Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2020
When Christianity drew pagan converts, they were curious about the short past of their new religion and its long roots in ancient Judaism. This section of Peter's Pentecost preaching tells part of that history.
The First Letter of Peter wants to give readers a sense of God's providence at work in the turbulent events they were enduring. Today the emphasis is on Jesus' unexpected responses to events in his life.
The original hearers of Saint John's gospel were exposed to many religious choices. Only one of those was the way to life.
The Literary Situation: This is the ringing conclusion of the apostle Peter's first public preaching (and continuation of last Sunday's first reading). The passage is also a summary of the whole gospel message: Who Jesus is, how he saves us, and how we should respond. It deserves a strong, dignified proclamation.
The Theological Background: The titles "Lord" and "Christ" have more significance than meets the eye. "Lord" was a title reserved for God alone. When early Christians realized that God had been made flesh in the person of Jesus, they dared to give him this divine title. "Christ" is the Greek form of the Hebrew word "Messiah," meaning anointed one, that is to say "king," which is to say "long-awaited successor to Kind David," and so the fulfillment of all the hopes based on memory of David's glorious reign. That's what it means to give Jesus the title "Christ."
Your Proclamation: So Peter is telling people: You crucified your God and Messiah, but he has risen from death and offers you forgiveness of your sins. Of course they were cut to the heart. Your job as lector is to let today's congregation hear words that have that power.
So pause dramatically between the words of Peter's last sentence:
Our Liturgical Setting: The writer of the First Letter of Peter wants to give his audience a sense of God's providential plan working out in the course of their lives and in the history of which they have become a part. The "shepherd" reference in the last verse links this to the day's gospel.
Proclaiming It: Three kinds of contrast call for our attention and expressive proclamation:
The Good Shepherd (detail). Unknown artist, in an early 5th-century building in Revenna, Italy, called the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Click here for a 1200-pixel version of the whole work.
Galla Placidia was prominent in the imperial family of the Western Roman Empire in the early 5th century. It's uncertain that the mausoleum named here is really her burial place. Wikipedia calls her a Chalcedonian Christian. Readers of this website are most likely Chalcedonians, too.
This page updated April 19, 2020