I watched an excellent performance of Verdi’s opera ‘La Traviata’ the other evening, and was struck by the translation of the last few words of the main character Violetta, who is described as a ‘courtesan’, a woman of rather loose morals. At the end, she dies dramatically of a terminal illness. She realised that it couldn’t be overcome by any human effort or wishful thinking, for only divine intervention could make any difference. She then ‘gets up as if re-invigorated’ with the words: “A strange vigour has brought me to life! (or translated as ‘it’s as if I’ve been reborn’) Ah! I shall live – Oh, joy!”
Peter the apostle, in our verse for today, points us to the living hope of new birth that we have through our faith in the resurrection of Jesus: ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).
Although his readers were having all kinds of trials and were suffering grief (verse 6), he reminds them of the grace and mercy of God who had given them new birth. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians also writes ‘God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions’ (Ephesians 2: 4-5).
The truth of the matter is that we’re reborn in Christ through the grace and mercy of God, and we shall live. What a comfort this is to us, but it isn’t something we can simply dream up ourselves. We have to believe in the Word of God, and apply it to ourselves, no matter what our circumstances may be.
Over twenty-two years ago, my eldest son was dying of leukaemia at the age of twenty. He could do nothing to improve his health, and neither could the hospital staff. However, God’s grace and mercy had been revealed to him, and he trusted God with the unknowable future, passing into the presence of his Lord with peace and confidence.
There are times when life seems too difficult to cope with, when having an eternal perspective seems unattainable, when we’ve moved beyond being able to ‘fix it’ and it all seems a bit hopeless. Then perhaps our prayer should be “Lord have mercy on us”. As His grace takes hold of our lives He can give us a new revelation of hope and awareness of His love, and our perspective can then change. Violetta’s last words can then become our own “Ah! I shall live – Oh joy!”
Prayer: Lord, when we face those things in life which seem insurmountable and beyond our ability to change for the better, please remind us of Your ultimate grace and mercy, and enable us to look to the eternal future life we have in Jesus, where joy will be ours, instead of suffering. Amen.
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