Our second reading this week from the book of the Apocalypse is intriguing to say the least and it is so full of hope for us. Some of our Christian brethren get caught up in the text prior to this about the 144,000 before the heavenly throne. These blessed ones are God’s choice and we are not too sure who they are, indeed some bibles conveniently cut out these verses about the countless multitude of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. So we have to be careful with the Book of the Apocalypse. It is open to interpretation like no other New Testament writing and we have to be careful not to read scripture with an exclusivist bent.
For me what is important here is the inclusivity of the text. All peoples are part of the countless multitude. Is this the promise to Abraham and his descendants fulfilled? This is also in line with another text where Jesus tells the disciples that he has sheep of other flocks that he calls and who listen to his voice and he must tend to them too. So from this, I have a wonderful belief in the inclusiveness of God’s love and mercy and friendship. Our faithful following in the Catholic Church tradition is how we wish to follow him righteously, but we must never be judgmental of our other Christian and Non-Christian brothers and sisters; they may well be listening to the call of God faithfully in another tradition in which he is speaking. The Second Vatican Council talks of “the seeds of the truth” in other traditions and Peter Berger talks of the “Rumor of angels” in other faiths.
It is the bane of all religions to fall into this exclusivist trap; “I’ve got God right and you haven’t” or “God’s on my side not yours”. Such approaches are to put human limits on the merciful omnipotence of our loving God, or to vainly conspire to control God’s omniscience. God is for all and our response to him needs to be faithful to our tradition and at the same time respectful of the calling others receive. As the Dalai Lama once said so simply, “What the world needs are good Catholics, good Protestants, good Hindus good Jews, good Muslims good Buddhists…” Note the one word that repeats; the difference between good and God is just a letter “o”!
God bless you, your families, and the week ahead.
Fr. Aidan Peter, CJ