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(Part 12)


November 1, 2012

Today’s readings:
Revelation 7:2-14
Psalm 24:1-6
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

We are living in the end times. It is a “time of great distress” (Rev 7:14b). It is a time for the New Evangelization.

When the cultures of death and life clash, when the barbarians at the gates assault the kingdom of God on earth, then there will be great suffering due to persecution. But this is just the prelude to the ultimate salvation of Jesus’ second coming.

Why will the world persecute God’s people? Well, in the same way, the world persecuted Jesus himself. “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 Jn 3:1c). So our task today is to get the world to know Jesus. This is the work of evangelization. But because the world will not understand that we only want what is best for people by introducing them to Christ, and because their sinful lifestyles will be threatened, then the world will react by persecuting us. But this is a sure sign that we are on the right track.

When God’s people do an effective work of evangelization, then we can look to “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9). White robes and palm branches are symbols of joy and victory. White is a sign of victory and joy as well as resurrection.

The question is: will we be among them? “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” (Rev 7:13b). The answer: “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.” (Rev 7:14b).

Now this is interesting. The robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. They should be red (blood) but they are white. They should be soiled but they are clean. There should be grief but instead there is joy. The way of Jesus is the way of the cross. The way of victory is the way of seeming defeat. There is intense darkness prior to the blinding light.

This is the great paradox of the faith. We suffer yet but a little, but look to being blessed. The poor in spirit will possess the kingdom of heaven, those who mourn will be comforted, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied (Mt 5:3,4,6). It is when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness that we will possess the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:10).

What is the way of righteousness that we pursue, so that we will possess heaven? It is our own personal holiness, and it is the work of evangelization, by which we help bring the righteousness of God into the world.

First, our personal righteousness. We are “the children of God” (1 Jn 3:1a) and “we shall be like (God)” (1 Jn 3:2b). Thus, “everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” (1 Jn 3:3). We need to live pure. How? How can we indeed possess heaven? “Who may go up the mountain of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place?” (Ps 24:3). It is those who live pure. They are “the clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely.” (Ps 24:4). Our holiness is our badge of entry into heaven. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” (Mt 5:8).

Second, it is not just about who we are but also about what we do. We do not only look to our personal holiness, but also to those of others. We do not only want to make it to heaven ourselves, but to bring along a great multitude of people. Thus we need to evangelize, and do so massively and with great passion and commitment.

When we do so, the enemy and the world under him will react viciously. We will suffer. Our robes will be washed in the blood of the Lamb. But this is the only way of salvation. And so if we are privileged to suffer for the sake of righteousness, then we are truly blessed and we ought to rejoice. Jesus himself assures us: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:11-12a).

This time of great distress is a time of great joy. This time of persecution is a time of great blessing. We are fortunate to be living in such a time. We are fortunate to have the privilege of doing the very work of God, of bringing salvation into the world, as we evangelize.

We need to persist and to persevere. We look to being among “the ones who have survived the time of great distress” (Rev 7:14b). Then we will stand around the throne of God with the angels and saints, as we prostrate ourselves before the throne and worship God (Rev 7:11).

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