Just last Friday, the first reading was from the Letter of James, in which he admonished the faithful to endure: “Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered” (James 5:11). In yesterday’s first reading we listened to the opening passage from the First Letter of Peter: “although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). And today we hear the letter’s continuation.
The letter immediately addresses a real issue for that church. They were exhilarated by this new found faith, but were coming to more deeply understand the difficulties and suffering which accompany it. Looking ahead, the Letter addresses the conversion and what it has caused in the lives of these folks (2:12; 4:4, 16). It is a great cost which might call in question the value of their new faith. The best possible interpretation is given in 1:6–9: the new faith is more precious than gold, but like gold it is put in a furnace and proven true only after much testing. This view attempts to make sense of their experience and to evoke sentiments of perseverance and hope. Like Christ’s suffering, their conversion leads to glory.
The letter also points to the antiquity and uniqueness of the faith. The Christian faith in God and Christ is not a recent innovation. It is found in the Old Testament where prophets foretold its unfolding. So, it is more precious because those prophets did not know the riches which the converts now know, nor were the angels in the know either. The Letter is telling them their faith, then, is more precious than gold, ancient, and specially revealed.
But it is not enough simply to have converted; so great a faith requires a special response. Like them we too are urged to live a life worthy of their faith.
And there is the question for today. Are we complacent with our Faith. For most of us, it has always been there. Do we hold it as more precious than gold? We are blessed to live in this country, where our Faith is not challenged in a way that brings about serious difficulties. One wonders, lacking the test, will our Faith be proven?
Our ancestors in faith died for that faith. What about us? In the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation” can be validly translated as “do not put us to the test.” Something to think about.