Day 352: Purified by Fire
The First Letter of Peter
The early Church accepted this Epistle as having been written by St. Peter, and this has only been challenged seriously since the nineteenth century.
The primary arguments against St. Peter’s authorship are the assumption that a simple fisherman could not have written so well in the Greek language, particularly using the theological thought of St. Paul, and that the text makes reference to persecutions that some argued did not take place until after AD 81, many years after St. Peter had been martyred.
None of these, however, constitutes enough evidence to convince the majority of scholars to abandon the traditional belief of Petrine authorship.
If written by St. Peter, this Epistle must predate his crucifixion, which took place between AD 64 and 67.
If written by another author, then it could have been composed anywhere between St. Peter’s execution and the end of the first century.
It is written from “Babylon,” a coded reference to Rome.
“Exiles of the Dispersion” may refer to Jews of the Diaspora, the regions outside of Palestine.
However, as in James, this term probably has a broader meaning, indicating both Jewish and Gentile Christians anywhere in the world.
This interpretation is bolstered by the early reference to his audience as “aliens and exiles” (2:11).
Some parts of the text seem to indicate that Gentile Christians were his primary target (cf. 4:3)
Hostility toward the Church was on the rise, and St. Peter sought to encourage the faithful to remain strong amid adversity.
The pagan environment of the Diaspora left Gentile Christians bombarded not only with opposition to their newfound beliefs but also with temptations to revert to their former lifestyles.
Both of these pressures likely left Gentile Christians feeling alienated from society and sometimes even from within their own families.
St. Peter exhorts the faithful to view such sufferings as redemptive, uniting their sufferings to those of Christ and in imitation of him; suffering is also a means to purification and ultimately a pathway to salvation (cf. 4:12-19)
The Epistle teaches that Baptism is an entrance into the Church and a new life in Christ, a cause of hope and joy, a grace that brings strength for the trials that will lead us to salvation (cf. 1:3-9; 3:21).
As Children of God, the baptized are to live lives of holiness, serving God as members of his Chosen People amid all their human relationships.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
1 Peter 1:1-2 Written AD 57 or 58 by the Apostle Peter, this Epistle expounds on the meaning and vocation of Baptism, the role of a Christian amid persecution, and the value of redemptive suffering.
Apostle: This is derived from the Greek apostolos, meaning “one who is sent.” Peter is the central figure among the Twelve Apostles called by Christ to spread his message to the entire world. Originally named Simon, Christ renamed him Peter, meaning “rock”; he was “the Rock” on whom Christ would build his Church.
Dispersion: A traditional term for the Diaspora, the Jews who lived outside Palestine. Peter used the term here to refer to Christians, who though very much in the were considered “exiles” on a journey to their true and everlasting home in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Sanctified by the Spirit: Each Person of the Trinity has an equal role in our salvation and sanctification though particular aspects are appropriate to each Person: the Father chooses us, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, and the Son redeems us. (CCC 552, 749, 832)
Ch 1:3-12 Although the Christian community was experiencing trials and persecutions, the faithful had reason to rejoice in the knowledge that their suffering would pass and that their reward for overcoming these trials would be everlasting happiness in Heaven. Suffering serves to purify us and transform us into the likeness of Christ, who is our example of perfect obedience and humility in suffering. Suffering thus becomes redemptive, serves as a means to holiness, wins graces for others, and prepares us for eternity. The reference here to a purifying fire is also reminiscent of Purgatory, in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace-but have an inordinate attachment to created things or have not made full satisfaction of the temporal punishment for sins already forgiven-are purified before entering Heaven. (CCC 618, 654, 1031)
Ch 1:3 Blessed be the God: A traditional blessing (Hebrew berakah) of praise to God for his gifts and saving acts. (CCC 2626-2627)
Ch 1:11 Spirit of Christ: One of many terms for the Holy Spirit, who inspired the prophets of the Old Testament and who continues to guide the Church. The creed reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, co-equal to the Father and the Son, by whose power Mary conceived the Son of God made man; he “has spoken through the prophets” and proceeds from both the Father and the Son. (CCC 687, 702, 246-248)
Ch 1:12 Angels long to look: Even the angelic beings were not privy to God’s plan of salvation before its revelation. (CCC 155, 128-129, 719)
Ch 1:13-16 The universal call to holiness means that all Christians, by virtue of their Baptism, are called to a life of sanctity. (CCC 941, 1426)
Ch 1:17-21 The Law of Moses set specific standards for moral behavior, and their violation constituted sinful action. However, no one could keep the Law in its entirety because it offered no help to avoid evil, and the grace of salvation was lacking. In contrast, Christ’s Sacrifice redeems us from our sins and opens the channels of divine grace that is efficacious to reconcile us to God if we respond to him in faith. Thus, the grace for holiness is obtained by the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ give us the faith and hope that we, like him, will be raised and glorified. (CCC 517, 602)
Ch 1:17 Invoke as Father: Christ commanded us to speak to God as Father in prayer, signifying that his redemption has brought us to the level of children of God.
According to his deeds: Judgment in both the Old and New Testaments is based upon our thoughts, words, and deeds. (CCC 682, 2780-2782)
Ch 1:19 The Israelites were liberated from slavery in Egypt after the first Passover, when God instructed every Israelite household to slaughter a spotless lamb and mark the doorpost with its blood. Christ is the perfect Lamb of God, whose Sacrifice and shedding of blood liberates us from our enslavement to sin and to the Devil. (CCC 602, 613, 616-617, 622)
Ch 1:22-25 Holiness is manifested by the love we have for one another. We are reborn through water in the name of the Triune God in the Sacrament of Baptism. This Sacrament brings about a new life in Christ in our souls that is meant to grow so we can reflect faithfully the heart of Christ. (CCC 1228, 2012-2016, 2037, 2769)
Ch 2:1-3 Like nursing infants, the born-anew Christian should seek the “spiritual milk” of God’s holy grace, putting aside all former attitudes and dispositions that would prevent spiritual nourishment. Salvation and the quest for sanctity of life is the work of a lifetime and is dependent on God’s grace accompanied by good works. Christian perfection, however, can only be completely achieved in Heaven.
Put away all malice…slander: Conversion requires a change of heart so we can become renewed, a new person. Such a rebirth is facilitated through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. (CCC 2475, 2769)
Ch 2:4 Living stone: One of the metaphors of the Church is a building. Her cornerstone is Jesus Christ; her foundation is the Apostles; and the faithful are her living stones built on Christ and the Apostles. (CCC 552,1141, 1179)
Ch 2:5 To be a holy priesthood: Baptism incorporates every Christian into Christ’s priesthood, called the common priesthood of the faithful. Every Christian, within their own state of life and circumstances, can offer every aspect of their lives, work, prayers, and sufferings in union with Christ’s redemptive Sacrifice and thus sanctify themselves and others. Christ is the one Eternal High Priest and his Passion and Death on the Cross constitutes one redemptive Sacrifice. We can unite our own sacrifices with Christ’s Sacrifice, particularly through the Sacrifice of the Mass, thus becoming co-redeemers with him. The Sacrament of Confirmation deepens our participation in this priesthood so we can profess and defend the Catholic Faith. Those who are called to Holy Orders are made members of the ministerial priesthood, which involves acting in the Person of Christ the Head. (CCC 901-903, 1268, 1330, 1546)
Ch 2:9 A chosen race…God’s own people: God loved us first and chose us to become a people he would call his own. It is a “chosen race” not based on race, ethnicity, or nationality but on becoming grafted into the very life of Christ. (CCC 709, 782-784, 803, 1141, 1591-1600)
Ch 2:11-12 The dignity conferred upon us in Baptism consists in the new supernatural reality of becoming children of God. The blessings of Baptism include both the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the capacity and calling to sanctity as well as the infusion of faith, hope, and charity. Though the individual suffers the effects of Original Sin through a wounded nature inclined to sin, the grace of Baptism assists in keeping inordinate passions under control. (CCC 2447)
Ch 2:13-17 Christians have a duty to be good citizens. All authority, including civil authority, comes from God. Therefore, anyone in a position of legitimate authority is worthy of respect, honor, and obedience. However, Christians may not support laws or leaders who offend the dignity of the human person through violations of the natural law.
Live as free men: The faithful give allegiance and service to God first and, as part of their love for God, then to civil authority. (CCC 1731, 1884, 1899, 2238-2243, 2245)
Ch 2:18-25 Servants should be respectful of their masters and diligent in their duties. This is not an endorsement of slavery but an instruction on the requirements of holiness that exists in every situation. Suffering injustice with patience is virtuous. The enduring example of patience, humility, and obedience is that of the sinless Christ, the most innocent of victims, who accepted his unjust torture and Crucifixion for the redemption of the world. (CCC 601, 612, 618, 1934-1938)
Colossians 3:1-4 In Baptism we share in the merits of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Through Baptism, we die to sin and rise to new life. If we remain united to him, we will one day rise in glory as he did. (CCC 518, 655, 663-665, 1002-1003, 2796)
Ch 3:5-11 In Baptism we are recreated in holiness according to the image of Christ. Our new life in Christ, provided we struggle to reject sin and to live virtuously, enables us to replicate the charity of Christ. This new life in Christ is open to all human persons regardless of race, nationality, or state in life. (CCC 8, 79, 1852-1853, 2518, 2809)
Ch 3:12-17 Charity (love) must be the motivation and underpinning of all other virtues and must give form to their practice. Through charity we are elevated toward the perfection of divine love, and our love is purified and fortified.
As the Lord has forgiven: In imitating Christ, we should show mercy to others as God has shown mercy to us; this is what we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Sing psalms and hymns: Songs of praise have a long history in Jewish and Christian worship and hold an eminent place in the Scriptures. (CCC 815, 1177, 1156-1158, 1822, 1827, 1844, 2641-2642)
Ch 3:18-21 Husbands and wives share a complementary relationship that mirrors that of Christ and his Church. Children owe parents due respect, and parents must form their children in the Christian Faith. All these relationships are ultimately based on Christ’s mandate to love as he loved. (CCC 2204, 2217)
Ch 3:22-25 Slavery was common in the Roman Empire of the first century. Paul did not defend slavery; rather, he encouraged slaves and servants to fulfill their work well in the service of Christ, and he urged masters to treat their slaves with respect. Both masters and slaves were clearly taught that, in the eyes of God, there is no distinction between slave and master. (CCC 1589, 2216, 2286)
Ch 4:1-6 Living a virtuous life in union with Christ requires a serious dedication to prayer, which is at the very heart of the Christian life. Constant prayer, particularly prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, along with remaining always in the presence of God should mark the life of a Christian. The Church fulfills Christ’s command to pray always in the Liturgy of the Hours. A life of piety finds expression in habitual acts of charity for others.
In prison: Paul was probably writing this letter from Rome, where he was imprisoned in his own home for a few years.
Seasoned: Like salt, our interactions with others ought to bring out what is good in them and edify one another. (CCC 2632, 2636, 2638, 2849)
Ch 4:1 Respect for the dignity of the human person demands we treat others justly. Such respect fosters justice in all human relationships and contributes to the common good. (CCC 1807, 1905-1912)
Ch 4:7-18 Among the easily recognizable names in this passage are the Evangelists Mark and Luke; Barnabas, a frequent traveling companion with Paul; and Onesimus, a runaway slave who was the subject of Paul’s Letter to Philemon. Paul refers to these men as “fellow workers for the kingdom of God” because of their commitment to the mission of Christ.
Remembering you earnestly in his prayers: The sense is of prayers of supplication or petition. (CCC 307, 2629)
Ch 4:16 The various Epistles and Gospel accounts in circulation at the time were exchanged and read at the assemblies for the Eucharist. Early and widespread use of these writings in the early Christian liturgy was among the considerations of the Church in determining the canon of Sacred Scripture. (CCC 120)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
So we start the First Letter of St. Peter
Some context for St. Peter’s Letter
Who is he writing to?
He is writing to CHRISTIAN EXILES
Remember that there were a lot of Jewish Christians who were exiled from Jerusalem during the persecution and so it could be to them
It could also be to ANY Christians who find themselves in EXILE
1 Peter 1:1, “...To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…”
He is writing to them
They have experienced persecution
THIS IS SO INCREDIBLE!!
St. Peter jumps right
He says to them, “In this you rejoice…”
1 Peter 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Go back and read 1 Peter 1:3-5
This is the INHERITANCE that has been given to US!!
This is the GIFT that Peter is REMINDING these Christians, “This is what you have been given. This is what the Lord God has done for you. Even in the midst of pain, even in the midst of suffering, this is what the Lord God has done for you.”
1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
He reminds them first of the GIFT they have been given
THEN he tells them what is going to happen
“Through this persecution, through this tribulation, through this trial, through this trouble, this is NOT God abandoning you. This is God doing something IN you that he COULD NOT DO WITHOUT THIS TRIAL, that he COULD NOT DO WITHOUT THIS TRIBULATION, that he COULD NOT DO WITHOUT THESE VARIOUS TRIALS.”
Because what is happening?
“...the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
One of the things that we know about the spiritual life is that a lot of times when people begin following the Lord, they can have this crisis
There can be many crises of course
All of us have them
The crisis is that we know our hearts and we have a mercenary heart
“Lord, am I only coming to you because you promised me eternal life? Am I only coming to you because of the graces that you give me in prayer? Am I only coming to you because of the gifts? I want to love you, the Giver, but I know this about myself. I know that I love the gifts , maybe sometimes more than the Giver.”
So we have this MIXED UP MOTIVATION
We have this MERCENARY HEART
C.S. Lewis said, “I have a mercenary heart, willing to give my heart to the highest bidder.”
“Lord, help me. How do I become the kind of person who can love you for your own sake?”
The ANSWER is THROUGH TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS!!
Sometimes those trials and tribulations can end, like Peter is describing, in martyrdom
A lot of times those trials and tribulations are simply showing up when showing up is NOT GLAMOROUS
It is PRESSING PLAY on DAY 352
Yeah DAY 1, DAY 2, DAY 10 were fun
Maybe I got a lot out of it
But here is DAY 352
And you press play and say, “Ok, God speak. Lord, speak. Your servant is listening.”
And it’s like, “Well this is dry. I didn’t get a lot out of this. I’m distracted by this.”
Sometimes when we show up for prayer, it’s like this
God is doing something in that
Maybe more than ANY OTHER TIME
Desolation in prayer can be used by the Lord God maybe even MORE powerfully than consolation in prayer
Because what is happening in that DESOLATION is where we just show up and we get nothing out of this
What God is doing there is HE IS PURIFYING OUR LOVE FOR HIM
He is ALLOWING US to go through this time of DRY PRAYER, DISTRACTED PRAYER, and maybe DESOLATE PRAYER so that we can have the kind of hearts that love Him for His own sake
Don’t just love the gifts
Don’t just love the consolations
Don’t just love the insights and blessings
BUT LOVE HIM!!
And St. Peter talks about this
“Rejoice in this. Rejoice in the various trials.”
Now those were dramatic trials that many of them went through
EVERY CHRISTIAN has to go through the NORMAL TRIALS OF LIFE
So that our HEARTS and our LOVE and our FAITH can be purified
1 Peter 1:8, “Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.”
And this is what we do as well
We love the Lord God and He loves us
But that love gets PURIFIED through times of DRYNESS
By times of DISTRACTION
And times of DESOLATION
WHERE WE KEEP SHOWING UP
THAT IS SO SO IMPORTANT!!
Peter goes on to talk about how we are called to live HOLY LIVES
There is a way that we live life without Jesus and there is a way that we HAVE to live with Christ
That he gave himself up for us
So our call is to be HOLY as the Lord God is HOLY
He goes on to talk about how we are not only a new people, living stones, chosen people
1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people..”
1 Peter 2:10, “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy not now you have received mercy.”
That reality of course is from ALL NATIONS
WE ARE NOW GATHERED INTO ONE!!
That is one of the reasons why as Christians…GOSH!!
The reality of coming from different countries, speaking different languages, belonging to different races, all of those things are essentially UNIFIED in the Lord Jesus
Our MOST IMPORTANT IDENTITY, Peter is saying here, is that we are GOD’S CHILDREN
Therefore, our ethnicity may be important but not as important as being an adopted son or daughter of God
Our race might be important, but not anywhere close to as important as being an adopted son or daughter of God
Our background as sinners in whatever way that we have sinned or continue to sin, whatever we struggle with, those things can be important…
They are NOWHERE NEAR AS IMPORTANT as the fact that you and I are now adopted sons and daughters of God the Father
MADE INTO A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
Remember that Jesus Christ is THE HIGH PRIEST
He has made us into a nation of priests able to offer the Sacrifice to the Father
WHICH IS JUST ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE!!
Last little note on St. Peter
When he is talking about being subject to every human institution he is basically saying, “Live as great citizens. Live as good citizens.”
Have that sense of order that is given to the world whether that be to the emperor or the governor, whoever that is
In families, husbands and wives have an obligation to each other
Parents and children have an obligation to each other
Even masters and slaves (servants) have an obligation to each other
Maybe someone can distort this and say, “No no no. The men are over the women. The parents are over the kids. The masters are over the slaves.”
That is NOT what St. Peter is saying
He is saying, “You have an obligation to EACH OTHER.”
Go back and read the end of 1 Peter Ch 2
St. Peter is making a VERY VERY CLEAR POINT
ALL OF US HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO EACH OTHER
That is one of the key pieces where St. Peter talks
St. Paul talks about this as well
In Colossians Ch 3 St. Paul is making some of the similar points
Colossians 3:18-19, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
Fr. Mike heard the next line in Mass as a kid growing up
Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
Fr. Mike remembers being next to his dad and he looked at him
The next line is Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
And then Fr. Mike was like, “Yes, Ok! I like that, Paul!! I appreciate that.”
Not only did Fr. Mike feel justified in that moment at Mass
But what is Paul’s point?
“You have an OBLIGATION to each other. You BELONG to each other.”
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. That the wife, she belongs to her husband. And the husband, he belongs to his wife. That the children they belong to the parents and the parents they belong to the children. We belong to each other.”
THAT IS SO CRITICALLY IMPORTANT!!
THAT WE CONTINUE THIS WAY!!
Last little note in Colossians Ch 4
He leaves the Colossians with further instructions
Colossians 4:2-3, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; and pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…”
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
TO PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
CONTINUE STEADFASTLY IN PRAYER
BE WATCHFUL IN IT WITH THANKSGIVING
Everything that Paul and Peter have written that we heard declared today are ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL for Christian living
So that is why we have to keep coming back to the WORD
Sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other
Sometimes it just washes over our heart and we want to remember it, we want to store it up into our hearts, we want to have it carved it into our hearts
And it is SO EASY TO FORGET
It’s one of the reasons why it is SO GOOD to write these things down (or to have me write them down for you 😉)
Whether it be in the insight journal or anywhere you collect these GEMS, these PEARLS (not a fan of pearls, but I do like other precious gems like Angelite 😉 Get it? 😁), these RULES FOR LIVING that we heard today from St. Peter and St. Paul
IT IS A GOOD DAY!!
Remember, one of those last rules for living is to PRAY STEADFASTLY
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you. Thank you so much for Paul. Thank you for Peter. Thank you for the gift of your Son and the gift of your Holy Spirit that has guided the Letters of these men as they give encouragement, so much encouragement, to us as modern-day Christians. Just like they gave that word of encouragement to Christians of eras past and bygone years. Gosh, Lord, we think about this. We think about how for 2,000 years Christians have read these words of St. Peter and these words of St. Paul and have found in them not only guidance and truth, but also just a word of encouragement and a word that just speaks into our pain and fills us with the capacity and that will to continue on. That will to endure and that will not to merely endure, but the will to rejoice in the midst of suffering, in the midst of tribulation. Because we know, Lord God, that it is only through the suffering that we can reach the Kingdom of God. And so we ask you to please help us. Help us to say yes to you this day and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”