4th Easter: God Sees His Own and Cares for Them
Revelation 7:9, 14-17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Christians have a very interesting laundry service. Or at least it seems that way if you listen to the second reading from the Book of Revelation. People are presented from every nation carrying palm branches and wearing long white robes, robes that they washed and made white with the blood of the lamb. I'm sure you can all recognize that this is just a little sampling of the elaborate symbolism of the book of Revelation. The long white robes represent the baptismal commitment of people from every nation. Their palm branches refer to their being martyrs or witnesses to Christ. The white color means their purity, single purpose in life, to serve God. This purity, this whiteness, is attained through sacrifice. They wash their robes white then by following Jesus in sacrifice, in the blood of the lamb.
God is very much aware of their sacrifice, their efforts to serve his kingdom.
He knows us. He sees our efforts. He protects us. So often we have this terrible image of God as watching for us to slip up so that he can say, "Gotcha". But God sees the entirety of our lives, not just our mistakes. He sees our intentions, our desires, and all that we do. I often will tell people that God sees sacrifices we make that have become such a part of our lifestyles that we just take them for granted. God sees them. Like the numerous times you stop whatever you are doing to make time for someone else, your spouse, your children, a person that needs your attention. God sees those times even if you don't give them a second thought. He sees. He knows. He loves. He protects.
The reading from Revelation particularly applies to martyrdom. Directed as all the readings during the Easter season are to neophytes, the newly baptized, as well as to all Christians to help us focus on the fundamentals of the faith, this reading reminds us that Christianity demands martyrdom. All Christians are called to be martyrs. The word martyr means witness. We may or may not be confronted with the choice of torture and death to preserve and give witness to our Christianity, but we always have to give witness to our being Christians. This means putting others before ourselves. It means standing up for what is ethically, morally right even when, as so often, we are in the minority and an object for scorn. It means keeping the source of our strength, our faith life, flourishing through prayer and meditation, through the sacraments and community worship. These are just some of the myriad of ways that we are called to give witness, be martyrs for Christ.
John saw a huge crowd there in heaven. A number no one could count. Today we ask ourselves, “Are we in that crowd? Are we wearing long white robes as a symbol of our commitment to Christ? Do we carry palm branches as a sign that we are witnesses to Christ, martyrs? Do we continually join Jesus in sacrifice, thus washing our robes in the Blood of the Lamb?”
Today we pray for the courage to live out our baptismal commitment.