Associate Director, Notre Dame Vision
Editorial Note: This post was originally delivered as a homily during Vespers on Thursday, January 16, 2014 (Psalter Week I). We are grateful for the author’s permission to share it here.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,
to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.
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.
Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
These seven verses from the first letter of Peter (1 Peter 1:3-9) capture the truth of our Christian existence: that through baptism, by conforming ourselves to Christ, we are transformed—we are reborn. In this new life we find hope in the face of persecution, rejoice in the midst of suffering, and trust in an unseen God.
Not because we fail to grasp the reality of our situation, or ignore real problems and pain, but because through Christ we are able to pierce through the veil of distortion and perceive the truest of realities: the inheritance awaiting us in God.
Through baptism we see things as they really are; we see the promise of the loving God. It is this glimpse of our inheritance, the promise of salvation, that allows us to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to see within our everyday lives how God is calling us to love, faith, and hope.
For although you have not seen him you love him;
Even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
You rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. (1 Peter 1:8)
At the moment of new birth all is fresh and new—clarity and confidence flow freely. The Psalmist provides us with an image of this new birth: set atop a mountain where all seems good and strong, safe and clear. The new vista of new life in Christ.
I said to myself in my good fortune: “Nothing will ever disturb me.”
Your favor had set me on a mountain fastness. (Psalm 30:6-7a)
We treasure the moments that recall this grace: of consolation and seeing God’s grace easily, times we feel secure in our relationships with God and others, untouchable by anything that threatens our faith.
Yet in time we grow weary of sustaining hope and joy in the face of trials and suffering. Our desire for God is put in tension with the daily demands of our human existence and competes with worldly glory and concerns. And to us it may seem that “You hid your face and I was put to confusion” (Ps 30:7b).
We live much of our lives in this state of confusion. We know in the depths of our being the ultimate truth, the promise of our salvation in Christ. But our choices, actions, and attitude paint a different narrative: one where despair, sorrow, fear, and sin seem to rule the day.
The reading from First Peter acknowledges the many challenges that we face in our lives of faith, the “various trials” that we may have to suffer. Each of us carries our own burdens, our own stories of pain and suffering, isolation and persecution.
While we cannot presume to know another’s story, we can connect their pain to the pain we each carry to unite us. Not in despair, but in hope. Hope that together we can help each other to see that there is a greater story behind and within our story. And to reclaim that which is already ours. Out of trust and faith and hope (in things unseen) we make an act of will—we make a choice—to call out to God and ask for help to see.
As we prayed in the Antiphon: I cried to you, Lord, and you healed me; I will praise you forever.
So let every good man pray to you in the time of need.
The floods of water may reach high, but him they shall not reach.
You are my hiding place, O Lord; you save me from distress.
You surround me with cries of deliverance. (Psalm 32:6-7)
Thus we pray together asking God to help us: to see that despite our fears, the waters will not reach us; to witness the grace in moments of suffering and pain; to hope for the promise of the future.
We pray to be reminded of that which we know to be true: seeing with new eyes the daily evidence of grace at work in the world, thus deepening our capacity to conform ourselves to Christ.