Pope Benedict XVI urged Christians to be a people of hope and trust in the coming of God’s Kingdom in his reflections today on the Apostle John and his Book of Revelation.
The Holy Father has been working his way through the twelve Apostles and considering the significant contributions of each for the Church. After speaking of Peter, Andrew, James the Lesser, and James the Greater, over the past few months, the Pope reflected again today on John the Evangelist – this time considering the title under which he is believed to have written the Book of Revelation.
“The seer of Patmos, identified with the Apostle, is granted a series of visions meant to reassure the Christians of Asia amid the persecutions and trials of the end of the first century,” the Pope said during his catechesis, the third on the beloved Apostle. The previous catecheses focused on the person of John, his Gospel and his letters.
The Pope noted that the Apostle did not mention his name or make a personal reference in his other writings. However, John refers to himself four times in the Book of Revelation, perhaps because he thought he could be easily recognized in his previous writings but not in his last, the Pope said.
“John’s central vision is that of the Lamb once slain, who now stands victoriously before God’s throne, sharing in the Father’s kingship and power,” he said encapsulating the last book of the New Testament.
John’s visions, the Pope said, were meant to encourage these persecuted Christians to remain strong in their faith and not to fall into pagan ways, the Pope explained. These victorious images are John’s way of urging Asian Christians (specifically those of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardi, Philadelphia, and Laodicéa), who were confused by God’s apparent silence to their persecution, to have faith in Jesus and not to be afraid.
But the message is also relevant today, the Pope said, as this confusion is similar to the dismay the Church experiences in the face of hostilities and persecutions currently experience in many parts of the world. “These are sufferings which the Church does not deserve…but they reveal the wickedness of men when they abandon themselves to the suggestion of evil,” the Pope said.
Jesus alone, who is represented by the Lamb in John’s writing, “is able to open the mysterious book closed with seven seals and to reveal, in the light of his own triumph over persecution and death, the ultimate meaning of history in God’s providential plan,” the Pope said.
Only he can reveal the contents of those pages and give meaning to the happenings in this world that often appear absurd, he said.
“The certain unfolding of God’s victory is seen in John’s visions of the Woman who gives birth to a Son destined to rule the nations, the final defeat of the Dragon, and the heavenly Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for the wedding feast,” the Pope continued.
“As his book draws to an end, John invites Christians of every time and place to trust in the victory of the Lamb and to hope for the coming of God’s Kingdom: ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’”
The invitation for the Lord to come has several dimensions, the Pope added. The first, naturally, is Christ’s second coming in glory. However, it is also the Eucharistic prayer. Furthermore, it affirms the belief that Jesus has already come among his people on Earth and remains present among them. It is the call of his people that asks that he stay among them in a definitive way.
As such, the Pope concluded, we pray with the Seer of Patmos and the early Christians, “Come Jesus! Come and transform the earth! Come quickly today and bring peace!”