In the reading from Revelation, the olive trees and lamp stands were taken up to heaven after three and a half days. We are left on earth to be the new olive trees and lamp stands. However, we are not olive trees and lampstands. We do not spew fire from our mouths except when we eat too many jalapenos too fast.
We have to become lights in the darkness that currently exists. We have to rejoice in the love of our God and spread that love in whatever our Lord wishes for us.
Image by guentherlig
By Lou Occhi
Like most writings in the Bible, there are layers of meaning in almost every phrase. Including the book of Revelation. The difficulty with Revelation is its confusing symbolism and mix of Old Testament references, conditions at the time the book was written, and prophesies of the future. Often it is difficult to understand if the writing is speaking of the past, the present, the future, or some combination of all three.
Today’s first reading comes from the middle of chapter 11 of Revelation. To summarize, there are five characters. There is the Lord, two olive trees, two lampstands, the people of the world, and finally, the beast that comes up from the abyss.
The Lord does not need much explanation. He is the Lord. The image of the two olive trees draws from Zechariah 4. Zechariah saw two olive trees that stood for the two leaders of Israel who helped rebuild the nation after the Babylonian exile. They were the royal governor Zerubabbel and the high priest Joshua. The lampstands are a bit more confusing. They represent the light shining forth from the prophets.
The olive trees and the lampstand spew fire from their mouths and kill whoever attempts to hurt them. They also have the power to close up the skies so that no rain will fall during the time of their prophesizing. In addition, they have the power to turn water into blood and afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish. Many take this as an allusion to Moses and Elijah.
When their time for prophesizing is over, the beast comes out of the abyss and kills them. Their bodies lay in the main street of the great city for three and a half days. The people will not allow their bodies to be buried; they boast over them because these prophets have tormented them. The great city is assumed to be Jerusalem. The street names of Sodom and Egypt represent moral depravity and oppressive slavery, respectively.
After three and a half days had passed, the breath of life entered the bodies, and they stood on their feet. A great fear fell over the people. A loud voice from heaven said to them, “Come up here.” Then they ascended into heaven on a cloud.
Looking at this in my rearview mirror, I could imagine the olive trees representing the garden of Gethsemane and the beginning of the passion of Christ. I can also imagine the lampstands representing the resurrection. After all, the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the pillars of our faith.
Over the past two thousand years, there have been numerous attempts to destroy the concept that God would humble Himself to live, suffer and die for us and resurrect from the dead. The Romans tried to kill off numerous Christians in public. The intent was to make their death so gruesome that people would fear becoming Christian. Christians went underground and continued to practice the faith and grow in numbers. Napoleon tried taking over the church and destroying many historical letters and books. Again, Christianity continued to grow. The communists took over Russia and, in accordance with the Marxist ideals, attempted to destroy Christianity. Stalin slaughtered millions of people, turned churches into museums, and placed spies within the believers so they could be found out, tortured, and/or murdered. Like the Russians, the Chinese have been doing the same thing. Despite all that, many continued to practice their faith.
Now, to the present. We see many people still practicing their faith. Unfortunately, many have given up on their beliefs and have become Agnostic or Atheist. Even more frightening, some are becoming Satanists. What causes this, and how long has it been going on? Perhaps it has crept in over the past century with the advent of world wars, the Nazis, and most of all, communism. At Fatima, our Blessed Mother told us that Russia would spread her errors worldwide. Shortly after that, the Russian communist revolution took place. She was correct.
Then, around the mid-20th century, many events seemed to accelerate the loss of faith. During the Vietnam War, many soldiers were severely injured and killed. Of those returning, many were addicted to drugs and were infected with various STDs. There were also many returning with PTSD (posttraumatic syndrome). All of these conditions went largely untreated. I was in Vietnam and witnessed those suffering from all these conditions.
Concurrent with the war was the sexual revolution. With it came a free-sex ideology. Dr. Ruth and the Kinsey Research Institute promoted this ideology through television and books.
Looking back at the original reading, I wonder what caused the death of the olive trees and lampstand. In our time, it would be indifference. Speaking for myself, it has been like slowly losing my hearing. It has been so slow that I did not realize it was happening. In the case of my hearing, I had to take action. Now I wear hearing aids turned up so loud my granddaughters can hear them from two feet away.
In the reading from Revelation, the olive trees and lamp stands were taken up to heaven after three and a half days. We are left on earth to be the new olive trees and lamp stands. However, we are not olive trees and lampstands. We do not spew fire from our mouths except when we eat too many jalapenos too fast. We have to become lights in the darkness that currently exists. We have to rejoice in the love of our God and spread that love in whatever our Lord wishes for us.
When I was in engineering, about a half dozen of us would get together at night and work out problems to prepare for our tests. I learned more in our study sessions than I did in class. When we meet on Wednesday morning, my faith continues to be strengthened. Through it, I am encouraged to read the Bible. When I go to Mass, I listen more attentively to continue to learn about my faith and share it with you and all I meet.
I know that some of what I have covered is gloomy. It doesn’t have to be. We must remember that God is with us 24 hours a day and provides more graces than we need to do His work for Him.
Last week’s reading ended with Jesus saying, “But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth.” This morning we sang, ‘We are the light of the world, may our light shine before all, that they may see the good that we do and give glory to God.
We are the light of the world. Our job is to keep spreading that light so that Jesus will find that faith in us and those we have influenced. Remember, our Blessed Mother told us that Russia would spread her errors worldwide, and she was right. She finished by saying that Russia would be converted and be a jewel in her crown in the end. She was right at the beginning of the 20th century and will be right in the end.