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1 Peter 2
21, 24

Canticle - Christ, the servant of God, freely accepts his passion

Christ suffered for you,
leaving you an example
that you should follow in his steps.

He committed no sin;
no guile was found on his lips.
When he was reviled,
he did not revile in return.

When he suffered,
he did not threaten;
but he trust to him
who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins
in his body on the tree,
that we might die to sin
and live to righteousness.

By his wounds you have been healed.

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on 1 Peter 2
General Audience, Wednesday 14th January 2004 - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

II Vespers, Sunday Week 1 - The voluntary passion of Christ, servant of God

1. "1. Today, after the interval for the Christmas festivities, we continue with our meditation on the liturgy of Vespers. The Canticle just proclaimed, taken from the First Letter of Peter, is a meditation on the redemptive Passion of Christ, foretold already at the moment of his Baptism in the Jordan.

As we heard last Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jesus reveals himself from the very beginning of his public life to be the "beloved Son" with whom the Father was well pleased (cf. Lk 3: 22), the true "Servant of Yahweh" (cf. Is 42: 1) who freed man from sin through his Passion and death on the Cross.

The Letter of Peter quoted above, in which the fisherman of Galilee describes himself as a "witness of the sufferings of Christ" (5: 1), is full of references to the Passion. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb without blemish whose precious blood was poured out for our redemption (cf. 1: 18-19). He is the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God as the "cornerstone" that gives coherence to the "spiritual house", in other words, the Church (cf. 2: 6-8). He is the righteous one who sacrifices himself for the unrighteous in order to bring them back to God (cf. 3: 18-22).

2. Our attention is now focused on the profile of Christ that is outlined in the passage we have heard (cf. 2: 21-24). He is the model for us to contemplate and imitate, the "programme", as it says in the original Greek (cf. 2: 21), to put into practice, the example to follow without hesitation, conforming ourselves to his decisions.

In fact, use is made of the Greek word of sequela [following], of discipleship, setting out in the very footsteps of Jesus. And the Teacher's footsteps take a steep and demanding path, just as we read in the Gospel: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mk 8: 34).

At this point the Petrine hymn sketches a wonderful synthesis of the Passion of Christ, modelled on the words and images of Isaiah, applied to the figure of the Suffering Servant (cf. Is 53) and reinterpreted in the Messianic key of the ancient Christian tradition.

3. This hymn that tells the history of the Passion consists in four negative (cf. I Pt 2: 22-23a) and three positive declarations (cf. 2: 23b-24), in which it describes the fortitude of Jesus in that terrible and grandiose event.

It begins with the twofold affirmation of his absolute innocence in the words of Isaiah 53: 9: "He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips" (I Pt 2: 22). This statement is followed by two further considerations on his exemplary behaviour, inspired by meekness and gentleness: "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten" (I Pt 2: 23). The Lord's patient silence is not only a courageous act but a generous one. It is also a trusting gesture in regard to the Father, as suggested by the first of the three positive affermations, "he trusted to him who judges justly" (ibid.). His was a total and perfect trust in divine justice that leads history towards the triumph of the innocent.

4. Thus, we reach the summit of the narrative of the Passion which highlights the saving value of Christ's supreme act of self-giving: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (2: 24).

This second positive assertion, formulated with the words of Isaiah's prophecy (cf. 53: 12), explains that Christ bore our sins "in his body on the tree", that is, on the cross, in order to cancel them.

Likewise, freed from the "old" man with his evil and mediocrity, we too can "live to righteousness", that is, in holiness. The thought corresponds, although most of the words differ, to the Pauline doctrine on Baptism which regenerates us as new creatures, immersing us in the mystery of the Passion, death and glory of Christ (cf. Rom 6: 3-11).

The last phrase - "by his wounds you have been healed" (I Pt 2: 24) - focuses on the saving value of Christ's suffering, expressed in the same idiom Isaiah used to express the saving fruitfulness of the pain suffered by the Lord's Servant (cf. Is 53: 5).

5. Contemplating the wounds of Christ by which we have been saved, St Ambrose said: "I can revel in none of my deeds, I have nothing to boast about; therefore, I will glory in Christ. I will not glory because I am just, but I will glory because I have been redeemed. I will not glory because I am exempt from sins, but I will glory because my sins have been forgiven. I will not glory because I have been a help nor because someone has helped me, but because Christ is my advocate with the Father, and Christ's blood was poured out for me. My sin has become for me the price of the Redemption, through which Christ came to me. For my sake, Christ tasted death. Sin is more profitable than innocence. Innocence had made me arrogant, sin made me humble" (Giacobbe e la vita beata, I, 6, 21: SAEMO, III, Milan-Rome, 1982, pp. 251, 253)."


"I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present today, including the groups from Denmark and the United States of America. Upon all of you and your families, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy New Year!

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française présents ce matin, en particulier les jeunes de l’École catholique Rocroy Saint Léon, de Paris. Que votre pèlerinage à Rome vous affermisse dans la foi, pour être davantage témoins de l’amour du Christ tout au long de l’année nouvelle!

Einen glaubensfrohen Gruß richte ich an die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. Christus ist der Erlöser des Menschen. In seiner Nachfolge sind wir zur Heiligkeit berufen. Er stärke euren Glauben in seine Erlöserliebe. Der Herr schenke euch allen in diesem Jahr inneren und äußeren Frieden.

O Cântico narrado por S. Pedro na leitura de hoje, ajuda-nos a aprofundar na «Paixão voluntária de Cristo, servo de Deus» (cf. 2 Pdr 2, 21.24). Demos graças a Deus porque, pela sua misericórdia, nos introduziu na vida nova, e prometeu-nos a salvação. Que Deus vos abençoe.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos y familias de lengua española. En especial al grupo de Religiosas de España y América latina, así como a los alumnos de la Escuela Italiana de Montevideo. A todos os animo a imitar a Cristo, que, con su pasión, libra al hombre del pecado. Muchas gracias por vuestra atención.

Kantyk z Listu św. Piotra, który dziś rozważamy, zatrzymuje się na misterium zbawczej męki Chrystusa. Poniekąd jej zapowiedzią był już chrzest Jezusa w Jordanie, który wspominaliśmy w minioną niedzielę. To wtedy Bóg objawił, że Jezus jest Jego "Synem umiłowanym" (Łk 3, 22), który jako "baranek Boży" (J 1, 29) uwolni człowieka z grzechu przez mękę i śmierć na krzyżu. Apostoł Piotr, "świadek Chrystusowych cierpień" (1 P 5, 1), często powraca w swoich listach do wydarzeń Wielkiego Tygodnia, aby uświadomić braciom w wierze za jak wielką cenę zostali wykupieni i zachęcić wszystkich do życia sprawiedliwego na miarę tej ofiary. Chrystus "w swoim ciele poniósł nasze grzechy na drzewo, abyśmy przestali być uczestnikami grzechów, a żyli dla sprawiedliwości" (1P 2, 24). Niech pamięć o tym stale nam towarzyszy, abyśmy byli wiernymi naśladowcami Chrystusa w sprawiedliwości i ofiarnej miłości. Serdecznie pozdrawiam wszystkich moich rodaków. Przybyliście do grobów świętych Piotra i Pawła, aby umacniać się w wierze, nadziei i miłości. Proszę Boga, aby obficie udzielał wam tych łask. Proszę, zawieźcie moje pozdrowienie waszym rodzinom i wszystkim Polakom. Niech wam Bóg błogosławi!

Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto l’Associazione italiana "Amici di Raoul Follereau" e i fedeli di Corridonia. Abbraccio poi spiritualmente i bambini bielorussi, e il "Gruppo accoglienza" di Modugno, che generosamente li ha accolti.

My thoughts also go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. May the feast of the Baptism of the Lord that we celebrated last Sunday help you, dear young people, to rediscover and live joyfully the gift of faith in Christ; may it make you, dear sick people, strong in trial; may it spur you, dear newly-weds, to make your family a true domestic church."

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on 1 Peter 2, 21-24
General Audience, Wednesday 22 September 2004 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Vespers II, Sunday Week 2 - The voluntary passion of Christ, servant of God

1. Today, as we listened to the hymn in the passage from chapter 2 of St Peter's First Letter, the face of the suffering Christ stood out vividly before our eyes. This is how it was for readers of that Letter in the early times of Christianity, and how it was for centuries during the liturgical proclamation of the Word of God and in personal meditation.

This Canticle, inserted in the Letter, presents a liturgical tone and seems to mirror the prayer breathed by the early Church. It is also marked by an ideal dialogue between the author and his readers, punctuated by the alternation of the personal pronouns "we" and "you": "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps... He himself bore our sins in his body... that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds [we] have been healed" (I Pt 2: 21, 24-25).

2. In the original Greek text, however, the most often repeated pronoun, virtually hammered out at the beginning of the principal verses, is hos: "he", the patient Christ, he who had committed no sin, he who when reviled did not react by seeking revenge, he who bore on the Cross the burden of humanity's sins to take them away.

Peter, like the faithful who recite this Canticle, especially at the Liturgy of Vespers in the Lenten season, is remembering the Servant of Yahweh described in the 4th hymn of the First Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The suffering Servant is a mysterious figure interpreted by Christianity in a messianic and Christological key since he prefigures the details and importance of the Passion of Christ: "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows... he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities... with his stripes we are healed.... He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth" (Is 53: 4, 5, 7).

The profile of sinful humanity is also suggested by the image of a scattered flock in a verse that is not included in the Liturgy of Vespers but comes from that ancient prophetic poem. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Is 53: 6).

3. Thus, two figures intersect in this Petrine hymn. First of all, there is he, Christ, who sets out on the inexorable journey of the Passion without protesting against the injustice and violence, without recrimination or outbursts, but entrusting himself and his sorrowful experience "to him who judges justly" (I Pt 2: 23). This act of pure and total trust was to be sealed on the Cross with his famous last words, cried with a loud voice as his supreme abandonment to the will of the Father: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" (Lk 23: 46).

There is no question, therefore, of blind and passive resignation, but of courageous confidence destined to serve as an example to all of his disciples who are walking on the dark path of trial and persecution.

4. Christ is presented as the Saviour, in solidarity with us in his human "body". In being born of the Virgin Mary, he became our brother. So it is that he can stand beside us, share in our pain and bear our wickedness, "our sins" (I Pt 2: 24). But he is also and always the Son of God, and his solidarity with us becomes radically transforming, liberating, expiatory and salvific.

So it is that our poor humanity is snatched from the deviating, twisted paths of evil and brought back to "righteousness", that is, to the beautiful plan of God. The last sentence of the Canticle is especially moving. It says: "By his wounds you have been healed" (v25). Here we see how dearly Christ paid to obtain our healing!

5. Let us conclude by leaving the floor to the Fathers of the Church, that is, to Christian tradition that has meditated and prayed with St Peter's hymn.

Interweaving a phrase of the hymn with other biblical remembrances, St Irenaeus of Lyons sums up in this way the figure of Christ the Saviour in a passage from his Treatise Adversus Haereses: "There is one and the same Jesus Christ, Son of God, who through his Passion reconciled us to God and was raised from the dead, is seated at the right hand of God and is perfect in all things: he was hit but did not return the blows, "he who, when he suffered, did not threaten", and while he suffered tyrannical violence, prayed to the Father to forgive those who had crucified him. He truly saved us, he is the Word of God, he is the Only Begotten Son of the Father, Christ Jesus Our Lord."