Disguised Sedition
5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

Revelation 21 verses 1 to 8

The Book of Revelation or as it is often called, The Apocalypse, is the last of the New Testament books and was written by a servant of God whose name was John. Not the John of the Gospels but another person who was active in Asia Minor at the end of the 1st century. He was apparently a Christian militant who was exiled by the Roman authorities to the island of Patmos where, after study, prayer and a powerful mystical experience, he wrote this book for distribution to the churches on the mainland; passages of which were to be read at the Eucharistic celebrations of the Christian communities.

This book was clearly crisis occasioned, having been written at a time when Christians were being severely persecuted for their loyalty to Jesus. It was the beginning of the age of martyrdom and many were choosing to compromise with the seductive demands of a pagan Rome rather than suffer the often lethal consequences of being openly Christian.

Through his writing, John was not so much trying to instruct but to motivate. He reminded his vulnerable brothers and sisters of the reality and significance of eternal life, of Jesus' victory over Satan and of the ultimate worthlessness of that by which they were being tempted.

This explains the poetic style employed and the richly symbolic language and imagery which makes this work unique. He was trying to ignite them, to move them, and to share as best he could the tremendous motivating force of his own mystical experience, of his vision. Plain logical prose simply does not lend itself to this purpose. Exciting, colourful imagery is called for and John certainly provided it!

The symbolism he used, much of it Old Testament based, was much more familiar to his immediate audience than to us. We have been able to recover most of its meaning but not all. It is interesting to note that some of the obscurity, which gives the average reader so much difficulty, was deliberate. The author's intention was to make his message appear less clear, perhaps even indicative of incapacity, when read by the uninitiated. This makes a lot of sense when we recall that from the point of view of the State, the Book of Revelation was largely seditious.

No wonder it is hard for most of us to pick up this book and readily understand it. For the same reasons it is an effective instrument in the hands of those who would abuse it in order to frighten and dominate others. I am thinking particularly of the many cults that survive on selling weird and baseless interpretations. Speaking of "cults", the Book of Revelation does not predict the date of the end of the world.

Today, within the current Christian community, Revelation has the same essential purpose as it has always had. It is part of the Church's written message of hope and encouragement in the midst of a society which attempts to seduce us into compromising our Christian values in order to "get with it" and to be modern as opposed to being out of date...to be accepting of immorality in its many guises, most of which, far from being new or modern, are John's old adversaries under fresh coats of paint.

The Book of Revelation seeks to fulfill the very practical pastoral service of instilling a deep spiritual joy in the faithful reader's heart. The reader's imagination has something tangible to dwell on as he or she looks toward eternal happiness in the midst of real suffering.

I suggest that you now read the passage selected for the 5th. Sunday of Easter which is the first eight verses of chapter twenty-one.

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