"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

May 22, 2017

Sixth Sunday in Eastertide – 2017

Filed under: Homilies — komonchak @ 3:52 pm

Sixth Sunday in Eastertide – May 21, 2017 -St. John’s, Goshen

This year our second reading during Eastertide has been taken from the First Epistle of St. Peter, which is a writing that from beginning to end basks in the light and warmth of Easter. Last week we heard the recipients of the letter, who, of course, include us today, described as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people God claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people.”

Between that exalted announcement and the passage we heard today, St. Peter set out the consequences for the lives of this new people of God as he described what their relationships should be like both within their community, in the larger civil society, and in their homes. Particular attention was given to their relationships with people who apparently were having some difficulty in understanding this new social phenomenon, this community gathered because of their faith in Christ’s resurrection and promoting a new and separate, even somewhat exclusive, life. The letter refers to incomprehension, to rumors, to slanders about Christians, and there is some evidence that there was even some violence directed at them, or at least threatened, not so much from an organized persecution but from local fear of the unknown. St. Peter is particularly concerned that Christians not give any reason for others to be suspicious or hostile toward themselves and that they not respond to violence with violence.

All that as a little background for the sentence we heard today: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope that is in you.” Their lives must have been so different, based on so different a hope, that people outside would wonder about it and some would ask them about it. Again, this probably does not refer to a formal request or charge, as if before some magistrate to whom to make a formal defense (as we know would happen later), but rather to puzzlement or to genuine curiosity about this new community of people called “Christians.” Presumably, St. Peter wants them to be able to explain their hope, and the faith on which it is based, that is, the resurrection of Jesus Christ–as we hear: “Christ died once for our sins, the just one for the unjust, that he might offer us to God, put to death indeed in the flesh, but given life in the Spirit.” And they are to make their explanations “with gentleness and respect.”

St. Peter here describes what must be a duty of every generation of Christians: to be ready to defend and explain who they are as Christians, what they believe, what they hope for, why they live the way they do. Once again, this presupposes that there is something different about them and their lives, something that might evoke curiosity. There would be no wonder if they didn’t differ in any respect from the general rule of their societies. I think most priests would tell you that most converts to Catholicism were first attracted because they saw something in the lives of Catholics that they didn’t themselves know or experience–think of the way that a Catholic might have dealt with tragedy or grief: a sudden death, a life-long disability, the care of a disabled person, some grievous injustice suffered. But, not to speak only of negatives: the peace and joy radiating from a Catholic into a generous life could also evoke wonder. Seeing such things, people might ask for the why and the how Catholics can live such lives, and if they do, they are repeating what St. Peter describes: they are asking for the reason for the hope that is in them. And we should be ready to offer an explanation.

And we are to do so gently and with reverence. Gently–not arrogantly, not self-righteously, not condescendingly, not smugly. With reverence–that is, with respect for the person who asks, but also with a sense of reverence towards God, because we would be talking about things of the most sacred kind, we would be talking about God.

We might also keep in mind that there are many thousands of Christians around the world who still today are facing false accusations and threats of violence simply because of their faith in Christ, people much closer to those addressed in St. Peter’s letter than we are. And we should not only offer our prayers for them, but also do what we can to make sure that their plight is not ignored and that efforts are made to release them from their difficulties and sufferings.


1 Comment »

  1. Simply beautiful. I can’t say anything that will add to it, and I don’t want to say anything that will detract from it. You inspired me to set aside a planned morning meditation, to ready 1 Peter from beginning to end in a new light. May your presence in the world today evoke curiosity and wonder.

    Comment by Tracey — May 23, 2017 @ 10:22 am

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