Andrew Bierce, an American satirist and journalist who died in 1914, once wrote that the Book of Revelation was “a famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.” That’s not quite the case, however, but many people see the Book of Revelation as one of the most misunderstood books of The Bible.
Beginning last Sunday and continuing until the end of May, the second reading for this cycle of the Sunday Lectionary has us hearing from the Book of Revelation. The first thing to know about this work is that it is “apocryphal,” simply meaning that its authorship is unknown. Advancements in scripture scholarship over time have led scholars to posit that, if not written by Saint John himself, Revelation, at least, comes from late first century churches that were influenced by John’s other New Testament writings.
Don’t fall into the trap put out there by many non-Catholic, Christian denominations that teach Revelation predicts the end of the world. (It doesn’t!) Nor does it establish “the Rapture” and who will be protected from it. (Again, it doesn’t!) And, it is spurious to make a claim that the “whore of Babylon” is the Catholic Church. (The object of the author’s pen here is the Roman Empire of his day.) However, Revelation is a work that was written to help Christians being persecuted in the Roman Empire of the first century remain faithful in the midst of all the challenges swirling around them.
Thus, it makes for good reading (and reflection!) for us in our own day. Our faith is being constantly challenged in the political and economic spheres; a more secular world would like the tenets of our faith to go away. Revelation can be for us now a divine reminder to “stay the course.”