First Reading: Revelation 20:1-4, 11-21:2
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain.
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;
and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 84:3-6, 8
My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at thy altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in thy house, ever singing thy praise! [Selah] Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
Gospel: Luke 21:29-33
And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees;
as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.
So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
My six-year-old son has always been fascinated with space: the planets, the stars, the constellations, meteors and meteorites and meteoroids. As he grows, his questions become increasingly complicated. What’s at the edge of the universe? If we went past the edge of the universe, would anything be there? If you flew to the edge of a black hole and somehow avoided getting sucked into it, would you be able to see other things falling in? What happens to those things once they go over the edge?
Many of his questions seem unanswerable to me. At six, he is growing increasingly uneasy when I respond that I just don’t know. At six, he still wants to believe that parents know everything, and he’s already discovering that we don’t.
I am, in many ways, like him. Even as an adult, I’m not always comfortable saying, “I just don’t know.” Not so long ago, today’s First Reading from the Book of Revelation would have produced a flood of questions. What does it mean, a lake of fire? A literal lake of fire? Is that something for which Saint John, the author of Revelation, had a real-world parallel, or is it supposed to predict a future event? Do I need to worry about this? And what does it mean, the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away? The sea was no more? That sounds terrifying!
Happily for me, Jesus used down-to-earth images that are more easily graspable as He taught. Look at the fig tree, He said. Fig trees were so ordinary, so everywhere, so not like lakes of fire and white thrones and books of life. By the time the fig tree is in leaf, you see it, and you know that summer is already near. By the time you read this everyday, ordinary sign, the change is already happening. You don’t have to worry about it. It happens on its own, and as it does, you see the sign.
Maybe there’s some comfort in this for my inner questioning six year old. The Book of Revelation describes a new Heaven and a new earth being ushered into existence. I don’t know what that will look like, but Jesus does. The Man who taught using common images and events from everyday life is the same One who sits on that great white throne. Whatever is coming, we have nothing to fear. He walked the earth with us and talked about fig trees. He knows our limitations and our anxieties. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away, He told His disciples. Whatever is ahead, He is already there, waiting with something entirely new—something with no stain or shadow cast by what’s come before, a new Heaven and a new earth with none of the baggage left over from the first one. We don’t know how, or where, or what it will look like, but we know Him, and He is already there.
For now, knowing that He knows is enough to make me okay with not knowing.
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Abbey Dupuy is a freelance writer and homeschooling mama to two-year-old twins, a first grader and a new baby. You can find out more about her here.