service, so that “all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Amen.

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.

The Conduct Of Our Lives:I Peter 3:1-7


Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior. Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. For this is also how the holy women who hoped in God once used to adorn themselves and were subordinate to their husbands; thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him “lord.” You are her children when you do what is good and fear no intimidation. Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

The “likewise” that  Saint Peter uses here, reflects back on his command to slaves in the previous chapter.

In our study of the Domestic Church in August of 2006, we examined carefully the roles of both wives and husbands in Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Saint Peter says the same thing here, but gives different emphasis as to it’s result.  

Wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct. This word “conduct” is anastrophe in Greek and is also translated as behavior and conversation. Using the “conduct” or “behavior” definition, better explains this sense being won over without a word.Some people have given a proper title to this action, lifestyle evangelism, and rightly so. Our lifestyles should lead our (unbelieving) spouses (and others) to faith in Christ, if indeed we find ourselves in this situation. But what about those spouses who already believe? After all, Saint Peter was addressing wives who had converted to Christianity (most likely) after their marriages, for Saint Paul teaches us in II Corinthians 6:14, not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” So what about those who already believe? If the “behavior” of the believer can lead an unbeliever to faith in our Lord, how much more will our “behavior” lead our believing spouses into a deeper faith in our Lord? If we are willing to do this, will not our marriages be strengthened and our families be more solidified? Of course they would!

I will not get into the historical details of women’s dress and pagan worship in the first century, because what Saint Peter is really addressing is the hidden character of the heart. A gentle and calm disposition, is precious in the sight of God, like Sarah had with Abraham. Saint Peter says, you are her[Sarah’s] children when you do what is good. This is not a foreign concept for us Catholics- as Sarah can be called a “mother of obedient wives”- so Mary can be called all believers [or the Church’s] spiritual Mother. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 969 and 970:

“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.” “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”

 

 Alright guys, it’s our turn!

We must show honor to our wives. That means showing them special esteem or respect and reverence. If we do this we are told that our prayers may not be hindered. This should inform us as to the importance of the Sacrament of Matrimony to our Father. If we do not respect our spouse, a visible sign of the unity of the Trinity, God will not hear our prayer. Is this not like Saint Paul’s description of prayer without love, “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (I Cor. 13:1)? Is your prayer life ineffective? Examine your relationship with your spouse. Are you showing her honor and respect? Are you treating her as a joint heir? It would do us all well, to take Saint Peters words to heart here.

So this week, let us (wives) be subordinate to our husbands, and men (husbands) let us honor and respect our wives. Let us test the truth of God’s word, that our conduct will lead others to (or deeper in) a faith walk with Jesus Christ. And that our conduct toward our spouses, will not only enhance our relationships with each other, but will find favor in God’s eye’s and He will receive our prayers.

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.

A Spiritual House: I Peter 2:1-10


Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander; like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in scripture: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall.” They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.  But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy. 

At the beginning of this second chapter of Peter’s letter, we are commanded to rid ourselves of certain actions:

  1. malice: a desire to see others suffer or to harm others
  2. deceit: causing someone to believe what is not true
  3. insincerity: being hypocritical
  4. envy: combines resentment and desire, resenting the good fortune of another and desiring to have what they have
  5. slander: malicious statements or reports of others

You would think these actions would be “no brainers” in how not to act as a Christian. Why would Peter feel his readers would need reminding of this? Maybe from his own experience, knowing how easily and suddenly we can fall into past patterns, particularly if we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to build us up into a spiritual house. As strong and as bold as Peter was, he had his moments of weakness as well. We all do. And like Peter we must repent and press forward, continuing in our faith journey.

Again, we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in letting ourselves be built into this spiritual house. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states:

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Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood.”
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The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace –—a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit—, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.

So we see that this in no way nullifies the function of the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood, for it is at the service of the common priesthood. One of the statements I often heard during my conversion to the Catholic Church was, “They don’t believe in the priesthood of the believer.” That is just another example of the misinformation that abounds about Christ’s Church.

Anyway, the ministerial priesthood provides the faithful the knowledge and discipline they need on how to offer spiritual sacrifices, the first and foremost being our lives, completely and totally. When we’ve done this we can seek God’s will for our lives, one which is mentioned here; so that you may announce the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

So this week, let us live as a holy priesthood unto God. Ministering to our family, friends and communities as our spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1). In so doing, let us seek deeper His will in our lives (Rom.12:2, Eph. 1:11,12, I Thes. 4:3, 5:18, I Tim. 2:4, Heb. 10:36-39). And I Peter 2:15, which we will look at next week, God willing.

Amen.