A Reflection on the Second Reading for Sunday, May 14th, 2023: The Sixth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 3.15-18 Beloved: In your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.
When I was in junior high school, a friend of mine — a naturally bright student — began neglecting her studies in favour of spending time with friends. As a consequence, when exam time rolled around, she would find herself with a lot of course material to understand and memorize and very little time in which to do it. Inevitably, she would rush into the classroom 15 minutes before every exam, clutch me by the arm and plead in a panicked voice, “Tell me something I don’t know!” Failure to prepare properly for an examination can make us feel uneasy — panicked, even.
In the Second Reading for this Sunday, St. Peter says: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” For years, whenever I encountered that line, I felt uneasy. Why? Because I believed myself to be poorly prepared to give an answer to those who might demand an accounting of me. I did not know how to defend my faith as a Christian or as a Catholic. I would imagine myself being quizzed by learned non-believers and knowing so little about the Bible and the Catechism that my defence was destined for collapse. In these imagined scenarios, not only did I miss an opportunity to evangelize and share the truth with others, but I wound up embarrassing myself. And, let me be honest — I was probably more concerned about the latter than the former.
Today, when I reflect on being ready to account for my hope in Christ, I have a different feeling. Why? Well, I’m better prepared. First, I read the Bible more than I used to do. Second, I got a copy of the Catechism, and I read that. (Many of you have heard of podcasts such as The Bible in a Year and The Catechism in a Year. Those are great tools for learning, and they help me to articulate what I know to be true.) Third, and perhaps most importantly, I have my own faith story to draw on, and so I share that story with others. That is perhaps my most valuable tool. No one can reasonably argue with my personal experience because it’s my experience.
St. Peter also advises us, when delivering our defence, “[D]o it with gentleness and reverence.” Let us share our faith with love, not with arguments about whose beliefs are right and whose wrong. No matter how theologically informed and articulate we may be, it is not our arguments that will bring people to Jesus. Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father” (John 6:44).
Let us pray for one another that, when the time comes for us to share the hope that is in us, we may gather our tools and speak from our hearts that Christ is Lord.