No nation has outlived the death of their God. Go back and look at world history. No nation has outlived the death of their God.
On Tuesday our nation will vote for the next President and Congress. This season has been a difficult test for many of our citizens. The pandemic, the quarantines, public chaos and mayhem, etc. Many things that are important to Catholics, and to many Christians are about to be decided for some time to come. We pray to our God that He will preserve our nation and our values. We pray that we will emerge still “One Nation Under God” as our national motto says, because … no nation has outlived the death of their God.
The book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible is little understood outside the Church. Protestants cannot understand the Book of Revelations, and try to reduce it to simply obscure prophecy. Jehovah’s witnesses attempted to say that only 144,000 people would go to heaven, misunderstanding the passage that we just heard,
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.
But many Protestants prefer to believe in “pre-destination”, that only a few will be saved, and that probably doesn’t include you, or Catholics in general. Catholics do not believe in pre-destination, but that, through Baptism all are called to eternal life with God. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life in him”. The Sacramental Life is the Church’s promise and remedy for eternal life.
Catholic biblical tradition from the beginning has understood that Jewish writers often used numbers in a poetic fashion. Twelve was the number for governance of the both Israel and the Church: Twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles, etc. The number 1,000 meant a really big number. Twelve times twelve times a thousand. Marked with the sign of Baptism, within the Church founded by Jesus Christ. Many will be saved.
The Book of Revelation can only be understood in the context of the Holy Mass. The Apostle John became the bishop of Ephesus in Western Turkey. Early Church fathers witness to him being there, where he took the Virgen Mother of God, Mary to escape persecution and war in Jerusalem. St. John had been arrested in Ephesus and sent to the prison Island of Patmos near Ephesus. John was saying Mass as these revelations came to him.
I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day …. He was saying Mass.
St. John, Bishop of Ephesus, was arrested for giving testimony to Jesus. There were seven Churches surrounding Ephesus which had John as their “Bishop”. John addresses them as the churches in Asia, his churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. Roman and Jewish persecution had reached all over the empire, even to the churches in Asia. John, at Mass in the penal colony of Patmos was preaching to his churches, as their bishop. He was preaching to strengthen their faith in God, in Jesus Christ and in their eternal salvation. He was preaching to them to stay true to the virtues taught by their faith, calling them out for their spiritual weaknesses. He offered them the vision of Heaven that the risen Jesus gave his apostle John.
In his vision, John asks one of the elders in heaven who were all these people, 144,000, dressed in white standing around God with the angels. The elder told John,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”
They were the Baptized, those who had received the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and had endured the persecution, remaining faithful to their Lord and Savior.
We know from history that pagan Rome, along with its false gods, and the entire Roman empire fell.
No nation has outlived the death of their gods.
Through the witness and blood of Christians, armed with the Word of God, the Church emerged and spread throughout the world, bringing faith and light that shown in the darkness, overcoming sin and death, superstition and pagan practices.
The Church has recognized some of our brothers and sisters in the faith who witnessed to their faith, often shedding their blood. We call them Saints.
In the last 2,000 years the Church has recognized some 10,000 Saints. They have received the promise Jesus gave them, Eternal Life. They are the ones John foresaw singing around the throne of God,
“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”
The Saints are in heaven. The Saints are the “pathfinders” who show us the way, with their sacrifices and perseverance.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus proclaiming the “Beatitudes” in his Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, he is identifying the traits of Saints, the “peacemakers”, the “meek”, the merciful”, and those who “are persecuted” for their faith. “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” He is promising salvation to those who live the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes are the opposite of the traits taught by the world. The Church teaches modesty and cleanliness of heart, the world gives us exaggerated sexuality, and fornication as the world’s idea of “beauty”. The Church teaches respect for life. The world calls us to tolerate abortion and euthanasia. The Church teaches virtuous order. The world gives us chaos, destruction and mayhem and excuses it as being “righteous”.
The Church teaches us to care for one another. The legacy of the Church can be seen easily if you are a student of history. The Church has given us ways to care for one another in big ways. The Church has given to the world the first orphanages, hospitals, nursing homes, and public schools, our Catholic schools. All of the things have been adopted by secular society, but they were initiated within the Catholic Church, by our Saints, like St. Vincent de Paul, St. Elizabeth Seton, St. John Neumann, St. John Bosco, St. Martin, and thousands of others.
We are called to continue caring for others. Today, the Diocese of Austin invites you to join them. Today we invite you to pray and plan the way you will participate in supporting the work of our Diocese of Austin. We are the Church today, in 2020 in Central Texas. We support Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, priestly formation in seminaries, deacon formation, evangelization and the formation of teachers, and pro-life/pro-family ministries to confront the world’s challenges of chaos today.
St. John, as Bishop of Ephesus and the surrounding areas, was concerned about the spiritual health of his flock in the Book of Revelation. Bishop Joe Vasquez is concerned about the flock God has entrusted to him. Next week we will make our pledges for the Catholic Services Appeal, or “CSA”. Let’s watch a short video which may help you understand the importance of this annual pledge.