Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Revelation 20:1-4.11-21.2; Psalm 84; Luke 21:29-33)
Apocalypse is the Greek word for revelation. For this reason the last book of the Bible, from which we take the first reading today, is alternatively called the Apocalypse or the Book of Revelation. Apocalyptic literature, however, of which the Apocalypse is the only full New Testament example, has a meaning beyond revelatory. It also refers to the cosmic struggle between God and the powers of darkness causing the end of the world as it now exists and its replacement by the Kingdom of God. Today’s first reading gives a figurative account of that struggle and the coming Kingdom characterized by “a new heaven” and “a new earth.”
Since all acknowledge the destiny of the present world to be annihilation, some have questioned the value of working for a better world. “Why take risks to create a better society” they ask, “when we know that this world is bound to crumble?” The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council addresses this issue. It declares, “…the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one.” Its reasoning is that we can institute values and constructs that will endure in the future age of grace. For sure, it warns us not to equate earthly progress with the heavenly Kingdom, but nevertheless it insists that since Christ began the work of the Kingdom when he walked the earth, his followers have the responsibility of carrying on his efforts. In other words, we must do what we can to build up the Kingdom of God while recognizing that our work can never be perfect or complete. In time, Jesus will come again to crown our achievements.