During Lent, the usual Sunday evening New Testament canticle for Vespers (Revelation 19 with lots of alleluias) is replaced with a lyrical passage from 1 Peter. Is it a fragment of an early Christian hymn? The musician in me might like to think so, but I also see the thread of an Old Testament passage, one of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant Songs. (Check the 53rd chapter for similiarities.)
Here is the text of what the Rite of Penance offers for liturgy and devotion:
if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.
When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the Cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
Two things I see.
First, that Christ suffered for and with us. And I am sure this includes the torment of a soul in deep contrition. Though Christ did not sin, in his earthly life he associated closely with those who did. We have no reason to doubt he does not today cling close to believers who call out in need.
Second, that our sufferings and sins both have a transformative potential in Christ. We are not steeped in sin in the sense that our redemption is without meaning. Because of Christ, there is hope. Bad is changed into good. Very bad finds the light, too.
This reading might form a close pairing with two other passages for a coherent Liturgy of the Word in a communal setting. I would suggest Isaiah 53:4-6 (or a few more verses), Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:20b-25, and Luke 15:1-7. Together they present Christ as our agent of transformation and as our shepherd and protector. Lent seems a logical time for such a liturgy. And being reminded of our heritage of belief and of relief from sin is a great way to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance.