Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Best We Can Give
Visionary language speaks in capital letters. Visionary is the language of much of scripture. The second reading every third year during the Easter season teems with visionary language. In the 22 brief chapters of the Book of Revelation, the verb I saw appears more than 50 times. The Book of Revelation is one disciple's vision of heaven while in the world.
What did that disciple see? To see heaven while rooted in the world is to grow aware that godly things and people coexist with people and things opposing God. That is how it has always been, which is why preaching and hearing the gospel is important--more than that, truly life-giving!
The coexistence of the godly with what seduces us away from God is usually subtle. We humans get dulled to how different they are. We even get good at mixing the two together, like oil and water in a salad dressing. We stop shaking the dressing bottle, and what happens? the oil and vinegar quickly separate. The visionary language of the Book of Revelation stops us to notice God's action in the world.
Yet, most of the Book of Revelation strikes us as either fantastic:
The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God.Or, it offends us as lurid:
Its radiance was like that of a precious stone.
like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a massive, high wall, ...The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.
I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names, with seven heads and ten horns.While purple and scarlet and...gold, precious stones, and pearls may blind many to her ungodly identity, the visionary saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.
The woman was wearing purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held in her hand a gold cup that was filled with the abominable and sordid deeds of her harlotry. ...
I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. (Revelation 17. 3-4, 6)
The Book of Revelation and its stark contrasts; its dreamlike, heavy layering of meaning; its repeated emphasis that God is in control of history: all are Easter language. The texture of death to life is not alien to the last book of the bible.
Motivational speakers make good use of images and contrasts. They also awaken us to what we can offer, which many await. Good mission statements crystallize imagery into words which motivate and energize. A fine example of an energizing mission statement is the one Coca Cola wrote some years ago: “Beat Pepsi!”
Robert Kennedy inspired people beyond corporations and wooed them beyond themselves: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
Jesus, on the eve of his death, encouraged his disciples to see beyond what the mortal eye can glimpse. “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our dwelling with them.” Jesus and his Father dwell with us by their Holy Spirit. To unbelievers and even some believers that is fantastic or a cruel joke. Easter invites us to see that divine love and indwelling are most real. Divine love and indwelling, which raised Jesus from death, empower us to live in this world and to side with God at work in everything.
In your daily 15 minutes with our Risen Lord this week fall into the Triune Love who creates you. Ask Mary to present you to her son so you may ask him to give you new sight and new energy to change the world with him. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer, our best guide for changing the world beginning by knowing better our needs and how much Jesus trusts and counts on us to forgive. Forgiveness is the best vision we give our world.
Wiki-image of Christ of the Apocalypse and Wiki-image of the Whore of Babylon are in the public domain.