Archive for the ‘Revelation’ Category

Was the Book of Revelation Written for Us?

November 17, 2014

Monday, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year II
Readings: Revelation 1, Luke 18:35-43

     The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his servants what must happen soon. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.

Revelation’s island of Patmos and its seven churches in Asia Minor (or modern-day Turkey)

        So begins the most misunderstood book of the Bible. The Book of Revelation speaks of “what must happen soon” and of an appointed time which is “near,” but to whom is it speaking? Some answer this question historical-critically; it is addressing seven particular churches in Asia Minor during the first or second century. Others answer eschatologically; it is describing the wonders and travails awaiting the generation which will immediately precede Jesus’ return. But what about the many generations who come and go between those two bookend-eras of Christian history? Was the Book of Revelation addressed or applicable to them? In what sense was its prophetic message truly “near” or “soon” for all that time?

        The Book of Revelation involves specific historical contexts in the past and describes a historical climax (apparently) still to come, but it also speaks to Christians of every age. Consider today’s gospel: Jesus heals a blind man and declares the saving power of his faith or faithfulness (“pistis” in the Greek.) How narrowly should we interpret this gospel? Are the miracles and message of Jesus Christ intended only for the people of His time and place? Is the Gospel of Luke meant only for the first century Christians to whom it was written? Rather, the whole of Sacred Scripture, co-authored and inspired by the Holy Spirit who sees all of history simultaneously, speaks to the life and times of every Christian. Corruptions of the world, persecutions of the Church, manifestations of God’s power, and triumphs of His people belong to every age. The Book of Revelation truly tells “[God’s] servants what must happen soon” because these realities are always “near.”

Three Crosses Line Break

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The Sound of Heaven — Monday, 34th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

November 22, 2010

What do you think Heaven sounds like? In the first reading, St. John describes it for us. “I heard a sound from Heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.”

The sound of Heaven that John describes is powerful and beautiful. It is like the onslaught of a tidal wave or a thunder burst, yet it has the harmony, clarity, proportion and perfection of supreme beauty. What John is hearing is the sound of worship in Heaven.

In the Gospel, we hear another sound, neither great nor gorgeous in itself: the quiet chinking of two small coins. Yet, this simple sound has echoed for two-thousand years and millions have been drawn to it. When Jesus Himself heard the sound of the faithful, poor widow’s generous gift, He was moved to speak words in praise. Despite its subtlety, it reminded Jesus of a sound He knew well; it reminded Him of the sound of Heaven.

In our own simple ways, with unending joy, let us echo on earth the song of the angels in Heaven as they praise God’s glory for ever.

Laodicean Christians — Tuesday, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

November 16, 2010

The Christians of Laodicea lived in what is now southwestern Turkey. Today, their city is merely ruins, but in those days it was a modern, rich, commercial center of banking, industry, and entertainment. The Christians there were well-off and contented, but Jesus knew them and their city well and he was not content with them. In the Book of Revelation He rebukes them, “You say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

A few decades before, in 60 AD, an earthquake ravaged their city and the Roman emperor offered to send them money to aid in their recovery, but within a year, the wealthy Laodiceans had finished rebuilding using only their own resources. To a people too rich and proud to accept a king’s aid, Jesus says, ‘I advise you to buy from me gold, (good works) refined by fire, so that you may be (truly) rich.’

Laodicea was home to the Marshfield Clinic of its day in the field of eye medicine. There they produced of an ointment for the eye which was used throughout the Roman empire. But Jesus urges the Chrisitians, ‘buy (true) ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see (the truth).’

Laodicea was also known for its fine, soft, black cloth, made from the wool of the region’s excellent dark sheep. But Jesus sees the Christians’ immorality and warns, ‘put on white garments, so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed.’

Laodicea had an aqueduct which carried water to the city from hot springs some five miles away, but by the time this water would get to them, it would be merely lukewarm; neither cold enough to cool in hot weather, nor hot enough to warm-up in cold weather. Jesus likens the Laodicean Christians to their water supply. “I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Jesus Christ, being divine, knows the Christians of Laodicea perfectly well. By their values, words, and actions, He sees them living not much different than any other Laodiceans. And because He loves them, he corrects them, and warns them that they need to repent and to start getting serious about living true, Christian lives.

Do we live in a Christian nation? Compared to the secularized countries of Europe, or to the Asian or African countries where Christianity is the minority religion, the United States is a very Christian nation. On the other hand, only about one in four Americans went to Church last weekend. [source] Only one in four Americans offered up an hour to God, to thank Him, worship Him, and to fulfill the commandment, “You shall keep holy the Lord’s day.” Of course, being a Christian is about more than just going to Church, but this gives us some indication of our society’s commitment to Christ.

To think of our country as a Christian nation at a 25% level, or to a 25% degree, is both discouraging and encouraging. It is discouraging that our devotion is not greater, but there is encouragement to be found in this: if our society’s half-hearted, or even quarter-hearted commitment to Christ and His Gospel can do as much good as we see now, imagine what things would be like if we were whole-heartedly His disciples.

As G.K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” The Gospel is supposed to be radical. It’s supposed to change the world. If there is nothing very counter-cultural about your life as a Christian, then you are not yet living out the Gospel like Christ calls you to do. If you are living the same way as everyone else in our present-day Laodicea, then Jesus Christ’s wake-up call from the Book of Revelation through the centuries is addressed to you.

Jesus is looking for people who will go out on a limb for Him, people like Zacchaeus, people who will risk the mockery and judgment of others, people who would give half of their possessions to the poor if that is what Christ wills, people who will rise and open the door for Christ when they hear Him knocking. Jesus is looking for disciples who seek the riches of being a true and whole-hearted Christian. With a person like that, Jesus can change the world.

Go to church every weekend, pray every day, and do not merely learn about our faith but act on it in your life. Jesus Christ pleads to you, through me and your teachers who have witnessed their faith to you, please: go out on the limb for Him.

Clearing Heaven’s Haziness — 4th Sunday in Easter—Year C

April 25, 2010

Today, St. John has a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and language. They wear white robes and hold palm branches in their hands. They stand before the throne and before the Lamb (who is Jesus Christ,) and in His temple they worship Him day and night. St. John is glimpsing the worship in Heaven.

Heaven should be one of our great consolations in difficult times and we should really be excited about going there someday. But I think that we often have faulty ideas about Heaven that can get in the way of us being excited or consoled. For instance, maybe you heard the first reading today and thought, “The idea of standing night and day and holding a palm branch doesn’t seem that awesome to me; and going to Mass for an hour is well and good, but I don’t know how I could enjoy going to church forever in Heaven.” Concerns like these would understandably make us weary of Heaven.

We need to recognize that the Book of Revelation is symbolic.  Not everything we see in John’s vision is not literally what we’ll get in Heaven. For instance, St. John sees Jesus as a lamb who was slain and having seven horns and seven eyes. That’s one odd looking lamb, but this is symbolism. The image of the lamb recalls Jesus’ sacrifice, His horns imply perfect power and His eyes imply perfect wisdom. Likewise, the multitude’s white robes point to their dignity, their palms signify their victory, and they are standing because that is the traditional posture for worshiping God. The God who created the universe, and all of the good things we enjoy in it, surely has more to offer us than just palm branches, white robes, and boredom in Heaven.

You have heard it said that we will enjoy the “beatific vision” in Heaven, but you maybe wonder, “How could I enjoy staring at God forever?” But the phrase “beatific vision,” is also metaphor and the experience means more than mere gazing. The “beatific vision” is the immediate knowledge of God enjoyed by the angels and saints in Heaven. We call it “vision” because it is an experience of God which is direct, not mediated, and in the fullest depth and detail which our souls can receive. We call this vision “beatific” because intimately experiencing God, what the prophets call beholding Him “face to face,” gives perfect happiness.

The saints in heaven experience this beatific vision now, even though, (except for the Virgin Mary, and perhaps Enoch, Moses, and Elijah,) none of the saints have their bodies yet. Their flesh is still on earth awaiting the resurrection. But this raises the question of how can we experience anything without having our bodies?

Think of it this way: When I am asleep I see nothing with my eyes (for they are closed.) And in the silence, I’m not hearing anything with my ears. There’s nothing to taste nor smell, and even if I’m feeling the bed sheets they do not have my attention. Yet sometimes when I sleep, even as I’m dead to my senses, my soul can be alive and alert while I dream. If dreams of mere fantasies can be made vividly realistic to our souls, then I’m confident that God can engage our souls with the higher realities of truth and love, even as our bodies sleep in death.

Sometimes people ask, “Will my experience of Heaven only be between God and me? I mean will I be so overwhelmed by God that I won’t notice or care about the multitude around me?  Will I even remember the people that I knew on earth?” I would answer in this way: how could coming closer to the God who is Love make our love toward others colder, or how could being in the presence of Truth Himself make us stupider? In Heaven, we will never forget that our parents were our parents, or that our friends were our friends, or that our spouses were our spouses and we will remember the love we shared. And the fact that miracles have occurred through praying to the saints for their intercession before God shows that the holy dead are still aware of us and care about us still on earth.

So what exactly is heaven like now, and what will it be like after the resurrection when this entire universe is remade into a new heaven and new earth? We don’t exactly know. Like in the book of Revelation, Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, a wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, and paradise. Though we don’t exactly know what Heaven will be like, we shouldn’t fear that it will disappoint us. When, by God’s grace, we all get arrive there we will look at everything that He has prepared for us and find it very good.  

Until we get there, let us realize and remember that every Mass gives us a foretaste of Heaven. Here we bring with us everything that has happened in our lives. We come here before the throne of the Lamb who was slain, and we praise Him. And here He gives us Himself along with every heavenly blessing which we are ready to receive. Though a veil remains, every Mass bring Heaven to earth.

The Apostles’ Charge — Thursday, 2nd Week of Easter

April 16, 2010

 The high priest Caiaphas had once remarked to the Sanhedrin during the time of Jesus’ ministry:

“You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. (John 11:49-52)

The high priest, whom many Jews believed possessed the gift of prophesy, here spoke words truer than he realized. A similar episode happens in today’s first reading:

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

With their teaching, the apostles have indeed filled Jerusalem, the true and heavenly Jerusalem, with the souls of the saints. And the apostles did want to bring Jesus’ blood upon those who questioned them, for the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin. In his revelation, St. John “saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev 21:2) “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14)

The Sanhedrin commanded the apostles to stop proclaiming Jesus, but the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men,” for as John’s Gospel says, “whoever disobeys the Son will not see life.” The Gospel teaches, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” But who truly believes and shall be saved?  Who disobeys and shall be condemned? Thankfully, this final judgment is not ours to decide, but our mission from Jesus is clear. Like the apostles, with Jesus’ teachings we are to fill the heavenly Jerusalem  and bring Christ’s saving blood upon all people.