Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wise Words of Advice

Wise Words of Advice

April 25, 2012
Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Beloved:  Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.  So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.  Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.  Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.  To him be dominion forever.  Amen. (I Peter 5:5b-11)

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:  “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature… (T)hey went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.  (Mark 16:15, 20)


The favors of the Lord I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
(Psalm 89:2)


When was the First Letter of Peter written and to whom was it addressed?  Persecution is mentioned more than once, but to which persecution is the writer referring?  Many questions were going through my mind as I looked at today’s first reading.  In the introductory notes to I Peter in the New American Bible, we are told that some scholars believe “the problem addressed would not be official persecution but the difficulty of living the Christian life in a hostile, secular environment that espoused different values and subjected the Christian minority to ridicule and oppression.”  I don’t feel particularly oppressed, but the rest of that sentence sounds very much like a description of Christian life in the Western world today!

So, what advice does the writer give us for living faithfully in the midst of a culture that espouses other values?  “Clothe yourselves with humility,“ we are told.  Not so easy to do when all around us others are judging us by what schools we went to, what degrees we earned, what job titles we have attained, how much money we make, how big our houses are, what kinds of cars we drive, etc.  But stop and think about it.  This life that we know on earth is only a temporary stop on the journey to eternal life.  When each of us meets God face to face, God won’t be impressed by any of those things.  In the overall scheme of things, the one thing that makes any of us special, and the only thing that counts, is that God created us, named us, calls us sons and daughters, and loves us with an everlasting love.  There’s nothing to be puffed up about, because God feels that way about each and every one of us on this planet.  All we can do in life is pray for God’s grace to live lives that reflect God’s overwhelming and gratuitous love for us.

We are also advised to cast all our worries upon God, because God cares for us.  Most people I know, including myself at times, live lives that are overflowing with stress.  Some of that is because we over-extend ourselves, but an equal part of it is that we try to be lords of our lives.  We rely on our own abilities more than we trust in God to take care of us.  God tells us in many ways in the Scriptures that we don’t have to carry our burdens alone.  God takes care of the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air; God will also take care of us.  If our load is too heavy, Jesus offers to yoke himself to us and help us carry it.

In the first reading, we are advised to be vigilant against evil.  People today often scoff at the idea of an evil spirit roaming the world, but, call it what you will, something is always trying to get between us and God.  The evil one is very clever and finds all manner of ways to lure us from our rootedness in Christ.  The writer urges us to be aware of that and to remain steadfast in our faith.


In the Gospel reading, we are told to go out and proclaim the Good News.  It seems to me that we will have greater credibility in doing that if we heed the advice in the First Letter of Peter – deal with others in humility, trust in God to care for you, be watchful lest the evil spirit derail your efforts, remain steadfast and rooted in your faith.  Does that ring true in your own efforts to spread the Word?  Is there something in that counsel that you need to pay more attention to?

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