Psalm 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b
After witnessing the heavenly liturgy which praises God as Creator of all things, John now witnesses the liturgical worship of the Lamb who was slain. John sees that God holds a scroll in his hand and is told that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is worthy to open the scroll.
The scroll may be taken as an image of the Old Testament. Through his death, Resurrection and Ascension in heaven, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is able to reveal the contents of the hidden mysteries contained in scripture. “The Lamb’s sacrifice made him worthy to take the scroll. It made him worthy to be Priest and King. His sacrifice transformed the old order into the new to fulfill the covenant of Creation, and thus the living creatures and the elders sing a new song, the song of the New Covenant, the song that will always be new, even millions of years after its first performance” (S. Hahn, A Father who Keeps His Promises, Servant Books, 251). As we pray in today’s Psalm: the Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God. “As royal priests, we offer ourselves, in union with our High Priest and Lamb, as he offers himself to the Father on our behalf. We do this in the eucharistic liturgy, where we gather as royal priests and join with the living creatures and the elders in singing, ‘Holy, holy, holy’ and ‘Worthy art thou.’ Our participation in the Eucharist gives us the power to plod along and to overcome. History is controlled from the throne of the Lamb; but through the Church’s liturgical worship, all of us can share in Christ’s reign” (S. Hahn, Father who Keeps His Promises, 251).
As Jesus breaks open the seals in heaven, things begin to happen on earth. When the first six seals are broken, divine chastisement is unleashed. These are the consequences of rejecting God and being unfaithful to God’s covenant. These chastisements are similar to those mentioned in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21: wars, international strife, famine, plagues, persecutions, earthquakes. When the Lamb opens the seventh seal, there is silence in heaven (Revelation 8:1). This is a moment of liturgical prayer (the prayers of the saints) before the unleashing of punishment.
The plagues of Revelation recall those of Exodus: “Just as the Egyptians hardened their hearts against the Lord and doubted His mighty power, so also Jerusalem has hardened its heart by rejecting Christ. Now it will suffer similar judgment” (M. Barber, Coming Soon, Emmaus Road, 123). The destroying army of Revelation 9 is an image of the two-fold prophesy of the Book of Revelation: “On one hand, the image points to Jerusalem, which will be destroyed by an army into a burning rubble of ‘fire and sulphur’. Yet it also points to the end of the world, when the wicked will be cast into a ‘lake of fire’ and be tormented in hell” (M. Barber, Coming Soon, 132).
In the Gospel, Jesus is entering the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, As he descends the Mount of Olives on a donkey, he foresees the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and weeps over the Holy City. The city did not recognize the time of God’s visitation; in fact, they rejected the Word made flesh, who comes to save God’s people.
At Mass, we sing not only the heavenly song of the angels: “Holy, holy, holy”, but also the song of Palm Sunday: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. The actions of Palm Sunday are an anticipation of what the Church does in her liturgy. “Just as the Lord entered the Holy City that day on a donkey, so too the Church saw him coming again and again in the humble form of bread and wine. The Church greets the Lord in the Holy Eucharist as the one who is coming now, the one who has entered into her midst. At the same time, she greets him as the one who continues to come, the one who leads us toward his coming. As pilgrims, we go up to him; as a pilgrim, he comes to us and takes us up with him in his ‘ascent’ to the Cross and Resurrection, to the definitive Jerusalem that is already growing in the midst of this world in the communion that unites us with his body” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, vol. II, 11).
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