Bishop of Lake Charles
November 1, 2009
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
“They prostrated themselves before the throne.” Revelation 7:11
All Saints is about heaven. And heaven is about worship. And worship is what the Church is all about. Worship is going out of oneself and offering. Even when Jesus speaks of works of charity, He reminds us that what we did for the least of our brothers and sisters we did for Him (Matthew 25:40). Little wonder that the last book of the Bible would remind us about this worship and the Church that offers that worship to the eternal God and to His Lamb.
Observe the first reading of this Mass for All Saints. It is taken from the Book of Revelation. It describes a heavenly vision. An angel comes from the East, “holding the seal of the living God” (Revelation 7:2). The seal is stamped on the foreheads of the servants of God. There are 144,000 of these servants of God. That is the number of the tribes of Israel, twelve squared. The number is not literal in any way, except to show that everyone in the new Israel that is supposed to be present is there for the worship of the living God. And what is this worship?
There is a throne, and on it is the Lamb (Revelation 7:9). The Lamb is, of course, Christ. Had not St. John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God”? Do we not do the same at Mass? And the congregation is dressed in “white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). Could they be the palm branches of an oasis that we call Baptism? The congregation cries out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10). Do we not say at Mass, “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world”? And there are elders and four living creatures. Could these elders be the apostles? Could the four living creatures be the authors of the Gospels? And what do they say? “Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 7:12). And what do we say at Mass? “Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.” Who is this congregation of worshippers, John asks? The angel answers, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). And Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:56).
In the Book of Revelation we are present at a divine liturgy. There is everything we should be familiar with: an altar-throne, a Lamb, a book being opened, angels, white robes, incense, hymns, genuflections, bows, redeeming blood — all the components of worship and our Eucharist, that we call the Mass. Some will say the Book of Revelation is best seen as a book of mysterious foreboding, terrifying prophecies, multiple monsters, gloom and doom. Some will say the Book of Revelation is about the war in Iraq or about the restoration of the State of Israel. Anyone can interpret any book the way they want, but when learning to read books as a child, I was taught that words had meaning. We should perhaps reconnect.
For the Church, the Book of Revelation is a celebration. It celebrates the victory of the Lamb. That victory of the Lamb for the sake of the redeemed is celebrated at each and every Mass. As Pope John Paul II wrote, it is heaven on earth. Heaven indeed touches earth in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The food of angels becomes that food of human beings on their way to salvation. If we wish to catch a glimpse of what worship is in heaven, then the Book of Revelation offers us that glimpse, and the liturgy of the Church is the living extension of that worship.
To the Catholic symbols and signs have meaning. They are never empty gestures. At this Eucharist we mount a throne to the Lamb, dress in our white garments, open the book of the Gospels, genuflect in adoration, cry out our hymns of praise, and partake in the Body and Blood of the Lamb that washes away the sins of the world.
All Saints is about heaven. Heaven is about worship. Worship is what we are about, for we are the Church.