Setting the scene for what is to follow
Today's passage helps us find strength in Jesus who is now the Risen Lord
April 18, 2004 -- Second Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
During the next few weeks, the Sundays of Easter, we will hear passages from the Book of Revelation as our second readings.
It is probably one of the most misunderstood books in Christian Scripture. It certainly is one of the most difficult to understand, especially because books of this literary form are not written today.
The apocalyptic character of the work means it has a very different flavor. It also needs to be interpreted according to its own form.
Revelation is unique in Christian Scripture. Other parts of our scripture are narratives
or letters. This book tells about visions and describes things not normally heard or seen by the ordinary person.
In the ancient world of New Testament times, this kind of writing was not unusual. If you wanted to have a best seller in those times, you would probably write in this style. It was
popular and instructive. It talked about revealing secrets about the heavens and the future.
The most common opinion today is that this kind of literature was written to console
people in times of oppression or persecution. That may be too easy an explanation but it was one of the factors. Its purpose was also to encourage people to think in a certain way.
It proposed a certain pattern of living consistent with that thinking.
The author describes himself as a servant of God, a brother of those to whom he is writing, and one who is a co‑sufferer. Some traditions ascribed the authorship to John the Apostle, but today most scholars think that the person was an anonymous prophet by the name of John about whom we know little.
It probably was written sometime after the year 70 A.D. and the destruction of the temple. It probably comes from the last decade of the first century, during the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian in a time of persecution.
The passage we hear today is part of the introduction. It sets the scene for what is to follow. It is part of a unit which gives an account of a visionary experience.
Our first verses give us the setting. It is a time of physical and mental suffering. It is a time of crisis. The scene relates to the crisis of the end-time and the coming of the kingdom described in Daniel and the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24.
Patience and perseverance are stressed.
The following selected verses describe Christ as the light that penetrates the darkness. Using the term developed by Daniel and used in the Gospel, Jesus is called the Son of Man. In a verse omitted He has a two‑edged sword coming out of his mouth. This sword, used in other scripture passages, is the word of God which has a power to touch people's lives. The references in the final verses strengthen the notion that this is Jesus who is now the Risen Lord.
This passage helps us appreciate the meaning of the resurrection and the presence of the Risen Lord today.
(The late Fr. Ver Bust directed the master's program in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)