Second Sunday of Easter
Second Reading: Apocalypse - Introduction
The Book of the Apocalypse, or Revelation as it is sometimes called, is probably the most misunderstood Book in the whole Bible. It is so full of mysterious images and numbers that it is hard to understand. Many sects and cults exploit this - claiming to be the only ones who understand its meaning and, usually, to be the only ones who will survive the terrifying events recorded here.
You will probably have noticed an upsurge in “apocalyptic prophecies” as we approach the new Millennium. This happened last time apparently and many embarrassed people had to leave the churches where they had gathered for the “End of the World” when the world continued to exist.
We do tend to see the Second Coming as something to fear. This would have been hard for the early Christians to understand - most longed for Jesus to come back and establish a new Kingdom of love and justice.
The Readings between now and Pentecost speak of the hope and promise of the “End of the World” and Second Coming.
The writer, John, has been banished to the island of Patmos for his faith and had witnessed persecution of fellow Christians. His Revelation urges them to remain faithful to the Gospel. His vision shows that they (and we) are part of a conflict between good and evil of cosmic proportions and uses images of dragons and angels and horsemen, etc. to try to describe what he sees.
Today, he tells of his encounter with the Living One -
the one who is First and Last,
the One who was dead but who is now to live for ever and ever,
the One who holds the keys of death and of the underworld. Not surprisingly, John is overcome and falls in a dead faint at His feet.
And Jesus’ reaction? Is to touch him and to speak words of reassurance “Do not be afraid; it is I”
Before He shows John anything else, Jesus establishes the simple truth - that He is in charge - the forces of evil and death have been defeated.
For us, it offers a similar reassurance. When we feel overwhelmed by the tragedy of the world and people try to make us afraid, we can try to feel that touch and hear the words of reassurance - “Do not be afraid. It is I”
We can stand firm in the belief that, in the end, good will prevail. It does not stop us sharing people’s pain or doing what we can to help to alleviate it (see today’s Reading from Acts) - but it means doing it in the sure hope that we are sharing in the saving work of God and the building up of the Kingdom in readiness for the return of the King.
What does it mean for me?