(Im)possible Week 2: Faith in our true Inheritance, and Hope in times of Tribulation
In this Easter series, in this midst of this COVID-19 crisis, we are speaking about the connection between faith and hope. The first disciples had lost hope, but as they came to faith in the Resurrection, they gained new hope for the future, even though their external circumstances had not changed. Faith is belief in God’s promises; and hope is confident faith directed toward the future. Hope is usually directed toward something concrete – what are you hoping for? This can be a tricky question right now, but our Christian faith gives us a starting point to stand upon. The First Letter of Peter says: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Belief in the Resurrection gives us a “living hope,” which means that Jesus is alive, and that our hope is something inside of us, that is always growing and adapting. The letter continues: to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time (1 Peter 1:4-5). Our inheritance cannot be taken from us, because it is kept safe in heaven. “Salvation” means in part to be made whole, to be formed into the person we are created to be; and therefore our inheritance is first and foremost not something we possess, but the person we are becoming; it is not something external, but internal. In other words, our “inheritance” is really our character being formed by God, which occurs through the course of our entire life, with our cooperation.
We are all going to face trials and tribulations in life. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7). We can’t receive the inheritance God has promised, without undergoing trials and tribulations. This can be scary, but also positive – because it gives us a new perspective. As Christians, we can actually look at our present struggles in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, as necessary in order to form us, as God is forming our character. Our faith is more precious than gold, and when we look back on this crisis, we will see and understand this more deeply as to how we are being formed right now. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9). Peter is affirming that even though we don’t see God, we love him and believe in him. Even though we are separated from the sacraments right now and may not feel God’s presence, even though our circumstances haven’t yet changed, there is great power and grace in what is happening. Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). We need to be firm in our thinking right now. Don’t brood on the “why” question as many of us tend to do, i.e. “why is this happening?” Instead, roll up your sleeves, do what you can do, and ask God what he is trying to accomplish in us right now. Ask him, “God, what are you trying to change in me, to give me my true inheritance?” Questions for reflection:
What are you hoping for right now?
Read aloud 1 Peter 1:3. What does that phrase “living hope” mean to you?
Why is it important we change on the inside before we can enjoy externals?
How does this passage from 1 Peter challenge us to look at trials differently?
What is God doing in your life right now as a result of the current crisis?