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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Right Praise, Right Order

Robert Barron - Right Praise, Right Order

Robert Barron - Right Praise, Right Order

Peace be with you. Friends, for this Third Sunday of Easter, I want to continue my interpretation of the book of Revelation. So all during the Easter season, reading number two is from Revelation. And I think it's a very important book, but one that a lot of Catholics I think don't really understand that well. I mentioned last week that Revelation, taking away the veil, it has to do not so much with the end of the physical universe. It has to do with the giving way of an old order and the unveiling of a new order. And I suggested last week it has everything to do with the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which is why we read it during the Easter season. So our passage for today is taken from the fifth chapter.

So last week, we're at the very beginning, chapter one. Now we go to chapter five of Revelation, and John, the author and the visionary, is brought up into the heavenly temple. Now I suggested last week, when he sees Jesus, Jesus is wearing the robe of a temple priest and he's among the seven-branched candelabra, so he's in the space of the temple. Well, now once again, John's brought up into this place of heavenly worship. And what we're going to see, and this is my theme for today, what we're going to see is the way God has always desired his creation to be ordered, precisely as a place of right praise.

Now, I mentioned last week, the book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. And this is very much on purpose. When the Church organized the books of the Bible, they put Revelation last, and anybody with a literary sensibility knows that the last stanza of a poem, the last chapter of a novel, the last lines of a play are of extraordinary significance. It represents the culmination of the work. But you're not going to get the importance of that last stanza or last act or last paragraph unless you've read the whole book or play to that point. Am I right? If you just show me here's the last scene in "Macbeth," it's like, well all right, I don't really get what's going on. Here's the last chapter of "Moby Dick".

Well, okay. But if I've not read the whole book, I don't know why that's so important. I think a big problem is we look at the book of Revelation and we say, "I don't know what is going on in this book". Well, because we haven't attended to the great sweep of the story that has led up to this culmination. So I've suggested what we're going to see in the book of Revelation is the world rightly ordered according to the praise of God, but to get that, to get why it's important, let's go back to the very beginning of the Bible. And then I want to do a little kind of overview of the thrust of the biblical narrative that leads up to the book of Revelation.

Okay, go back to Genesis now. As God brings the world forth, light and the earth and the sea and then the animals and the birds that fly and the things that crawl upon the earth, they come forth, as I suggested, as a kind of stately liturgical procession. So evening came and morning followed, the second day. Evening came and morning followed, the third day. Evening came and morning followed, the fourth day. A sort of orderly procession of creatures from God. At the end of a liturgical procession, the priest or the bishop would come, and that means the person who's going lead the praise. Who comes now at the end of the great liturgical procession of creation, but human beings?

So the last thing that God makes: human beings. It shows us now our purpose. We are meant to be priests of creation. Stewards of it, that's true, caring for it, but ultimately priests, meaning those who will lead all of creation in a chorus of praise to God. When that happens, the world is rightly ordered. All of us, imagine now the whole universe, turned toward God. What that produces, the Bible holds, is peace among us. Now, things went wrong right away. So you're still within the opening chapters of Genesis, what do you find is right praise gives way to disobedience. Instead of turning toward God, the first human beings turn toward themselves, their own needs. And then in that beautifully evocative passage, this leads to a rupture between the man and the woman and leads to a rupture between them and the serpent, them and the rest of creation.

See, God's order falls apart when we stop praising God aright. God sends a rescue operation in the form of a people, a people he will call a priestly people. How important that is, how important that is. Israel he will train now in right behavior and in right praise. Look at all the time the Old Testament spends on teaching Israel how to worship God correctly. Think of law now and covenant and prophecy and temple, ritual, liturgy; all of it is meant to order human beings to the right praise of God and thereby to bring all of creation back online. Okay. Did it work perfectly? No, because Israel remained so unfaithful. Think of the prophets now railing against the corruption of the temple, railing against the corruption of the kings, railing against the infidelity of the people.

So the rescue operation is imperfect because Israel is imperfect, until the one who's called the glory of his people Israel comes. Jesus the high priest, Jesus the king, Jesus who sums up the best of Israel and in the course of his life gives right praise to the Father. Listen now everybody: culminating in his cross, which is rightly seen as a great evening sacrifice unto God, bearing the sins of the world, having entered into our disfunction, Jesus as it were brings us all back online. Bearing the disfunction of the world, he gives right praise to the father and thereby brings all of creation back into right order. This high priest of Israel, the glory of his people Israel.

You see now how the cross and Resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of this great story. It's what leads to the final book of the Bible, the unveiling of what God wants. Okay. So with that background, let's turn to the passage for today. As he looks in the heavenly court, he sees all these figures worshiping God. What are they saying? "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing". Whom are they worshiping? So it's the elders in heaven. It's the angels. It's all the living creatures. Whom are they worshiping? Not an earthly king, not some earthly potentate; they're worshiping a lamb, the weakest animal, and a lamb that was slain.

So can you imagine a weaker image, a little lamb who's been slain? Well, the reference of course is to Jesus crucified. The one who's called the Lamb of God because he offered a sacrifice to the Father. The lamb who was slain upon the cross is in fact the one around whom the worship of the whole universe properly gathers. Listen now, as this cosmic Church, this Church in the heavenly assembly, influences the right praise of the earth here below. This is again John speaking in our reading for today. "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: 'To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.'"

Now listen to me, those who have been attentive to the biblical narrative from the beginning know why this is placed at the very end. What God wanted from the beginning, all of creation, listen, the things under the earth and in the sea and everything in the universe, crying out praise to God. That was the point. That was the point from the beginning. And we were meant to lead that chorus of praise, but we got off kilter. God had to bring us back online. It happened through Christ crucified. And so now it's precisely that Christ, the lamb who was slain, who brings the whole universe together in right praise. The lamb who after the disaster of sin made this praise possible.

Now let me make one last point here as I bring it to a close. Many have argued, and this would be a series of sermons for another day, but that the whole book of Revelation is about the Mass. As I say, you can make that claim very plausibly, but there's a very clear connection here. What's the Mass? Oh, it's the gathering by which the community celebrates itself. No, that's not what the Mass is. Some people said that in the years I was coming of age. The Mass, "Oh, we get together to kind of encourage each other to go out there and build God's kingdom". Not really, not exactly. What's the Mass? The Mass is the reflection here below of this great heavenly liturgy.

So what John sees in the heavenly place, all of the living creatures and everything coming together in praise of God, the Mass here below is our anticipation of that. We bringing our sort of feeble selves online with the great praise of the heavenly court. You know that line before we say the "Holy, Holy" in the Mass? And we say something like this: "May our voices be one with theirs". Well, the "theirs" in question are the angels and the saints in heaven, in the heavenly temple, who are continually praising God. What we're saying is, may our little puny voices here below blend and harmonize with theirs in heaven, so that the praise there becomes the model of praise here and that peace will therefore break out here as it already exists there.

Does that make sense? "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to those who love him". Peace to people of goodwill. There's a song, a liturgical song, that I don't like. It's called "Gather Us In". I don't like it musically, because it sounds like the Edmund Fitzgerald song. But my real complaint is lyrically. One has to do with Eucharistic theology because there's a line that says, "The bread that is you". Well, that's not Catholic theology. Catholic theology says the bread is no longer bread, it's been transubstantiated. But that's a sermon for another day. Here's the line I really don't like. It's talking about the community gathering. Gather us in. We're all here for Mass.

And so, "It's not in the darkness of buildings confining, not in some heaven light years away, but here in this place the light is shining". Oh, come on. That's exactly wrong. First of all, heaven isn't light years away like it's some spatial distance, like it's beyond the galaxy or something. That's the wrong way to think about it. But more importantly, the Mass is about heaven. It is about heaven. It's our link here below to the heavenly realm. We don't bracket heaven, like boy, we're just here building up our community. Our community will not be built up properly unless it's connected to the community that praises God in heaven. It's the link between the two that is unveiled in this reading. "Apocalypsis," "revelatio," what's being revealed here is the worship of the risen Christ that produces peace in heaven and peace on earth. More from the book of Revelation next week. And God bless you.
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