Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5
For the next several weeks we will have readings from this strange and unique book called Revelation, or in Greek, Apocalypse. It abounds in unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism. Its author is a persecuted Christian leader by the name of John, exiled to the rocky island of Patmos. His claim is that he is a servant of the Lord. Today most scholars because of vocabulary, grammar, and style do not think he was the writer of the Gospel of John. The best opinion is that the book was composed about 95 AD during the reign of the Emperor Domitian who enforced the requirement that everyone in the Roman Empire annually offer incense to his statue to recognize his divinity. Faithful Christian refused and suffered the consequences.
The book was written to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia and the author expected it to be read aloud, listened to, and heeded. Gatherings for Eucharist always began with readings. The writer immediately engages his hearers with an individual letter to each community. He begins with Ephesus. This city was the New York of its day: a busy port, the gateway to the interior, cosmopolitan and the largest most prosperous city of the province. Its Christian community was founded by Apostle Paul, who spent more time there than in any other community.
We see how well Paul had planted the seed. The community has endured suffering for the name of Jesus and had not grown weary. They kept the faith by rejecting false apostles. We might think that everything is fine, but they are told "you have lost the love you first had. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent. "
I wonder what their reaction was when they heard this accusation. Can the Lord say this to me as well? Can the Lord say it to you? How easy it is for the routine and obligations of life wear down the enthusiasm with which we first embraced the Lord. Ask any married couple the same question about their marriage. Are we blind to the true state of our relationship with others and so with the Lord? Outwardly we might be doing all the right things, but where is our heart? Like the blind man in our gospel reading let us cry out "Lord, please let me see."
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.