Homilette for Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 5:1-10; Psalm 149; Luke 19:41-44)

At the Battle of the Alamo the garrison of Texan revolutionaries fought until death against the Mexican army. The soldiers did not intend, however, to sacrifice their lives when they began the fight but were counting on reinforcements to save them. Their commander, Colonel William Travis, had sent out a plea for help. If they could only hold out a little longer, the garrison must have thought, everything would be all right. The Book of Revelation was written in a similar frame of mind. Because Christians at the end of the first century were being persecuted, the author penned a story encouraging them to hold on until help arrives. The passage today shows the beginning of that relief effort.

To understand the Book of Revelation we must be aware that it is highly allegorical. It is written in code, as it were, with words and phrases having multiple meanings. Its first readers understood these meanings, but for the most part we must rely on experts to interpret them. For example, today’s passage speaks of “a scroll in the right hand of the one who sat upon the throne” to indicate that the world’s destiny is known by God alone and someone worthy must not only reveal that destiny to humans but also make it happen. The text names the Lamb as the indicated revealer and catalyst. Christians today as well as at the time of Revelation’s writing recognize the Lamb as Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Knowing that Jesus is fighting on their side encouraged early Christians to contend with external persecution. It should move us today to resist the internal temptations of pride, greed, and lust. Some may not like to portray life as a battleground where humans are pitted against their passions, but it is a fitting image to describe the challenges we face daily. The author of the Book of Revelation would assure us that God sees our struggles to live righteously and has commissioned Christ to come to our aid.