During Year C of the lectionary cycle, our second reading is taken exclusively from the Book of Revelation during Easter. Our lectionary does not share much about this book but we do have readings from it every other year at daily mass in the last two weeks of Ordinary Time. Before I studied this book, I admit it was intimidating to me.It can be complicated and hard to understand. How do we approach this book as Catholics? How do we make sense of all of the visions in the Book of Revelation? I will do my best to describe this in this short bulletin article.
You may have heard about protestants who use the Book of Revelation as a guide to predicting the end of the world. We seem to hear from our protestant brothers and sisters comments such as “according to Revelation the world will end on this date in this year.” One of those instances happened a few Septembers ago. Some claimed that the way the stars aligned pointed to Revelation 12. Of course we know that these events didn’t come to pass. As Catholics we should approach Revelation as God’s word, but not as a blow for blow account of the way the world will end. Instead, it reveals the beauty of heaven and the life that is to come for us.
The Book of Revelation was a prophecy, and it did predict some events that happened. In 70 AD. The Roman Empire invaded the Holy Land, and the result of this event was the destruction of the temple just as Jesus predicted. Revelation, in a symbolic way, spoke about the coming destruction. Even though Revelation was fulfilled by the destruction of the temple that is only a foreshadowing of what is to come when Jesus comes again. Revelation doesn’t act as a guide to what the end of the world will look like or when it will happen. Remember, Jesus said, “No one knows the time nor the hour.” That includes John, who wrote the book of Revelation.
If you have a chance, read through the whole Book of Revelation and listen to these readings at Mass. Look for elements that sound familiar and resemble the Mass. For example, the Holy Holy Holy we sing at Mass is strikingly similar to the Book of Revelation. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.” When reading the Book of Revelation, you may see these other elements and words that are heard in the mass: Lamb of God, incense, prayers of the saints, and the word alleluia.
The Book of Revelation can be more understandable when using a resource such as Formed. It has an excellent resource on Revelation that I highly recommend. It is an audio lecture entitled Unlocking the Book of Revelation, given by Dr. Michael Barber. This is a 73-minute lecture that can help you better understand this complex book. I would also recommend The Lamb’s Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn which is also available on Formed.