Homily on Rev. Chapter 22

The Revelation to St. John the Divine. Often seen as the scariest book of the Bible. It describes the end of the world as we know it. It talks of monsters and hellfire and plagues and judgement. Men cower at its words. Whole cults have hinged their lives, and their deaths, around it. People have killed for it. People have taken their own lives in anticipation of it. But should we be so nervous about its words? Should we be so fearful of God’s wrath on a regular basis? Or should we strangely find comfort in the words given here? Is it all fire and brimstone? Or is that just a warning for the non-believer and the evildoer? I think this is the case and the reasoning that we really should embrace.

Through all of the “scary” and dark discussion in the Book of Revelation, there is a welcoming and merciful side as well. Look at the 22nd chapter, the 17th verse:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.[1]

In this verse we are being invited, welcomed, into the New Heaven and Earth. We are invited and brought into it by our baptism. The “Spirit and the Bride”, the Holy Spirit and the Church, the “bride of Christ”, are our entry into it. We are offered to take the “water of life”, the waters of our Baptism as a gift, as our entrance into this world to come. It’s not scary, it’s a gift, an open invitation to live in glory with the Almighty.

The beginning of this chapter in Revelation shows the love of God and his offer of salvation being made to the whole of creation, no longer just to the Jews. We see this in the imagery of the Tree of Life and how it grows on BOTH sides of the River. The Tree represents our offer of salvation, and the River represents the waters of our baptism. Because the tree is seen now on both sides of the river, we understand that to mean that salvation is available to all people through baptism. And the “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”[2] means that the healing of man (to put us right with God) is available to ALL nations. This is God welcoming us into his kingdom. This is God’s offer to mankind. A gift, freely given to all who accept it.

It seems as though everyone fears the end of the world. You see it on TV with Armageddon-styled movies. The Mayans said it would end in 2012. Guess what? It didn’t. We survived. But what’s the fuss all about? We aren’t supposed to “fear God”, as in a God who hates and smites us. We are supposed to “fear God” with an awe and wonder of his power and his creations. Like Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”[3] This isn’t meant to be read as “fear” of the “Lord” in separate words, but as “fear of the Lord” in one phrase. In the orginal Hebrew text there is a major difference in “yir’ah” יִרְאָה (fear) and “yirat Elohim” יִרְאָה יְ֭הוָה (the fear of the Lord). The first is true fear. The Second is awe in the power of God. We don’t fear our God, we marvel in Him. He loves us and offers great mercies to us. Mercies and graces that allow for us, invite us even, to join Him for eternity.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There will be people, I’m sure, that have and will reject God and will not join us in heaven. I, myself, can’t fathom the thought. But, alas there are those who will do so. God does not deny this. He shows it to us in the same chapter. He allows for it in our free will: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”[4]

But we, as children of God, adopted in Baptism by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, have nothing to fear. We should instead rejoice in the coming of the kingdom and look forward to the day of resurrection.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus![5]

[1] Revelation 22:17. New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition

[2] Revelation 22:2b.New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition

[3] Proverbs 9:10. New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.

[4] Revelation 22: 11. New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition

[5] Revelation 22: 20b. New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.