By Canon Gerry Conroy
The book of the Apocalypse is undoubtedly a strange piece of writing. At parts it is almost nightmarish, but always it is full of strange and unusual images that are difficult to understand. That is deliberate because it wants us to realise that we are being given a glimpse of things beyond us, the book is speaking of things that touch the very heart of existence and despite the darkness that seems to pervade its pages, it is a book that gives us reason for hope.
Probably we are too sophisticated now to take it seriously; or perhaps we are not sophisticated enough to see past the language used to understand what we are being told. It was written at a time when the temptation was overwhelming to submit to the dominance of Rome. This dominance was not only political, it was also religious. The Roman emperor was Lord, and was worshipped as a god; his word was law, on his word life and death depended. In every city there was an altar to Rome and the emperor and people were expected to offer sacrifice there for the well-being of the Emperor which was for the well-being of the empire. The greater the city, the greater the Temple. Taking part in this worship was the only way to success and prosperity. The choice for Christians was between the Emperor and Christ – both could not be Lord; Christians had to opt out, and many paid with their blood. It seemed to be a choice between poverty and prosperity; it was a choice between life and death; a choice for hope. Is that really so far removed from the situation we now find ourselves in?
Elon Musk recently said Netflix is losing subscribers because ‘the woke mind virus’ is making it ‘unwatchable. He was willing to pay $44 billion dollars to buy Twitter because he wants to safeguard free speech which he sees is under threat by the woke culture. Jordan Peterson, has argued to his cost, that free speech is under threat by this culture and politicians and lawmakers are walking blindly into a society that limits our freedom. They are not Christian, but they are aware of the danger we are facing in our own time and the way our freedom to choose is being affected by the society in which we live. They are warning us of the need to choose and each in their own way show that there is a cost to that choice, just as the early Christians saw the cost of their choice but were willing to pay it. The message of these modern day figures is not so different from that of the Book of the Apocalypse; its warning is still very much needed today. What they cannot offer is the
promise we are given.
Each day the Divine Office, the prayers that priests and religious undertake to say daily, begins with a psalm which says, ‘Oh that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your heart.’ Listening to that voice involves a choice, each and every day; a choice to choose to listen to Christ and what he says and not to the voice that comes from the world and its values. That is the choice we all must make on a daily basis. We are, I think, living in a time of crisis when we cannot compromise with our choice. Environmental issues, political issues, economic issues, war, questions of morality, all suggest we are at a crossroads. Our choice now is more vital than ever. Ours must be a choice to hope and trust in Christ and his promise.