Sunday Scripture reading, May 22, 2022: Sixth Sunday of Easter
1) Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8
2) Rv 21:10-14, 22-23 Gospel: Jn 14:23-29
It’s difficult to comprehend what will be at the end of times
Our second reading, from the end of the last book of the Bible, gives us a picture of the end of all things — indeed, of what follows the end. But what kind of picture is it?
The author of Revelation sees an image of God’s ultimate intentions: a city coming down from the sky. It has high walls. In fact, in a further description, not included in our reading, the height of the city is said to equal its length. It is a cube. On each of the four sides it has three gates.
The author, John, wants the image to activate our hope. But I would have to say it does not resonate with me. An immense stone box does not speak to me like an old sweet song or surf thundering on a rocky shore.
I understand that the cube-ness of the city alludes to the cube-shaped holy of holies in the Jerusalem Temple, symbolizing God’s presence in it. I know that the four-sided-ness betokens the whole world — meaning that the city has room for all of humanity, and that the 12-ness of the gates is a way of saying that the promises to 12-tribed Israel are fulfilled here. But frankly, the picture leaves me cold.
Never mind, John indicates. God’s final dwelling with humanity isn’t really in a stone city. John says that the city is “like jasper, clear as crystal.” But he knows that jasper is opaque. One might just as well say, “like granite, soft as a baby’s cheek,” or, as John does say farther on (not in our reading), “pure gold, transparent as glass.”
John is alerting us to the inadequacy of his images. Our destiny with God is no more like earthly city life than jasper and gold are like potatoes. “I can give you only the slightest sense of what it will be like,” John signals.
John also says there will be no temple in the city — no place where people need to go to be with God. Means of being with God will no longer be necessary, because God will be in us and we will be in God. We will be closer to him than friend to friend, than husband and wife, than mother and nursing baby.
These images, too, fall infinitely short of what God has prepared for us.
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.