Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:15-18)
How are we supposed to understand the words of our first Pope here?
Just hours ago, a person approached the good folks at the Lepanto Institute demanding that the identity of Fr. Oliveira be disclosed to him lest he would “call the hoax” etc. One more for the long collection of perpetually indignant fellows predicting and working actively to destroy yours truly. “Those who defame your good conduct” normally do not point to the myriad of sins one commits daily, no. They point at the very things that one is doing right!
So, we go on giving explanations instead of slamming our door in their faces. In my case, I have shaken the dust of my sandals in many occasions. A friend whose envious comments I tolerated for many decades makes one more nasty observation and wham! goes the door. Christ left his critics alone many times, it was part of his style of teaching. That is the sense of “shaking the dust off our sandals” and walk where we are not well received. Those who told you off because of the Gospel will mourn many times that bad deed.
Here we keep giving an explanation to anyone who asks in good faith. Of course, “when did you stop beating your wife” is not a question asked in good faith. Of course, we suffer it and there is no complaint. Christ had to suffer his generation also. What could be the harm in gathering around a few friends to converse about our faith? I see none. So, why so many see evil in doing exactly that? Do we ruffle the feathers of those of mediocre or inconstant faith? I am sure that there are saints walking among men right now. I remember Mother Teresa who gave me a good example when I was a pagan. I did not dare to question her motivations or criticize her good deeds, pagan and stupid as I was back then. But there were imbeciles that did, I can recall one whisky-breathed foul mouthed “philosopher” who did. That “thinker” has bought his six foot plot already. He won’t pollute the airwaves any longer. God have mercy on his soul.
St. Peter has packed some good advise in those concise words: “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” That is what all of us should be doing: imitating Christ in suffering whatever accusation is hurled our way. That is our cross and it is much lighter than the one Christ Himself had to carry.
We are told to be “put to death in the flesh, he was brought you to life in the Spirit.” What does that mean? It means to leave behind the human game: that insane competition that has drenched the soil with the blood of so many righteous and unrighteous. Once we are upgraded to life in the Spirit, we are free of our mediocrity, envy, and strife. We do not look around to see who is taller than us, no. We look up to the One that will make us grow to His size. In Him there is no injustice.
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope and be assured that when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ shall be put to shame.