Reading (1 Peter 1:10-16) Gospel (St. Mark 10:28-317)
In the first reading today, Saint Peter tells us that the prophets looked into the things that were to come, and in looking into these things, they prophesied beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and these sufferings have now been passed down to us and all of the glories that were to be given. And he tells us that these prophets realized they were not serving themselves, but rather they were serving us when they prophesied with regard to all of these events, as did also those who were preaching the Gospel. Therefore, Saint Peter tells us in this regard that what we have to do is make sure we are living according to the hopes of the grace that has been brought to us. This way, we are to be obedient children who do not act in compliance with the desires of our former ignorance, but as people who are called to be holy.
When we think about it, he is pointing out to us all of the things that have been prophesied in the past, as well as the Gospel that has now been preached, and all of them say the same thing: that the Messiah was going to come, He was going to suffer, He would die and rise on the third day, and, in so doing, He would call many to Himself. Because we have been incorporated into Christ, we are now, as Saint Paul says, not to inform ourselves of the present age but to transform our minds so that they are in conformity with Christ. This is, in essence, the same thing Saint Peter is telling us, that we have to put on the mind of Christ and we have to be holy. This is not something which is peripheral or optional for us; this is something which is central and is at the very heart of who we are and what we are about.
Our Lord tells us that if we are going to do this we are going to be persecuted, and He makes it absolutely clear in the Gospel today. He says that no one has given up all of these things for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive persecutions and eternal life in the age to come. So we are going to be persecuted in this life, but it will lead to eternal life. In other words, we are called to be just like Him. We are called to walk in this world serving God, but we are called to walk in this world, therefore, with our eyes set on heaven, and the people who want to focus on this world will not understand at all what it is that we are about if we are walking the way we are supposed to.
When we think about Saint Peter telling us that we have to be obedient children, all we have to do is think again about what Saint Paul had to say about Jesus: He was obedient even unto death, death on a Cross. He was obedient to the Father’s Will in all things. That included the suffering and the death that He would endure. If we are members of Jesus Christ, why should we expect that it is going to be any different? The suffering of the Mystical Body continues the suffering of the physical Person of Christ. If we are supposed to continue His suffering, as well as every other aspect of His life, then why should we be surprised when He tells us that we are going to be persecuted? He tells us in other places: If the world hates you, it is because they hated Me first. He made it very clear what is to be expected. Unless you take up your cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple. Remember, Jesus did not water things down. He did not hide the truth from us. He made it absolutely clear.
We have no excuse if we sit back and say, “But I didn’t know. I didn’t know that was what He was going to ask of me.” How could we not have known? How many times does He have to say it? In our humanness, we conveniently overlook the passages in Scripture that we do not like, but they are all the Word of God and we cannot be overlooking them. Perhaps to some degree we have all been influenced by some of the things that have been preached by others – the “gospel of health and wealth,” as I like to call it. If we have been influenced by these ideas, then of course we are going to have some odd ideas about what Scripture really says because we have listened to these people who have not told us the truth.
But we need to look at the truth. The truth, remember, is a person, the Person of Jesus Christ. We have to live in truth, which is to live His life, to allow Him to continue to live in us and through us. That is why Saint Peter is asking us to be obedient children, to be obedient to God Who asks only what is the very best, to be obedient to God Who will ask us to unite ourselves with His Son in His suffering and death. Now we have to ask the question: Are we really willing to do this? Are we willing to take up our cross and follow Him to Calvary? Are we willing to be hated by the world? Are we willing to be persecuted by the worldly types? These are the things that are going to happen to any true follower of Christ, to anyone who is going to be an obedient child of God. It is what He sent His own Son to do, and it is what the rest of His sons and daughters will continue to do. So we know what the outlay is; the blueprint is pretty obvious. Now the question has to do not with God’s side of things, but with ours. He promises that we will receive a hundred times more than anything we have given up – and eternal life. When we look at the little bit of suffering we have, by comparison to eternal life it is worth every bit of it. And Saint Paul makes the same point when he says: I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us. When we see it that way, we need to look at ourselves again in prayer. Go before the Lord and ask yourself seriously: Am I really willing to follow Christ?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.