Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bible Reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11, Revelation 22:18-9

But the end of all things is at hand. Be prudent therefore and watchful in prayers. But above all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves; for charity covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without murmuring. According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be with words of God. If anyone ministers, let it be as from the strength that God furnishes; that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ, to whom are the glory and the dominion forever. Amen.
[Commentary: Notice that St. Peter, the first Pope, advises how to be prepared for the "end of all things..." not by panicking or by living any differently than in normal times that seem to last forever but to be "prudent" and "watchful" IN PRAYERS. St. Peter would say the same thing today. He would not say to stockpile AK-47's so that you can "defend your family's" "hoarded food" when "there are food riots during the 'tribulation.'" He in fact says the opposite. He says to anticipate the end of times WITHIN ONE'S OWN PRAYER LIFE. It is in prayer to God that one 'prepares' for the 'end of all things,' not in a single earthly deed.
In fact, St. Peter admonishes people to continue to "above all" have constant and mutual charity. The Greek translation uses the word "earnest" instead of "mutual." St. Peter admonishes people to anticipate the end of times only in their prayer life but to continue and even accelerate the graciousness and decency of genuine (earnest and mutual) charity. St. Peter doesn't waste time explaining why charity is the right thing to do; he cuts to the chase by saying that GENUINE MUTUAL charity "covers a multitude of sins." St. Peter is thus pointing out that people will sin just as they always have right until the end of times and that they better continue to live good Christian lives right up to and through the end, with more effort, not less, as the end may or may not be nigh.
St. Peter then says that if anyone speaks at all it better be "with words of God." St. Peter certainly did not mean to make up entire conversations "with God" and sell them in book deals to mislead the faithful even more. St. Peter is, through use of the word "if" is praising prudent silence. Thus he says that "if" "anyone speaks," it better be "with" as in speaking the actual words of God. The actual words of God can only be found in the scripture.
Further, if one goes farther than speaking, but "if" "anyone ministers," St. Peter explains that the ministry should come from the strength of God. What does he mean? Not to "be strong" as in the modern idea that one has to withhold against persecution. St. Peter means with certainty, as in being strong in one's proclamation of God. God provides strength to his ministers by providing the truth to them through the scriptures.
So St. Peter summarizes that "if" one speaks and "if" one ministers, "in all things" one is to honor God. The point of speaking or ministering is to honor God and nothing else. Further, as Christians, St. Peter reminds all that the way that God is honored is through Jesus Christ, who is God's ultimate gift to humanity. One honors God by honoring and praising the gift that he has given. Thus all praise and dominion are of God's, given through Jesus Christ.
St. Peter wrote this letter while in Rome near the end of his life, a few years before his martyrdom. Thus he was writing over thirty years since the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He's had all of this time to be the "bridge," in partnership with St. Paul, between Jesus Christ as he lived and walked, and how people are expected to develop the faith and comport themselves until the end of all things. St. Peter had no way of knowing that he and St. Paul would not be the final speakers, the final witnesses, of this bridge from the Apostles to the birthed and living, growing Church, the body of the faithful for there would be one more book several decades later: St. John's Book of Revelation (Apocalypse).
Yet St. John's book, the last of the set that comprise the Christian bible, reinforces all that St. Peter taught, summarized in one very blunt line:
Revelation 22:18
I [Jesus] testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. If anyone shall add to them, God will add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.
The Apostles were fully aware that one of the greatest temptations that humans will succumb to will be to write themselves into the scripture as false prophets. Even they, however, could not have imagined that in the future people will dare to write that God and angels are chatting with them, saying non-scriptural things and weakening people's faith. However, it is because that the Apostles could never have imagined the extent that the false prophet syndrome (for money and prideful glory and celebrity, no less) Jesus certainly knows all, sees all, and this is why he dictated to St. John such a dire warning a few sentences from the end of what will be the last page of the Bible, the holy scripture. Jesus is not simply referring to "this book" as in the chapter that is Revelation. Jesus means the holy scriptures: ALL of it. No one is to add to the words of prophecy (the word of God) of THE book.
Jesus in the very next line also anticipates the power of "omission" that humans utilize, which is to skip over the parts of the Bible and the word of God that they just don't want to obey.
Revelation 22:19
If anyone shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his portion from the tree of life, and from the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book.
Friends, if I take great care to only explain and never add or omit from the Bible, I don't know how many of you in your turn dare to just pull whatever out of whatever part of your bodies and call that "messages" that you have "received" "from God" or from "angels," and then sell that in book format. I shudder, absolutely shudder at how each of you will have to answer for that.
I strongly suggest that you all go back to reading the Bible and especially following the very strong advice of the Apostles.
Worried about the 'end of all things?' Well, shut up, pray, and continue to do more and more of the day to day charity and other genuine good that you have been exhorted to do.]