This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Revelation 15:1-4
1 And I saw in heaven another sign, great and wonderful: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God.
2 I seemed to be looking at a sea of crystal suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God, 3 and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and the hymn of the Lamb: How great and wonderful are all your works, Lord God Almighty; upright and true are all your ways, King of nations. 4 Who does not revere and glorify your name, O Lord? For you alone are holy, and all nations will come and adore you for the many acts of saving justice you have shown.
The wonderful upside-down language of Revelation is evident here. Those killed for the faith by persecution are described as “those who fought against the beast and won”. In worldly eyes they were defeated; in the eyes of the prophet they were victorious because they kept faith with the Lamb and his people. The “saving justice” of God goes beyond worldly possibilities. Nevertheless the prophecy emphasises that worldly nations will come to recognise the king of nations. The beast roars and struts today in Afghanistan, Palestine, Korea, Iran, but the bible says his number’s up. His victims already sing their victory song to God.
Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 ‘But before all this happens, you will be seized and persecuted; you will be handed over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and brought before kings and governors for the sake of my name13 -and that will be your opportunity to bear witness.
14 Make up your minds not to prepare your defence, 15 because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. 17 You will be hated universally on account of my name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 Your perseverance will win you your lives.
A better (if older) translation of verse 19 is: “in patience you shall possess your souls.” Those words would be more likely to inspire me. Evil people may, I guess, possess everything else –“goods honour children wife” as Luther puts it- but with God’s help I can possess my soul-“the city of God remaineth. ” The refusal of modern translations to use the word “soul” comes from a desire not to use it as indication a mysterious part of human being, a “ghost in the machine”. This ignores the fact that biblical authors use it as an inclusive dimension of human being-we ARE souls rather than HAVING them. We are not simply identical with our constituent molecules. Jesus’ life and teaching reminds us of this and enables us, even when faced with terrible odds, to be heroic dust.