Readings: Revelation 1:1-4, 2:1-5; Luke 18:8-12
For the next two weeks, as we move towards Advent and recall the Second Coming of the Lord, the weekday Mass Readings will take us on a rapid–and condensed–tour of the Book of Revelation. I don’t have to tell you what a cryptic and puzzling book of Scripture this is.
It’s all too easy either to let our imaginations run riot or endure its proclamation, trying our best to ignore it. It is both an uncomfortable narrative and a form of literature that may not speak to everyone’s religious sensibility. I find that rather odd, since we live in an era that also relishes the extravagant imagery of science fiction and fantasy writing, not to mention apocalyptic violence as blockbuster entertainment. Think Game of Thrones, for example. But we can be appalled or weirdly obsessed with our fears when we find anything like that in divine revelation.
The Book of Revelation happens to me one of my favorite books of the Bible though I understand little of it; it fills me with wonder and hope. I suspect–and this may be a purely subjective observation–that it may not be meant to be understood so much as experienced. I’m suspicious of commentators or preachers who pin down it’s evocative symbolism to specific historic events, persons or timelines.
I would point out two important characteristics that may help reading or listening to this book: it begins and ends with Jesus; and, as we discover in the text, Jesus as the Lamb who has been slain–that is, sacrificed–from the foundation of the world. That is the way of the victory of the Lamb, for all the plagues, armies, natural disasters, persecutions and punishments mentioned in this book. We can never afford to underestimate the value, the power of suffering in the actualization of God’s will. Not the suffering of my own devising, not the suffering I would visit on others, but our suffering with the Lamb of God in witness to God’s truth.