Monday of week 8 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Peter 1:3-9

Today we begin readings from the First Letter of Peter.

“This letter was most likely written… about 64 AD and sets forth the nature of the Christian life begun in baptism as an experience of regeneration.  By their acceptance of Christianity, the Christian communities of Asia Minor had become separated from their pagan countrymen, who were abusing and persecuting them. The apostle instructs his readers that Christianity is the true religion in spite of their trials and sufferings and exhorts them to lead good Christian lives.” (St Joseph‘s Weekday Missal, vol. 1)

The first three verses of the chapter are not included in the reading but in them the writer tells us to whom the letter is being addressed.  They include five Roman provinces in Asia Minor and cover most of what is modern Turkey – Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.

The letter begins in the usual way with a kind of prayer which is full of hope.  In fact, an aura of hope suffuses this whole letter.  In spite of the frequent suffering and persecution mentioned in the letter, hope is such a key thought in it (the word itself is used here and in vv.13,21; 3:5,15) that it may be called a letter of hope in the midst of suffering.  Christian hope is not just wishful thinking, it is an utter conviction of what is going to be realised.  Here there is a guarantee of an “imperishable inheritance” to which all can look forward to with faith and confidence.  The basis of that hope is the resurrection of Jesus, who passed through such terrible suffering and death to life.  Our faith tells us that we can go the same way with him.

This hope leads to the enjoyment of an inheritance, an inheritance that is eternal, one that is being kept in store for us by God.   And we are being made safe, first, by the power of God and, second, by our faith, our total trust and commitment to God.  And this guarantees our salvation, which can be seen in three phases: 1) the salvation that comes when we first believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour; 2) the continuing process of salvation as we grow in holiness and wholeness; and 3) when we are united face to face with our God and Lord in glory.

In spite of the many trials and tribulations that the Christians are passing through, the writer assures them that “there is cause for rejoicing”.  Because such trials test their faith like gold being purified in fire and will make them even more ready to welcome Christ when he comes.  As precious metals are purified by fire, so our faith is strengthened by the trials we experience in our living it out.  Experience has shown again and again that persecution has been a strong reinforcer of faith in Christians.  Jesus foretold that his followers would constantly face resistance, contempt and persecution.  It is not something to be deliberately sought or provoked but at the same time it is one of the signs of our commitment to the Kingdom and the Way of the Gospel.  The true Christian will always be seen as a ‘sign of contradiction’ and hence a challenge to conventional wisdom and political correctness.

Peter, who himself had a personal knowledge of Jesus, is presented here as praising the readers of the letter, who: “although you have never seen him, you love him, and without seeing him, you now believe in him”.  It reminds one of the words of Jesus to Thomas after the resurrection: “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed” (John 20:29).  Through our faith, we are in direct contact with Jesus.  The true believer makes contact with Jesus in every person and every experience.

So, they have reason to “rejoice with inexpressible joy” because they are achieving the goal of faith – and indeed the goal of life – their salvation.  “Salvation” means much more than “going to heaven” after we die.  It implies a restoration of our fragile and weak lives to complete wholeness and in being totally reunited in joy and peace with him from whom we came – God our Creator.  And it begins in this life on earth.

Joy and consolation should be the over-riding experience of the committed follower of Jesus.  This joy and consolation is not taken away by our experience of hardships, testings and disappointments in our lives…quite the contrary.

If that joy is not the deeper part of our Christian experience, then we need to look further for the cause.

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