Tuesday of week 8 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Peter 1:10-16

Peter continues to speak of the “salvation” which the Christians are confident of experiencing.

We now are the possessors of the grace which the prophets of the Old Testament looked for.  They spoke in advance of the very blessings which the Christians are now experiencing, without knowing or experiencing them personally.   But, even at that time, they were already filled with the Spirit of Christ when they spoke of the sufferings of Christ to be followed by glory.  There is a seamless unity between the Old and New Testaments as one flows into the other, as one prepares for the other.

At the same time, the way of Jesus is one which the Christians themselves will follow.   Those who are united to Christ will also, after suffering, enter into glory.  And so they will benefit in the midst of their present sufferings from Jesus having already entered into glory.

“They (i.e. the prophets) knew by revelation that they were providing, not for themselves but for you.”  And what they were providing was what has now been communicated to the Christians by the evangelisers of the Gospel, first of all, the Apostles – the proclaimers of the Gospel, the Good News.  They did so “through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven”, who came down on them at Pentecost and Jesus himself on the cross “breathed out his Spirit” (John 19:30, from the Greek, paredoken to pneuma, literally “he handed over the Spirit”)

These are matters of such deep interest and importance that the angels themselves “longed to look into them”.  Their intense desire is highlighted by the Greek word rendered “to look into”.  It means “to stoop and look intently” (It is the same word used of Peter and Mary Magdalen peering into the empty tomb at Jesus’ resurrection, John 20:5,11).

As Peter then says, our expected response is very clear.  We have to move into action, “gird our loins” and put all our hope and confidence on the gift of salvation that will be ours when Christ appears.  We have here the first of a long series of exhortations (actually imperatives) which end at 5:11.  In the language of the 1st century the term ‘girding one’s loins’ meant that Peter’s readers were being called on to gather up their long, flowing garments and get ready for action.  Jesus uses a similar image: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning… so that [you] may open to [the bridegroom] when he comes and knocks” (Luke 12:35, 36)

Here they are to set their hopes completely on “the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Christ”.  That grace is the final state of complete blessedness and deliverance from sin.  Peter later indicates that a major purpose of this letter is to encourage and testify regarding the true grace of God (5:12).

We Christians have to change our whole lifestyle.  We can no longer “yield to the desires that once shaped [us] in [our] ignorance”.  We are to be like children, re-born into the family of God, children of our heavenly Father, able to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Mt 6:9).  Believers are also described, by Paul, as being adopted into God’s family (see Rom 8:15).

Even more, we are called on, in so far as we can, to imitate the holiness of God himself.  “Be holy, as I am holy” (Lev 11:44-45).  The word “holy” (hagios) suggests, not a kind of piety, but being set apart from the majority.  We have a vision of life and a consequent behaviour which makes us different.  As Christians, that difference should clearly appear in the way we live.  That is true holiness.  Being ‘holy’ also implies a certain wholeness, a total harmony with ourselves, those around us, our whole environment and God.

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