Book of Revelation offers hope, says Collins

By  Joseph Sinasac
  • February 23, 2007

WATERLOO, Ont.  - The Book of Revelation is not meant to be used “like an Ouija board” to predict the end of the world, says Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins. Rather this last book of the Bible is meant to offer hope and courage for Christians living in difficult times.

“What it reveals, fundamentally, is the revelation which is at the heart of our faith, that Jesus is Lord,” he said in a talk at St. Jerome’s University Feb. 16. “It allows us to see beyond the struggle of this world, the purpose and meaning beyond it.”

The archbishop was presenting the annual Graduates’ Association Lecture before more than 300 people. He also received the Fr. Norm Choate, C.R., Distinguished Graduate Award just before the lecture. Collins was a graduate of St. Jerome’s, a Catholic liberal arts college at the University of Waterloo, in 1968 before he went into the seminary.

His lecture, “The Apocalypse of John: A Great Book of Hope,” described how and why the book was written by John of Patmos in approximately 95.

The book was in the tradition of apocalyptic writings that went back several hundred years before Christ and included such books as Daniel and Isaiah. These used a passionate, highly descriptive and powerful language to inspire and encourage their readers during times of persecution and oppression, he said.

“It is intended to show us the majesty of God,” he said. “It is also intended to show us the darkest reality of evil.”

Revelation was written on the island of Patmos, which was part of Turkey. At that time, Christians were erratically persecuted by the Roman Empire. There was always a threat that a Christian would be arrested and executed, but many Christians could live out their lives peacefully if they eluded the attention of the authorities.

“It was a situation in which most Christians were not going to be arrested. Their danger was not persecution, but seduction. We can be seduced by a glitter of a society and forget there was danger and evil behind that glitter.”

Revelation was written in beautiful prose that was meant to be read out at early Masses. It was meant to give hope and courage to those who were persecuted and remind those tempted by the wealth and pleasures of their society that there was a larger, more important purpose in life.

Collins observed that the threat for most Christians in today’s society is still seduction, especially the seduction of wealth, privilege and pleasure.

“Today there is still persecution, but for most of us it is not the persecution, but the seduction, that is the danger,” he said.

Collins said Revelation has been misused throughout history by those who said it contained secret predictions that could only be unlocked with special knowledge — knowledge that only the person could reveal.

“The book itself can be used to control, to dominate, to frighten.”

But there is nothing secret about Revelation. Any person taking the time to study the text and its historical context can unleash its power and beauty, he said.

“This is a book that teaches us about the meaning of life. It leads us ever more deeply into the worship of the Lord.”

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