In your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy.
In the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Friends, our reading today from the First Letter of Peter includes these attention-grabbing words: Whoever desires to love life and see good days…
Surely that is something that all of us want: to love life and see good days.
But as we know, it can be a struggle to achieve this, especially in this stressful time of pandemic, which has increased all the other various pressures of life: family and relationships, finances, work and so on. In the midst of all of this, it can be easy to get down and feel dejected and heavy. We hear this dejection expressed in the words of Peter in today’s Gospel: Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing. This dejection often causes us to self-pity and to be indifferent, slothful, and sluggish. Our energy and motivation gets sapped.
So continuing with our summer theme of gardening and specifically pruning, the misdirected growth that God prunes from our hearts today is exactly this dejection and discouragement – that which prevents us from blossoming to love life and see good days.
So how does this happen? How are we pruned so as to love life and see good days.
Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.
Two points here. They’re rather obvious, but cannot be overlooked.
First, to love life and see good days is to live for God. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer. Know that God is watching over you. Draw near to Him in prayer because He listens to you.
And secondly, there is a clear moral demand. Turn away from evil and do good. Do not speak words of evil, but seek peace and pursue it. Isn’t that a message our world needs to hear today? It should be in the user agreement for social media! Friends, ‘we are not to be defined by our antagonisms and animosities, our divisions and hatreds, our desire for revenge, but on the contrary, bless. How radical is that? To bless one another rather than condemn one another!’ (Fr. David Curry).
A life lived for God is a life of virtue, righteousness, and holiness.
So do you want to love life and see good days? Then ground your life in prayer and worship of Almighty God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Now to be sure, this will not give us immunity from hardship and suffering, but it does mean that we are not alone and abandoned when we do suffer. Rather we draw from strength and example of Christ. He’s the one who gives us the power to endure.
So again: how do we love life and see good days, especially during times of hardship? Peter sums it up for us in these wonderful words: in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy.
Friends, can I make a suggestion? Memorize these words: in your heart honour Christ the Lord as holy.
That is the Christian life in a nutshell. It means to reverence Jesus – to recognize that He alone is holy and good and powerful and in control. In today’s Gospel, we see St. Peter sense this for the first time. After the miraculous catch of fish, Peter falls down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ After witnessing this great display of Christ’s divine power, Peter sees that he is not worthy to stand in the Lord’s presence. But Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid;’ and then He calls Peter to be His crew member on the fishing vessel that is His Church.
What’s remarkable here is that Peter’s awareness of the great gulf between himself and God is actually part of what allows us to be with God, to abide in the holiness of Christ’s presence.
Years later, that same Peter wrote the words that we heard in our first reading this morning: in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy.
He goes from saying, ‘Depart from me O Lord, for I am a sinful man’ to ‘in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy.’ Peter still has that same sense of awe and reverence, but he no longer wants the Lord to depart from him. On the contrary, Peter wants Jesus to enter in and take up His rightful place at the helm of our hearts and lives. Peter wants this for you, for all of us together, and for all people – especially those who do not yet know the Lord.
Honouring Christ the Lord as holy in hearts will bear real, practical fruit in our lives. Peter describes this fruit as follows: have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil. Do not insult others when they insult you – but instead, speak well of others, speak graciously, seek peace and pursue it.
Like the miraculous catch of fish in today’s Gospel, God will yield aboundant fruit in our lives.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.