This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Revelation 20:1-4, 11—21:2
1 Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the key of the Abyss in his hand and an enormous chain. 2 He overpowered the dragon, that primeval serpent which is the devil and Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years. 3 He hurled him into the Abyss and shut the entrance and sealed it over him, to make sure he would not lead the nations astray again until the thousand years had passed. At the end of that time he must be released, but only for a short while.
4 Then I saw thrones, where they took their seats, and on them was conferred the power to give judgement. I saw the souls of all who had been beheaded for having witnessed for Jesus and for having preached God’s word, and those who refused to worship the beast or his statue and would not accept the brandmark on their foreheads or hands; they came to life, and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace.
12 I saw the dead, great and small alike, standing in front of his throne while the books lay open. And another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, as their deeds deserved.
13 The sea gave up all the dead who were in it; 14 Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and every one was judged as his deeds deserved. Then Death and Hades were hurled into the burning lake. This burning lake is the second death; 15 and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was hurled into the burning lake.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride dressed for her husband.
The earth is promised its own time of justice. Before new heavens and earth arrive, the just, with Christ, will rule the earth in which they suffered. This is not a detail to be solemnly noted in the apocalyptic timetable, but interpreted as am example of the tender justice of God who allows the battered earth and its inhabitants an experience of fulfilment. Those whose names are in the book of life are those who witnessed for Jesus and/or refused to worship the beast or its image, or to be branded as its slaves. Those who have given their allegiance to the beast cannot be rescued because they do not want rescued. They belong to the beast. This may seem merciless, but it merely states that people get what they want. If they love life, they refuse the beast and receive life (although they may be killed on the earth); if they love death they choose the beast and die (although they may live comfortable on the earth). True, the salvation of sinners seems absent from Revelation. This is because it equates wanting salvation with wanting life and therefore refusing the beast. Those who have made the great refusal, sinners and saints as they are, find their names in the book of life. In the midst of this world they have declared their love of God’s new world, and God has prepared a city, a bride, for them.
The language may seem strange but it expresses the hope of little ones who are always at risk from the great of the earth; and invites us to take sides.
Gospel, Luke 21:29-33
29 And he told them a parable, ‘Look at the fig tree and indeed every tree. 30 As soon as you see them bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 In truth I tell you, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place.
33 Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
In Mark’s gospel there is a hint that “these things” begin with the crucifixion of Jesus, but Luke has a longer perspective and looks further into the future for a fulfilment of Jesus’ words. Verse 32 is crucial for our interpretation of Luke’s meaning: if he thinks the “generation” has passed away, then for him the decisive change has already happened, perhaps in the fall of Jerusalem and the spread of the Christian church. If he thinks it is still living, then he imagines the fulfilment in his own lifetime. We no longer think easily in these terms but we can still affirm the mystery of faith:
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.
Meantime all his words, his teachings, continue to be valid.