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The Epistle For The Second Sunday After Easter

According to the Lectionary commonly used in the Extraordinary Form of the Rite.

BELOVED : Christ suffered for us, leaving


you an example that you should follow His
steps; who did not sin, neither was guile found
in His mouth. Who, when He was reviled, did not
revile : when He suffered He threatened not : but
delivered Himself to him that judged Him un
justly: who His own self bore our sins in His
body upon the tree: that we being dead to sins,
should live to justice : by whose stripes you were
healed. For you were as sheep going astray, but
you are now converted to the shepherd and bishop
of your souls. EPISTLE, 1 Peter ii. 21-25.

St Thomas Aquinas' Sermon Notes On The Epistle Reading

Christ Our Example


Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps-1 Pet 2:21

Five things are noted in this Epistle reading-firstly, the innocence of Our Lord, “Who did not sin” (1
Pet 2:22); secondly, His great patience, “When He suffered, threatened not” (1 Pet 2:23); thirdly, His
inexpressible charity, “Who His own self bear our sins in His own Body” (1 Pet 2:24); fourthly, the
manifold benefits flowing from these three, “By Whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pet 2:24); fifthly, the
steps in which we should follow Christ.

I. On the first head it is to be noted, that His innocence is shown in three ways-

(1) Because He did not sin: “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” [Heb
7:26]

(2) Because He never deceived: “Neither guile was found in his mouth.” The Son of
God, Jesus Christ...was not yea and nay, but in Him was yea. For all the
promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen” [2 Cor 1:19-20 ].

(3) Because he never did any injure to anyone: “Who, when He was reviled, reviled
not again,” and “as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His
mouth” [Isa 53:7].
II.On the second head it is to be noted, that His patience in His Passion is shewn in three ways-

(1) In that He voluntarily offered himself: “Committed Himself to Him that


judgeth righteously”...He was offered because it was His own will” (Isa 53:7
according to Vulgate).

(2) Because, unjustly judged, He endured it with great patience. It requires the
greatest patience to sustain an unjust sentence: “Many good works have I shown
you...for which of these do you stone me” (Jn 10:32). “This is thank-worthy, if a
man for conscience toward God endureth grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Pet
2:19).

(3) Because He did not utter threats against His crucifiers: “When He suffered
He threatened not” (1 Pet 2:23). “But I was like a lamb...that is brought to the
slaughter” (see Jer 11:19). He prayed for them: “Made intercession for the
transgressors,” that they should not perish (see Isa 53:12).

III. On the third head it is to be noted, that the inexpressible charity of Christ is shown us in
three ways-

(1) Because He Himself bore our sins: “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh
away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29).

(2) In the manner of His Oblation: “In His own Body He was wpunded for
our iniquities” (Isa 53:5).

(3) Because He sustained so cruel a death for the taking away of our sins:
“On the Tree”- i.e., the Cross. “Obedient unto death, even death on the
Cross” (Phil 2:18).

IV. On the fourth head it is to be noted, that the death of Christ procured for us a threefold
benefit-
(1) It freed us from the guilt of sin: “We being dead to sins” (1 Pet 2:24).
“Who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus
2:14).

(2) He restore to us the gift of grace: “Should live unto righteousness” (1 Pet
2:24). “By the obedience of the One shall many be made righteous” (Rom
5:19). “Of His fullness have all we received, and grace upon grace” (Jn
1:15).

(3) It delivered us from corruption: “By Whose Stripes we are healed” (1 Pet
2:24). “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:4).

V. On the fifth head it should be noted, that the steps in which we should follow Him are three-

(1) In the purity of innocence: “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44).
“Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matt 5:8). “Be ye holy in all manner of
conversation (1 Pet 1:15).

(2) In the firmness of patience: “In your patience possess ye your


souls” (Luke 4:19). “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of
sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your
minds” (Heb 12:3).

(3) In charity: “This is the commandment that ye heard from the beginning,
that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). “My foot has held His
step: His way have I kept” (Job 23:11). He who follows him in these
steps shall come to the joy of eternal blessedness: “He that followeth
Me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John
8:12); to which may Christ Himself, the Light and the Life, bring us.
Amen

Homily on the Epistle

few sentences which I am about to ex


plain are taken from the first Epistle of St.
Peter. This is the first time in addressing you
that I have had an occasion to comment on the
teachings of the Prince of the apostles.

As you know, there are extant only two Letters


of St. Peter, the second a very short one, and both,
of course, storehouses of sacred doctrine.

The first Letter was written by St. Peter in


Eome, where he had gone with Mark, his inter
preter and the writer of the Gospel that bears His
name, after his deliverance from prison in Jeru
salem, as narrated in the twelfth chapter of the
Acts of the Apostles. It was written about twelve
years after the ascension of Our Lord and ad
dressed to the various churches established in
Asia Minor in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia,

Cappadocia, and Bithynia.

The argument of the Letter is very similar to


that of the Letters of St. Paul to the Bomans and
Ephesians. He exhorts the new believers, who
must have been mostly recently converted He
brews, to make the principles of the Gospel the
rule and inspiration of their lives. He urges them
to bear up under hatred, vexation, and persecu
tion, encouraging them with the hope of a reward
to come, and to deal kindly with bad men and with
their enemies in the hope of winning them over.

And now we will go on to the interpretation of


the five verses just read for you.

In the preceding verses St. Peter, affection


ately, lovingly, and as a father, exhorts those
Christians just emerged from Judaism and pagan
ism, to nourish themselves as new-born babes with
the milk of the divine word, to cling closely to
Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone, to refrain
themselves from carnal desires, and by a holy life
to gain over the pagans. Then he reminds them
of their duty to be subject to human authority,
tells servants to obey their masters, not only the
good but the froward, and if necessary to glory in
suffering unjustly. Here St. Peter, not unlike St.
Paul, having gone thus far in his exhortation, puts
before his disciples the great, the eternal, and in
comparable model of all virtues, Jesus Christ ; he
says: "Jesus Christ suffered for us, leaving us
an example, that you should follow His steps."
My friends, is it possible to live on earth and to
be virtuous without suffering in body and mind,
without suffering from the world, from our ene-
mies, and from ourselves? No. To live here be

low and to be virtuous means a struggle, and, as a


consequence, it means to suffer, and any one who
thinks otherwise deceives himself with his eyes
open. Now, God for our comfort and instruction
has deigned to have His Son, Jesus Christ, go be
fore us in this thorny way. His Son suffered
more than all men together, and He suffered not
for Himself, but for us, that for us He might sat
isfy the divine justice. The first purpose of the
passion and death of Jesus Christ was to pay the
price due for our ransom. We were the guilty
ones and as such we should have borne the penalty
of our guilt; justice demanded this; but instead
Jesus in His love put Himself in our place, and
the punishment we should have endured was vis
ited upon Him, as Isaias says: "The chastisement
of our peace ivas upon Him," and His suffering
made us free.

The passion and death of Jesus Christ have


another purpose, nearly akin to the first ; namely,
to give us an example of how to walk in the way
of the cross. It is, indeed, a beautiful and a holy
thing to exhort and encourage others to walk gen
erously in the way of the cross, but it costs little ;
to do so oneself, to lead the way, is more difficult,
but it is also more efficacious, and this is what Jesus
Christ did. His bodily sufferings began at the
crib and ended at the tomb. He suffered cold and
heat, hunger and toil ; He suffered in the workshop,
on the journeys made during His public life ; He
suffered poverty and all that poverty entails ; He
was beaten and scourged, and finally He was put
to death on the cross. But His bodily sufferings
were trifling as compared with His mental sor

rows. Jesus Christ was God and His soul was


constantly illuminated by the effulgence of the di
vinity. He saw everything with perfect clearness
and certainty. No human eye has ever seen or
ever will see things human and divine as Jesus
saw them. He saw the ignorance of men, their
crimes, the malice of His enemies, and all the in
iquities that deluge the earth; He saw the past,
the present, and the future ; He saw the ruin of so
many souls, the creation of His own hands, for
which He had offered Himself up as a victim ; He
saw the glory of His Father outraged and His
own majesty and dignity disavowed and spurned.
What a sorrow was this, what a torture, what a
rending of His heart! The grief and torment
were all the more cruel and atrocious because no
one understood Him and there were few to soften
His grief. He was forced to suffer in silence.
Jesus was truly a man of sorrows, of continuous,
heartfelt, and ineffable sorrows of soul and body ;
and as such He drew upon Himself the eyes of
all the race of Adam, incessantly suffering in this
land of exile, and looking upon Him they were
comforted and learned how to suffer and endure.
Ah, my friends, if when sorrows come upon us
and overwhelm us we had not before our eyes
Jesus, the Man of sorrows and King of martyrs,
what would become of us? To gaze upon Him,
holy and innocent, yet saturated with opprobrium
and in agony on the cross, encourages and
strengthens us to follow Him along the way of suf
fering which He has purpled with His blood!
It is of faith that "Jesus did no sin, neither was
guile found in His mouth." St. Peter with these

words enforces the truth. We all suffer more or


less, but none of us will ever suffer as did Jesus
Christ, and this is a further and a most efficacious
reason why we should imitate Him. Nor is this
all. We suffer and at times our sufferings are
very great. But who are we? Poor creatures,
and Jesus is the Son of God. What a contrast!
Again, we suffer and suffer excessively. But who
are we 1 We are only wretched creatures and sin
ners, and if we put our sufferings in one pan of
the scales and our sins on the other, the latter will
far outweigh the former ; and if God should make
us suffer in the measure of our sins we should not
be able to endure it. Moreover, Jesus, who suf
fered those frightful, those accumulated pains
which we have endeavored to describe, was holy
and innocent and without spot ; the shadow of sin
never touched Him, nor could it, for He was the
God-Man and sinless. What an encouragement
for us in our sufferings, for us who are so guilty
and merit such chastisement to have before us a
model like Him !

Nor does the Prince of the apostles stop here.


After having encouraged us sinners to suffer, by
setting before us the example of the innocent
Jesus, he goes on to speak of the way in which
Jesus suffered, and in this respect also he wishes
that we should take Him for a pattern. "Who
when He ivas reviled, did not revile; when He
suffered, He threatened not." In these words,
I fancy, St. Peter wishes to describe what is char
acteristic of the whole life of Jesus, without citing
any specific fact. Jesus was atrociously calum-
niated when the Jews publicly, and not once but
often, called Him a friend of publicans and sin
ners, a wine-bibber and a Samaritan; when they
said that He had a devil, that He incited the people
to sedition, that He was an enemy of Caesar, a
malefactor, a seducer of the people, that He was
a blasphemer, and worse than a thief and a homi
cide. And to all these vile slanders and shocking
outrages Jesus either answered with dignity and
meekness or He was silent. When He was abused
He did not threaten, but as a lamb submitted to be
led to slaughter. In this way did the innocent
Jesus suffer, and so also should we. But what
really happens? What do we see others do?
What do we do ourselves? At the slightest af
front, which possibly we have brought upon our
selves, we show resentment, complain bitterly,
rouse the neighborhood, indulge in loud and bois
terous talk, demand satisfaction, fume with anger,
break out into opprobrious language, and it may
be into blasphemies and imprecations. Truly we
should make a study of our pattern, Jesus Christ,
"who when He was reviled, did not revile; when
He suffered He threatened not. What a beauti
ful sight and one worthy of admiration is
that of a Christian who is calm and dignified
while he is being slandered and insulted. Pa
tience and charity do not forbid us to seek rep
aration and justice for wrongs received, and
in certain cases it may be a duty to demand
this, but it is always most unbecoming for a Chris-
tion to return injury for injury, or invective for
invective.

St. Peter continuing to speak of our supreme


model, Jesus Christ, says: "He delivered Himself

to him that judged Him unjustly." Consider


these words, my friends: "Jesus delivered Him
self to him that judged Him unjustly." We learn
from them that Jesus Christ suffered and died,
not by compulsion, but freely of His own will;
freely did He give Himself into the hands of His
enemies; He shackled, if I may say so, His om
nipotence, and permitted them to do with Him as
they would. He Himself had said in express
terms : "I lay down my life, no man taketh it away
from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I lay it
down that I may take it up again; I have power to
lay it down, and I have power to take it up again." 1
He could not more clearly affirm that He was free
to suffer or not to suffer, to die or not to die. And
in truth if Jesus Christ had not been perfectly
free to suffer and to die He would not have been
a perfect man. His passion would have been with
out merit, and it would have been preposterous
to set Him before us as a pattern to be copied.

Who is this into whose power Jesus gave Him


self to be unjustly judged? As reference is made
here to a single unjust judge who pronounced sen
tence upon Jesus Christ, it would seem that none
other than Pilate can be meant. True, Annas and
Caiphas, the high priests, passed judgment upon
Him, and so also did Herod, and they judged Him
unjustly, but, though more guilty than Pilate, St.
Peter does not mention them, since their sentences
could not be carried into execution if Jesus had
not been sentenced by Pilate also. Hence the sen
tence that insured the death of Jesus Christ was
that of Pilate, and therefore St. Peter speaks of

him in particular. Jesus committed Himself into


the hands of Pilate, a pagan judge and a for
eigner, because He recognized in him a power that
came from on high, 1 although unjustly used.

My friends, let us learn from the words of St.


Peter not only to respect authority, no matter who
may exercise it, but also to suffer the wrongs that
are sometimes done in its name. Whoever in this
world suffered as unjustly as did Jesus Christ at
the hands of Pilate! He was innocent, declared
so, and yet He was scourged, crowned with thorns,
and condemned to die on the cross. And withal,
He gave Himself into his power, only saying that
he who betrayed Him into his hands was guilty
of a greater sin, being instigated by hatred.

To suffer injustice is not to approve of it ; and


while we respect authority we can condemn the
abuse of its exercise. This is difficult to do, I
know, because the injustice that is suffered in the
name of authority is so intimately connected with
it as seemingly to be inseparable from it, and still
it is necessary, if we would not be culpable, not to
confuse one with the other. You have had, if you
have not now, a father and a mother, and their
authority is next after that of God ; this you have
respected and you do still. If perchance they
abused that authority, or if they do so still, what
would have been or what would be now your duty?
Could you have rightly refused to recognize it or
could you now? By no means. In your heart you
could not approve of their abuse of it, but you
would respect the authority itself, because it is
from God. So also, allowing for different condi

tions, must we respect any authority whatever,


in spite of the fact that it is sometimes abused.

In the Old Law the high priest once a year per


formed the solemn rite of offering the scapegoat ;
putting his hands upon the goat s head and con
fessing his own sins and the sins of the people,
and praying that they might rest upon the head
of the goat, he turned it out into the desert. 1 Here
St. Peter refers to that mysterious rite, which was
a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who voluntarily
took upon Himself the sins of all men, who bore
them on the cross and in His body, or in the suf
ferings of His body, and expiated and cancelled
them in the blood which He shed. He is the true
Jacob, who covered Himself with the skin of the
kid, or rather He is the true scapegoat, which,
loaded with the sins of the world, 2 goes forth out
of the world, is lifted up on high on the cross,
dies as one rejected and under a curse, and, ac
cording to the phrase of St. Paul, reconciles
heaven with earth. When Jesus died upon the
cross and washed away sin in His blood, we were
loosed from its yoke, and, as it were, dead to it,
and began to live to justice, healed by His stripes.

To make the matter clearer: A man is con


demned to death ; another, who is innocent, offers
to die in his stead ; the one dies that the other may
live ; the guilty one, once justice is satisfied, ceases
to be guilty ; he is rehabilitated and just ; he is, as

it were, dead to his crimes ; he lives again to virtue,


honesty, and justice. That guilty one represents
each of us ; Jesus Christ offers Himself as our ran
som, He pays the price with His blood, and we are
rehabilitated, justified, and healed by His stripes.

St. Peter, after setting Jesus Christ before his


spiritual children as the great pattern of love and
forgiveness, closes his exhortation to them with
these beautiful words: "You were as sheep going
astray, but you are now converted to the Shep
herd and Bishop of your souls." A few years
back you were still Jews and Gentiles, you were
going astray in the ways of error; you were like
those poor lambs that stray away from the flock
and lose themselves in dense forests and trackless
deserts and are momentarily in danger of being
devoured by wild beasts. God took pity on you;
He called you back and drew you gently to Him
by His grace; you obeyed and returned to Him,
the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Jesus Christ is the Shepherd of souls, since He


leads them to the pastures of life and defends
them against the wolves that lie in wait for them ;
He is the Bishop, 1 that is, He watches over them,
directs, and guards them. He was the Shepherd
and Bishop of the apostles, of the disciples, and
of all believers as long as He lived on this earth,
and He will ever be the Shepherd and Bishop in
the person of those who continue His work
through the ages.

These words, lambs, shepherd, and bishop, re

mind us all that we have each our duties, I as your


shepherd, and you as lambs of the fold of Christ.
My duty is to teach you, to go before you by the
example of an irreproachable life ; your duty is to
listen to me, and to follow me. Let us both dis
charge these duties faithfully, and we shall re
ceive our reward from the Prince of shepherds,
and the Bishop of bishops.