27Nov 27th November. Friday of Week 34

First Reading: Revelation 20:1-4; 21:1-2

Those who reject the beast will reign with Christ, 1000 years.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Gospel: Luke 21:29-33

Know that the reign of God is near. My word will not pass away.

Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

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Colourful symbols for here and now

While the Revelation text is typical of apocalyptic literature and full of elaborate symbolism, today’s gospel speaks in plainer language. From the example of the budding fig tree we know that summer is near. So “when you see all the things happening, know that the reign of God is near.” Both of today’s readings offer signs; but the meaning of these signs must be sensitively intuited, and the instinct of faith attunes us to what God is saying by the signs about us.

The wildly imaginative book of Revelation was written under the pressure of persecution by the Roman empire, when the church felt hounded on all sides. The inspired seer of Patmos announced the proximate collapse of the tyrannical empire that would lead to a period of peace for the church. After that will come the second appearance of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, the new holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband.

The fig tree is in full bloom and the harvest is near, yet in our lives, of family and church, in our neighbourhood and world, we have to be realists. A strange recommendation: to be realists amid the weird symbols of the apocalyptic seers. Realists in digging beneath the surface and silently and perceptively listening to the mysterious message. This message will not go away, for it is the word of God, anticipating the new heavens and the new earth. Weird as it may seem right now, our world will be transformed into the beautiful Jerusalem, the lovely bride prepared to meet her husband.

What lasts, in a changing world?

We live in a world of rapid change. Many people find this constant change disconcerting and unsettling. We seem need at least some constants in our lives, and we find change easier to manage if some things remain the same. In order to come to terms with change, especially very significant change, we need some element of reliable stability. In the gospel Jesus speaks about change, and not just change on a small scale, but change on a cosmic scale, hugely significant change. He declares that heaven and earth will pass away; it is hard to imagine a more radical kind of change than that. Yet, having spoken of such radical change, he immediately refers to something that will never change ‘my words’, he says, ‘will never pass away.’ In the midst of even the most radical changes, the word of the Lord remains constant, because the Lord himself remains true. He is the rock that endures when all else passes. In the midst of disconcerting change we know that the Lord abides, and when everything else is shifting, he remains steady. Our connection with him, our relationship to him, will help to keep us steady when all else seems ready to fall apart. [MH]

 


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