Revelations 11:4 – 12
Luke 20:27 – 40
How often have we heard or even participated in conversations which include something of the following: "I try not to watch the news anymore. I don’t get the newspaper anymore. I avoid people who spend all their time telling me all about what is wrong with the world, with life, with religion, with people. Everywhere we look and everything we hear tells us about the evil around us and how completely messed up the world and life is." At first blush, it can be difficult to argue with that thought but the question should arise, "Who said it would be any different than this? Who said there would be such an emergence of good that evil would be eliminated from our world?"
The Book of Revelation certainly did not promise a world without evil. As a matter of fact, today’s reading makes it clear evil will continue to exist alongside the good in our world. This part of the Book of Revelation is very difficult to grab hold of. The two witnesses are Elijah who caused a great drought and Moses who turned the Nile River water into blood. These two represent the Church who preaches the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets or in New Testament terms – the Gospel. The Church will continue to be persecuted throughout history. Evil will win battles from time to time but the Gospel, the Risen Lord, is ultimately triumphant leading to fullness of life in the Resurrection as described in today’s gospel.
For us, it means we who are dedicated to doing good will have to contend with evil all along the journey of life. In the name of the Lord Jesus, we choose to expand goodness, displace and conquer evil by our love and goodness, and so help to build the kingdom in this world on the way to its fullness in the next. It is this continuing battle against evil in the world that inspired some of our traditional ideas attached to our reception of the sacraments of initiation. We are anointed with the oil of salvation, sacred chrism, during holy baptism. The anointing with chrism during Confirmation harkens back to our baptismal anointing reminding us of the ancient practice of anointing athletes for the contest ahead. They prepared to do battle by anointing themselves with oil before entering the fray. Just so, we considered ourselves "soldiers of Christ" once anointed in Confirmation, ready to enter the fray. All of us share this mission of the Gospel in the world – to do battle against evil and so advance goodness all around us. This battle need not be momentous enterprises. Much more important are the regular, small, day by day choices we make for goodness, for expressing love and compassion, for living a life of caring for family, friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners. We have been anointed for the continuing battle. Are we ready to choose goodness each and every day?
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province and also serves on the Provincial Council of Holy Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.