June 1 2014
Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)
By Roland Legge
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Back in Peter’s day the early Christian community was facing persecution, especially from Emperor Nero. Nero after causing the great fire in Rome in 64 AD found a scapegoat among the followers of Jesus. He blamed the Christians for the crime and began a vengeful persecution. Tacitus the great Roman historian reported that the Christians who confessed to believe in Christ were, and I quote from In Clayton J. Schmit,
made subject of sport, being covered with animal skins and attacked by dogs, nailed to crosses, set on fire, even burned at night for the illumination of Nero’s garden parties.
Pulpit Resource Vol. 36, No. 2 Year A April, May, June 2008 by William H. Willimon “An Anti-Social Faith” by Clayton J. Schmit Logos Productions Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 21
In this context Peter was encouraging his folks to not let the persecution they were facing to get in the way of living out their faith.
Can you imagine what these early Christians were going through? I think it is hard for us to imagine, because few of us have suffered terrible persecution for our faith. The most we face is taunting and teasing. I am not saying this is not unpleasant but this is nothing compared to risking our lives for our faith.
Yet in the face of this persecution Peter speaks with hope. He calls upon his people see their struggle as like the heat it takes to purify gold and silver; they themselves being, the gold and silver and the persecution being the fire. Peter new these were not easy times. But he had faith that God would keep leading them into the Kingdom of God. That nothing could stop this from happening as long as he and his people kept on proclaiming and living the Good News. The Good News being that God is in control and not Caesar!
Peter wanted to do everything he could to help his people to remain faithful. Peter gave his people profound instructions such as
- Accept what you can’t control
- Know that God will liberate you
- Put your concerns to God and trust in the Creators care
- Stay disciplined and alert to what is going on around you
- Remember that you are not alone
He goes on to promise his people that in the end, after the suffering is over, God will restore God’s people both in the world and in the world to come.
We are very fortunate to live in Canada. Most of us, in this church, have it very good. We find it difficult to answer this question: how have you suffered persecution for Christ? So how can we relate to this story? But how about trying to answer the question in another way: Will we be called in the future to suffer for our faith?
I have no doubt we will if we pay attention to the Spirit. There are Christians around the world today who suffer to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. Some of these are life threatening and others like the one I am about to mention are more annoying and frustrating. They are people like Cartoonist Johnny Hart, creator of the B.C. strip, who is well known for being a Christian. The Los Angeles Times once censored three of Hart’s cartoons because of his message of hope and faith was too obvious.
On the more serious side there have been people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who risked his life to end the evil of Hitler and his regime in Germany during the Second World War.
There are people like Archbishop Oscar Romero who by speaking up for justice. Here was what Romero said just before his death:
We have just heard in the gospel that those who surrender to the service of people through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies. This hope comforts us as Christian. We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses, wants and demands. We have the security of knowing that when we plant, if nourished with Christian hope, will never fail. This holy Mass, this body broken and blood shed for human beings encourages us to give our body and blood up to suffering and pain, as Christ did—not for self, but to bring justice and peace to our people. Let us be intimately united in faith and hope at this moment.” Page 24
At this point the gun shot exploded and killed Archbishop Oscar Romero. Why was he killed? He was killed because what he stood for was threatening those in power. He was killed for some of the same reasons that Jesus was killed for.
How are we called to suffer for Christ? Jesus and God want us to love with a reckless abandon! The Spirit wants us to speak for those who have little power and voice. The Divine Source wants us care for the Creation. Jesus, love incarnate, wants us to honor and respect ourselves. Jesus and God want us to love our neighbor as we love our selves. The Creator calls upon us to ensure that each us has enough. The Wise One calls upon us to learn to resolve all disputes in non-violent ways.
You see, there are many paths to the Kingdom. I encourage you to reflect on how faithfully we are living out our lives. None of us will get it perfect. None of us can do it all. We each need to discern through prayer and contemplation what God is calling us to live out. The good news is that the Creator promises to be with us as we do our best to make our world a more just and loving place to be for all of life. Where has God called you so far? What plans does God have for you today? What plans does God have for you in the future? Then go and continue to live it out!