4-28-2019 2nd Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy
Apr 29, 2019
Easter II / C / Divine Mercy / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
A happy Easter to all, as we come together on this second Sunday of Easter (or, the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, or Low Sunday, or "quasi modo Sunday," and so on). This Sunday has more names than any other on the calendar!
Whatever it might be called, we begin reading today, and for the next 7 Sundays of Easter, from the Book of Revelation—a strange book, filled with symbols, drama, violence, mystery. It is difficult to read and to make sense of it, but the Church has given it to us for our reflection during this Easter season. And so . . . there must be something important about it, something we can learn from it. Today, and perhaps a few other Sundays, I will comment on the Book of Revelation in my homily—and hopefully we’ll all come to a greater understanding of this "hard to understand" book.
First of all, let me say how NOT to read the Book of Revelation, and that is, with a literal interpretation of "the end," or what will happen when the end comes, or how to predict "the end." If this IS what the Book of Revelation is about, it would mean nothing to all the generations who died before the end came—or even to us.
But the Church highlights this book and gives it a certain importance: it comes at the very end of the Bible. The endings of books, or a series of books, are important, so this last book in the Bible is important. It must have relevance for us—and for any generation past, present, or future.
Perhaps what misleads us is the title: Revelation. The actual Greek title is Apocalypsis. When we hear a word like apocalypsis, or apocalyptic, we usually associate it with disaster, turmoil, violence, "the end" (Apocalypse Now). In fact, the Greek word means "unveiling." Something is unveiled, lifting the veil. Thus, in Latin, the word is revelation. Something revealed to us. The Book of Revelation will "unveil" something, "reveal" something.
Since we are reading this in the Easter season, the unveiling has something to do with Jesus and his Resurrection. In a word, what is revealed is the passing of the "old world" and the emergence of the "new world." The old order has passed away; a new order is coming. Whenever there is such a change, there will be turmoil—the old doesn’t pass away easily, and the new doesn’t emerge easily—explaining some of the difficult imagery of the Book of Revelation.
So let’s hop in. The passage today says that speaker, or the writer, is John—meant to be the Beloved Disciple, the author of the Gospel. John finds himself on the island of Patmos "because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus." We have to know that Patmos, an island in the Mediterranean, was a penal colony of the Romans. And why was John there? Because he preached Jesus Christ.
The passage says that John was "caught up in the spirit" and told to write what he sees and hears. And what does he see? Seven gold lampstands. A first century Jew would understand immediately that this is the great candelabra in the temple, in the holy of holies—where heaven touches earth and earth touches heaven. God meets humanity.
And who does John see in this divine vision: "one like a Son of Man," Jesus Christ, who says that he "is the first and the last, the one who lives." Once dead, he now lives, and he will live forever.
As I mentioned last week, tyranny and tyrants beware! Jesus is risen. The tomb could not contain him. Light has conquered darkness, and life has conquered death. The tomb could not contain him . . . could not stop him. He is the Alpha and the Omega.
This is the main theme of the Book of Revelation that will unfold over the next few weeks—a message important to us and to all generations for all time. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!