WITH GENTLENESS AND REVERENCE – Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 14, 2023

Revised Common Lectionary
Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:8-20
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 (1)
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

Rejection, ridicule, and mistreatment are painful if not uncommon experiences. On an individual level, we find it particularly stinging to be hurt by a family member, friend, co-worker, employer, teacher, or someone else who is close to us. On a societal level, we witness injustice and even cruelty directed at those who are “other,” including immigrants as well as racial, religious, and gender minorities.

Baptism into the dying and rising of Jesus is no safeguard from injury. The communities of Asia Minor to whom the First Letter of Peter was written, composed largely of women and enslaved persons, had clearly come to this realization. They had experienced at least the threat, if not the reality, of persecution and ostracism for following the way of Christ.

Today’s reading from 1 Peter addresses the question of how members of these fledgling communities should respond to mistreatment. The author reminds them that Jesus suffered yet rose again. “He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pt 3:18). In times of suffering, they can draw strength from Christ’s example and their own baptism into his resurrection.

The writer of 1 Peter offers concrete instructions on how followers of Christ should respond to mistreatment. First, “be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Pt 3:15). When they are reviled, believers should not remain passive but should speak up and give witness to the good news that guides their beliefs and actions. Second, they should respond “with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pt 3:16), never returning injury for injury. Disciples of Christ should respond as he did, never spewing angry insults.

In a world where individuals and nations routinely seek revenge and strike back at those who harm them, these instructions may seem weak and unsatisfactory. Yet they are meant to confound those who seek to harm us. We are counseled to engage in nonviolent resistance, so that “those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pt 3:16).

The guidance offered in 1 Peter is consistent with both the example and teaching of Jesus. He taught his followers that they should love their enemies and to do good to those who wish them harm. While he never shrank from calling out hypocrisy and injustice, he never returned injury for injury, remained defiantly silent in his appearances before the religious council and the Roman governor, and even forgave his executioners.

Because we have been baptized into Christ, we live in intimate relationship with him. The risen Lord lives in us and we abide in him. The Spirit of Christ fills us, and so we can live in his love and keep his commandments (see Jn 14:15), showing the world through our actions the power of witness, trust, and forgiveness. While our gathering for worship forms us for this kind of life, the real test of our faith takes place outside the church building, in the crucible of suffering and mistreatment.

On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we continue to consider what it means to embrace the new life that has been opened for us in the resurrection of Christ. We who have been made one with Christ in his rising through baptism are empowered by “the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17) to live as he lived, loving even our enemies while boldly giving “an accounting for the hope that is in [us]” with “gentleness and reverence” (1 Pt 3:15-16).

A Hymn for Today: “Praise Our God with Shouts of Joy”

Today’s Epistle and Gospel are both addressed to believers who will face suffering and rejection, offering words of encouragement and instruction. Psalm 66, appointed for today in both Lectionaries, is a song of praise to the God of deliverance, who brought Israel safely through the waters of the sea and even now hears the prayer of those who suffer hardship: “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me” (Ps 66:20).

“Praise Our God with Shouts of Joy” is a 1978 paraphrase and adaptation of Psalm 66 by British pastor, theologian, hymnologist, and hymn writer Christopher Idle, who is a member of the Jubilate Group. Idle has written hundreds of hymns, and his work appears in hymnals throughout the English-speaking world.

Praise our God with shouts of joy;
sing the glory of his name:
join to lift his praises high;
through the world his love proclaim!

Come and see what God has done
by the power of his right hand;
see the battles he has won
by his word of swift command!

God has tamed the raging seas,
carved a highway through the tide:
paid the cost of our release,
come himself to be our guide.

God has put us to the test,
bringing us through flood and fire
into freedom, peace and rest,
for our good is his desire.

God has not despised my prayer,
nor kept back his love from me;
he has raised me from despair:
to our God all glory be!

Text: Psalm 66; Christopher Idle, b. 1938. © 1990 The Jubilate Group, admin. Hope Publishing Company. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.
Tunes: GENEVAN 136, HARTS (Milgrove)

Image Credit: Personification of Gentleness, relief sculpture, Cathédrale d’Amiens, 1220-1240

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

To receive these weekly reflections by email, please send a message to office@thehymnsociety.org and type “Lectionary” in the subject line.