Are you one of those people who, when reading a mystery, go first to the end of the book so that you know how it’s going to turn out? For some people, reading a mystery novel this way helps them to enjoy the book more. In literary terms, we see something like this any time we encounter a flashback. There is a current television show, entitled How to Get Away with Murder, which began by showing the end of the show first. The rest of the series, was an attempt to take viewers through the pathways that lead to the event at the beginning of the show, which of course, was really the end.
Today’s first reading is taken from a book of the Bible that is a bit like the person who wants to know the end of the story. The book of Revelation was an attempt to help the early Christians, many of whom were facing great persecution, to remember at the end of the story would result in the great triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ. By knowing how the end of the story would turn out, people were given strength to endure the difficulties of the age in which they lived.
Today’s reading offers the first glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. The open door, the trumpet like voice, will provide a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, and numerous visions, which John will communicate throughout the course of this book. While we may or may not be experiencing the same types of persecutions that were common in first century Rome, we do know that life provides us with our own share of difficulties. These difficulties may look like persecution. It is common to refer to our current age, is the age of martyrs, since so many people are being killed because of their faith. two places come to mind, when I consider the current age as the age of martyrs. The first is Nigeria, or Boko Haram has made kidnapping and terrorizing citizens a full-time occupation. Many have been killed.
The other place, is in Mozul. where the actions of ISIS have forced the Christians who lived there to flee. We may not find ourselves in such drastic circumstances, but at the same time we may find ourselves in an environment that is not always support our faith. Among some in this country, there is a growing attitude that face is meant to be a completely private affair. No one should speak openly about their faith, and discussion of faith is seen to have no place whatsoever in the public square. When Dr. Francis Collins was appointed head of the NIH, there were many who are skeptical of the appointment because he is a Christian. They question his ability to be both a person of faith, and a committed scientist who would utilize the scientific method. This view underlies the belief that science is really about facts while religion is about fairy tales and myths.
You may find yourself in a similar circumstance. You maybe in circumstances and situations where there is a preference not to speak in language of faith, or outright hostility. The beauty of Jesus is that so often in addressing circumstances like this, Jesus took an approach which in some ways was no less direct, while in others encouraged people to think through the mystery of God’s presence in their life for themselves. For Jesus told stories.
Today we hear the very familiar story in the gospel of people who are given talents, with the expectation they will use these talents to come in to do something really wonderful and tremendous. Unlike the version of this story that we here in the gospel of Matthew, in Luke’s version everyone is given the same number of talents, and expected to make something of what they have been given. It seems that because these two readings are juxtaposed, namely John who sees a tremendous vision of what is to come, and the gospel which gives a simple lesson about making the most of what we have been given, we are invited to utilize what we have been given so that our final destination may indeed be, heaven.