Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 347

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes someone sets out to tell the true story of a recent incident. The story is hugely entertaining but complicated with several circumstances that need to be explained and persons who need to be introduced; and it goes on for some time; but it's very funny and wants to be shared. Unfortunately the hearers don't get the point and the disappointed storyteller must finally conclude, "You had to be there."
I wonder if these New Testament epistles of Saint Peter are like that. To understand them we have to put our minds back into an unknown time and place, among an unnamed group of people -- we know them as Christians -- of several cities in first century Asia Minor.

There is one thing we can say of them with some assurance: they had suffered because of their faith "through various trials" and could expect to face more difficult times. The Gospel had introduced serious upheaval in their life. If they had been socially, financially and religiously connected to family, friends and neighbors before, they watched all that security evaporate when they came to believe in Jesus; and yet they could not turn back. 

They weren't necessarily overwhelmed with joy. They just knew, like the recovering alcoholic who will not visit his toxic, intoxicated family of origin, they had to pursue the Way of Truth.

We could suppose their near-eastern world -- Hellenized by Greek influence and stabilized by Roman rule -- was at least as violent and insecure as our own. Death and disease were more common; and treachery, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be violent.

They must have welcomed this Epistle from Saint Peter with great joy. He knew his people and their perseverance through hardship. He also knew they took delight in blessing "the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ." Although their faith had cost them financial hardship, social ostracism and family distress, they had experienced a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Christianity today is often seen as an old religion, greatly in need of overhaul if it's salvageable at all. We can barely remember the enthusiasm of the first century when ancient Jews and gentiles eagerly welcomed the Word and many readily surrendered their old securities for a religion that made eminent sense to them. Scandalized by the Napoleonic and World Wars in which Christians fought Christians for control of the world, jaded by centuries when the Church quietly tolerated and even supported both Antisemitism and chattel slavery, fascinated even yet by the promise of technological advance many suspect that Christianity has been tried and found wanting
But we're also living in a "post-Christian" era when contestants on Jeopardy -- a pretty bright crowd -- routinely stumble over elementary questions from the Bible. Many people cannot recite the Our Father; many children have never heard the Story of Christmas. Perhaps the world is ready to hear of the God who in his great mercy gave you and me a new birth to a living hope.
We are tested by a different kind of fire. Unlike our first century ancestors, we face the scorn of "nones" and "sbnr's" who can point to the failure and scandal of churches. We seem to fight uphill as loved one's abandon our traditions to experiment with bizarre lifestyles, not to mention those who use the name of Christian to sanctify their liberal or conservative political agendas, We are tested... that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.