It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you with regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the Good News to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels longed to look.
Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In today's first reading, Saint Peter echoes a similar thought found in the Letter to the Hebrews, one especially relevant for our time. Recalling the fidelity of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, Hebrews concludes,
All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth. (Hebrews 11: 13)
Looking back from our twenty-first century, we realize that the Christians of "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," heirs of Old Testament martyrs and prophets, are now long dead and we are their most fortunate heirs.
In his book, Man is not alone, a philosophy of religion, Abraham Joshua Heschl, wrote:
Not the individual man nor a single generation by its own power can erect the bridge that leads to God. Faith is the achievement of ages, an effort accumulated over centuries. Many of its ideas are as the light of a star that left its source centuries ago. Many songs, unfathomable today, are the resonance of voices of bygone times. There is a collective memory of God in the human spirit, and it is this memory of which we partake in our faith. (page 161)
Saint Peter reminded his congregations that the ancients "were not serving themselves." Our participation in the Church should never be about serving ourselves. I cringe when I hear someone say they left a given parish or church because they "weren't being fed" in that church. Consumers cannot be fed in any church, though some unscrupulous ministers might entertain them with pap. We "go to church" not to be fed but to praise God with the holy people of the ancient past, distant future and mysterious present.
I know a priest who, leaving the Catholic Church, started his own congregation of particular friends; each member had a grievance with the Roman tradition. It's hard to say who was using whom -- pastor or people -- as they erected a church-like building which copied their ideas of what a church should look like. They revel in their freedom to create a cult of their own making, with Latin liturgy, women priests, and serial polygamy. What's not to like?
But I grieve for their children who might never hear the invitation to return to the Mass and sacraments. That generation will almost certainly see through their self-absorbed elders and their echo-chamber religion, but they will have no connection to the achievement of ages, accumulated over centuries.
"Therefore, "Saint Peter writes, "gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."