Daily Homily: I Stand at the Door and Knock

Tuesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22
Psalm 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5
Luke 19:1-10

Yesterday, we read the first letter of the Book of Revelation, written to the Church in Ephesus; today we read the fifth and seventh letters. I propose  first looking at all seven letters in order to understand God’s prophetic message written to each one of us.

The letter to the Church in Ephesus praised Christians for their patient endurance, put them on guard against the false teachings of the heretical Nicolaitans, and called them to return to their first love. The Nicolaitans were followers of the heretic Nicolas, one of the seven deacons chosen in the Acts of the Apostles (6:5). The Nicolaitans are mentioned again in the Letter to the Church in Pergamum and are compared to the followers of Balaam and Balak (see Numbers 25). In brief, the heretics promoted a casual attitude towards idolatry and sexual immorality. The Christians of Ephesus must reject these false teaching and to those who overcome and are victorious over sin and evil, Christ will give them fruit from the tree of life.

The second letter to the Church in Smyrna recognizes that the tribulation and poverty the Christians already endure, but also tells them that they will be tested even more. They are not to fear what they are about to suffer, but rather be faithful unto death and, in this way, receive the crown of life. This is the way of Christ: patient endurance, works of love and fidelity during tribulation lead to eternal life.

The third letter to the Church in Pergamum continues the theme of repentance and holding fast to Jesus Christ. Pergamum was a city where worship of the Roman emperor thrived. This pagan religion made it the seat of Satan’s throne (2:13). To those who conquer, Jesus gives the gift of hidden manna. Jesus is warning them not to be like the generation of Israelites who fell into sin just before they entered into the Promised Land. “These Christians are at the threshold of the ‘new heavens and the new earth’, which John is about to see come down from heaven. Christ is urging them to hold fast to their faith in order to ‘conquer’, so that, unlike the Israelites, they may enter the true Promised Land without falling into sin” (M. Barber, Coming Soon, Emmaus Road, 64).

Like the churches in Ephesus and Pergamum, the Church in Thyatira also must reject idolatry and immorality. These sins, which reject God, are compared to adultery, for Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is his bride. The Jezebel of Revelation calls to mind Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, the king of Israel, who opposed the prophet Elijah, slaughtered the innocent and was infamous for her harlotry and idolatry (2 Kings 9:22) (see Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament, 496). Christ invites his followers to share in his reign over the world and share in his victory over death (symbolized by the morning star).

Today we read the fifth letter, written to the Church in Sardis. Very few Christians in Sardis have not fallen into sin and so, even though many give the appearance of being alive, they are actually dead. Jesus urges them to repent, for he returns like a thief in the night. If our garments are soiled by sin, we can wash them in the blood of the Lamb and, in this way, our names will be written in the Book of Life.

The letter to the Church in Philadelphia presents Jesus as the one who holds the key of David. Jesus has given this authority to Peter, who holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Soon, John will see in his vision the open door in heaven, the new Jerusalem. Those who hold fast to what they have received from Jesus, will be like a pillar in the new Temple of God and dwell in his house forever.

The last of the seven letters was written to the Christians in Laodicea. The city was “located between Hierapolis and Colossae. Colossae was situated at the foot of the mountains and received cold, refreshing drinking water. Hierapolis, on the other hand, was the source of hot, mineral pools, which were used for healing baths. The water in Laodicea was neither hot nor cold. Christ apparently uses this geographical data as an illustration of the spiritual state of the Church in Laodicea” (M. Barber, Coming Soon, 74). The Christians can leave their lukewarm state by opening the door to Jesus and sharing a meal with him. Once again, there is a reference to the Eucharist.

Jesus stands at our door and knocks. He seeks out and saves what was lost. We see this in the Gospel, when Jesus knocks, so to speak, at Zacchaeus’ door. Zacchaeus hurries down from the tree, opens the door and receives Jesus with joy into his house. He repents from his sin and welcomes God’s salvation.

Today, we are presented in this Eucharist with the fruit of the tree of life, the Hidden Manna, the Lamb of God. We will respond with the words of the centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the words and my soul shall be healed”. Yes, we are not worthy that Jesus should stay at our house or dwell under our roof, but this is what he desires. He wants us to abide in him so that he can abide in us and grant us a share in his eternal life. He wants to give us the fruit of the tree of life, place the crown of life on our heads, feed us with the hidden manna on our New Exodus, give us a share in his kingly power, write our names in the Book of Life, make us a pillar in the New Temple of God, and have us sit beside him on God’s throne.

Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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