12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Peter wrote to a people under persecution when it was apparent that the lion, their ancient foe, was prowling about seeking whom he might devour. The image I have included with this reading is an icon of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He died in the first decades of the second century, about 50 years after Peter, but Peter might have known this man. There is a fascinating tradition about Ignatius. According to this tradition Ignatius was the little boy whom Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9:33-37. He grew up and became a leader in the Church, eventually the overseer of the Christian community in the important city of Antioch. He was denounced as a Christian and sent to Rome for execution in the arena. The tradition is that he was killed by leopards or lions, hence his dramatic icon.
By this point Ignatius was old, over 80. He got wind that the Christian community in Rome was planning to appeal for clemency because he was so old, hoping the emperor would spare this old man such a fate. Ignatius would have none of it. If you are interested, a quick internet search will find a translation of the letter he wrote the Romans begging them not to do this. It is a fascinating read. He was happy to suffer with Christ and longed to bear witness to his faith in this way. He did not fear the lions or the leopards.
With Ignatius and countless other Christians in the centuries since our Lord’s resurrection, we suffer in some way. Some suffer much more profoundly than others, but we all to some extent share in Christ’s sufferings. Peter says it is normal and a shared experience of Christians around the world. You are not alone. We all have heard the call of Jesus who exhorts us to take up a cross and follow him. We also look forward to our own exaltation from this suffering at the hand of Christ. We cast our anxieties on him, confident that He will keep the promises he has made to us. This enables us to be humble, patient, and gentle with those who are weak. We fight against the foe, confident that the victory has been won. Pray God gives you the courage for this day. The foe still prowls and you need it.