Day 352: Purified by Fire

The First Letter of Peter




Main Themes:

(*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)

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.”