Finally in the season of Easter we arrive at the end of the story with the final two chapters of the book of Revelation being the centrepiece of the liturgy this week and next (the second reading is in the middle/centre of the liturgy of the word). The vision that St John receives in Revelation 21 is absolutely stunning with the transformation of the existing order of things – in the Jewish worldview all of heaven and earth come together in the city of Jerusalem. The previous 15 chapters have dealt with the necessary cleansing of the world (chapters 6 – 20), so now we can say that with the birth of the new heaven and the new earth the old order of creation has passed away – including the waters of chaos (Gen 1:2). In this beautifully described celebration of this ultimate wedding feast, John sees a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth.
Recorded at St Mary’s, Leppington (6’11”)
Sunday Easter 5C: Rev 21:1-5; John 13:31-35
After these things I looked, and behold, a great crowd that no one was able to number, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes and with palm branches in their hands. Rev 7:9 [LEB]
Two weeks ago I mentioned that our companions during the season of Easter this year are the Book of Acts, Revelation and the Gospel of John. Although Revelation can at times be a very confusing book, this week provides a powerful interlude in the narrative of the book. After setting the scene in chapter 1, Revelation 2-3 provides a series of seven letters to seven churches in the region of Asia Minor – representing thereby all churches across all time. Then, in chapter 4 and 5 we have the beginning of the Revelation per se that John received, as he is transported into the throne-room of heaven as it is now. In chapter 6 through 20 there is broadly a description of the great cleansing that has to take place to prepare the world for the final consummation, when heaven comes crashing into earth – described in the final two chapters of the book and the whole bible, 21 and 22.
In chapter 5 we are introduced to the scroll that the one who sits on the throne is holding – written on the front and back. But no one is worthy to open the scroll, except the lion of the tribe of Judah. Then in chapter six we watch as one-by-one the seals are opened by the Lamb and great calamities are released. So, when chapter 7 opens, the early church community would have expected that John would have moved straight onto the end times and the opening of the final seal, since that was so much a part of their own expectations. Yet he doesn’t. Instead there is an interlude when we are told of two ‘visions’ where John first hears then sees this great multitude of all those who have been sealed by the Lord because they are the slaves/servants of the Lord. This is the vision of the church – coming from every nation and tribe and people and tongue – which John understands is the way that God is beginning to clean up the world and prepare all creation for the final revelation of God’s glory.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (8’45”)
The final chapter in the Gospel of John is simply fascinating – on so many levels. The fact that the beloved disciple, the author of this gospel, whom tradition has always named as John, the brother of James and son of Zebedee, clearly finishes the gospel at the end of chapter 20 is curious in itself. This section of material has enough in common with the rest of the gospel in terms of style, language, theme and construction that it has always been identified with the same author. There is such richness here that it is difficult to choose what to say of this passage when there is so much that is deep and beautiful about it.
From the despondency of the disciples, the interplay of light and darkness, the recurrence of the charcoal fire, the nakedness of the apostle Peter, the reconciliation and restoration of “Simon, son of John” to once again be Peter the apostle, this gospel offers rich food for thought and reflection for our church.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 6pm Vigil. (12’10”)
Sunday 3C Easter. John 21:1-19
I love going to the movies. There is something great about being in a dark theatre, waiting for the curtain to open and the movie to ‘roll’ so that you can be transported into another world. One of the most memorable experiences of this is almost twenty years ago, during my first trip overseas. It was in Paris, and it was a freezing cold Christmas Day (even the fountains were all frozen mid-stream); after midnight Mass at the parish of Sainte-Trinité and then sharing in the orphans’ lunch a group of us headed to the movies to see the newly released Le Roi Lion. It was a beautiful old multi-tier theatre dating to the time of Napolean with elegant fittings and fairy-lights in the ceiling. As the lights dimmed, we were expecting the kind of pre-show mix of ads and previews, but here we were treated to a light, music and water-fountain extravaganza that set the scene for the transformation that continued when the curtains finally opened.
During this season of Easter, the second reading for the first 6 weeks is taken from the Book of Revelation, the final book in our scripture. It can be a very confusing and misunderstood book, and yet as the opening passage ‘reveals’, John the Divine is wanting to share this most extraordinary experience that he has had while in exile on the Island of Patmos. On the Lord’s day – perhaps immediately after celebrating Mass? – he is caught up in a vision that is often impressionistic and dream-like and at other times quite surrealist. But what John has received is not meant only for himself, which is why he prepares this letter written initially to the seven churches of modern western Turkey but meant for all Christians. He is a seer – one who has seen the inner reality of heaven, and like the great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, feels compelled to share his insights with the whole church.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (9’30”)
Easter, Sunday 2C – Sunday of Divine Mercy