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November 3, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. I have been trying to read the Book of Revelation, but find it to be too confusing and too difficult to understand. Do you have any suggestions about how to proceed? — L.M., via e-mail.
A. It would be helpful to study the footnotes in the book, say, in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible version of Revelation. You might also get a copy of Peter S. Williamson’s book, Revelation, which provides an excellent commentary. And you will find useful Fr. Alfred McBride’s book, The Second Coming of Jesus. This is a much shorter commentary than the one by Dr. Williamson, but it offers some clarity about some of the puzzling passages in the last book of the Bible. Based on our consultation of these sources in leading a parish Bible study, we would offer the following comments:
Revelation is a book of Christian prophecy whose authorship is traditionally assigned to John the Apostle, who wrote down his visions while in exile on the Aegean island of Patmos near the end of the first century. Similar to the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel — 278 of the 404 verses in Revelation allude to something in the Old Testament — the book employs visions, heavenly journeys, and exceptional symbolism and imagery to call people to repentance and conversion, to explain the meaning of human events (what Jesus called the “signs of the times”) in the first century, and to predict the future actions of God at the end of history, although not with a specific timeline.
The book contains letters written to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. Although there were many other Christian churches in existence at that time, John probably singled out these seven because they were connected by the same road and were easily reached. He may have preached and celebrated the Eucharist at these churches, so he would have been familiar with them. The letters he sent out were on a written scroll and probably were communicated to the people orally, perhaps at a liturgical assembly.
Revelation alternates between terrifying visions of judgments on Earth and consoling visions of God’s throne in Heaven. The central theme of the book is that God is on His throne and is in control of events on Earth. He is accompanied by powerful angels and faithful saints and martyrs, and we see that the Lamb (Jesus) has conquered evil and the outcome of history is certain, although there will be many trials and tribulations before the end. The book progresses from John’s first vision of Christ, to his vision of the heavenly throne room, to severe chastisements of the world and trials for the Church, to the return of Christ, and to the full arrival of God’s Kingdom at the end of time.
Why the bizarre symbolism and extravagant imagery? Perhaps because this approach could give deeper meaning to persons and events than could be gotten from plain language. It certainly makes the book much more interesting and challenging than if it were written in ordinary prose. Once you understand the meaning of the symbols and images, the book is no longer confusing or frightening. Numbers are significant: seven normally means completeness or fullness of authority (seven horns) or fullness of knowledge (seven eyes). Since six is less than seven, it is less than perfect and 666, the mark of the beast, is the ultimate in imperfection.
Four represents the world (the four winds or the four points of the compass), twelve refers to the People of God, whether the 12 tribes of Israel or the 12 apostles or the 24 elders (12 plus 12) around the throne, and a thousand and multiples of a thousand indicate a very large number rather than a precise quantity. Colors are significant, too, with white symbolizing holiness (the elders in Heaven) or infinite wisdom (the One with white hair on the throne) and red symbolizing readiness to shed blood (the second horseman of the Apocalypse or the dragon who is Satan).
In the introduction to his commentary on Revelation, Peter Williamson said that the content of the book is about four things: “1) the condition of the churches in Asia; 2) God’s sovereignty and Christ’s lordship over history; 3) the conflict and tribulation before Christ’s return; and 4) a preview in general terms of how God will fulfill His promises, defeat evil, and save his people” (p. 33).
He said that the lessons of Revelation are relevant today when “an international, materialistic, consumerist, sexually immoral culture seduces many away from their Christian faith. While literal idolatry — the worship of pagan gods and their physical images — is less common today than in the first century, spiritual idolatry — manifest in excessive love for and ultimate trust in created things rather than in God, whether wealth, pleasure, science, technology, governments, institutions, celebrities, or leaders — is stronger than ever” (p. 35).
He said that “twenty centuries after Revelation was written, we know that the consummation of all things may or may not be ‘soon’ in the time frame of our world, but a response to the Gospel is nevertheless urgent in the life of every person and society. Revelation reminds us that our ultimate hope is not merely to die and go to Heaven, but rather to see the glorious return of our Lord, the resurrection, and the marriage of heaven and earth when the New Jerusalem descends like a bride. Our destiny as Jesus’ disciples is the wedding feast of the Lamb in an eternal city that defies description, where we will see God face-to-face” (pp. 35-36).

Q. Recently I arranged for Mass to be said for a deceased friend, and I paid a $10 stipend. On the day the Mass was supposed to be said, however, the priest was out of town and the sacristan conducted a Communion service, announcing that the service was being offered for my friend. This was quite different than offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for someone, was it not? Should the priest keep my stipend for a Mass he did not say? — G.P., via e-mail.
A. A Communion service cannot take the place of a memorial Mass for the deceased. The priest who took the $10 offering is obliged in justice to celebrate a Mass for your friend. Since he was unable to do so on the agreed day, he must say Mass for your friend at another time. The laws governing Mass offerings for special intentions can be found in canons 945 to 958 of the Code of Canon Law.

Q. I just finished watching a one-hour YouTube presentation by a woman at a Fatima conference in Chicago. She talked about Pope Francis being friendly with George Soros and his deputies with regard to global warming and population control. She said that the Holy Father, the United Nations, and George Soros are walking hand-in-hand toward socialism. How much credence can one put in this? — J.D., via e-mail.
A. The talk you are referring to was entitled “An Unholy Alliance: the UN, Soros, and the Francis Papacy.” It was delivered in 2016 in Chicago by Elizabeth Yore, an attorney who had spent many years fighting human trafficking. She said that when she went to what was supposed to be a human trafficking conference at the Vatican in 2013, she found a number of “global elitists” — people from the Obama administration, the UN, and various left-wing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — pushing a one-world agenda revolving around climate change and population control.
One of the main speakers was economist Jeffrey Sachs, a close associate of leftist billionaire George Soros and a man who has spoken at Vatican conferences 18 times in recent years. Mrs. Yore noted that Sachs has the ear of Pope Francis and has been praised by the Holy Father.
While we wouldn’t endorse everything in the video, you can put some credence in it since much of what Mrs. Yore pointed out is factual. Her concerns were reaffirmed at a more recent Vatican conference, from February 27 to March 1 of this year, that featured a talk by Paul Ehrlich, the notoriously unreliable climate prognosticator and population-control advocate. Ehrlich has called the Catholic Church “dangerous” for opposing contraception and Pope Francis “dead wrong” for not mentioning population control in his encyclical Laudato Si.
“Why the Vatican should be giving a platform to this secular prophet of doom is beyond me,” said Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute. “There are plenty of credible Catholic scientists around whose fact-based opinions should be highlighted by their Church. What’s next — inviting Raul Castro to speak on human rights?”

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Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love


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Catholic Replies

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Catholic Heroes… St. Lawrence

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