Friday of Week 33 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Revelation 10:8-11

We skip a number of chapters in coming to today’s reading. The intervening chapters had discussed the gradual opening of the seven seals on the scroll and the sounding of six of seven trumpets.

Today’s reading is a digression from the main theme. John has been offered a small scroll by an angel of God. This scroll represents a revelation from God. He is told to take the scroll from the angel’s hand.

When he does so, he is told to “take it and eat it”. He is warned that it will be sour in his stomach, but taste sweet as honey in his mouth. The scene is very reminiscent of an almost identical passage in the prophet Ezekiel where the prophet is told to eat a scroll and then share what he has received with others. It also reminds us, of course, of the instructions of Jesus to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

In all three cases the meaning is the same. They are instructions to absorb and assimilate completely the word of God or, in the case of the Gospel, the words and teaching of Jesus, who is, of course, the Word of God, and make them our own. They then become part of our very being.

The contents are both sweet and sour. The message in itself, at a first taste, is sweet in its promise of life but it is sour in so far it will also entail a degree of pain and suffering for the Church and its members in living out the message. And that is the experience that John has as he “eats” the scroll.

Now, armed with the revelation that the scroll contains, John is told to prophesy again, that is, to proclaim the message of God’s plan which he has received from God. These prophecies are recorded in Revelation after the sounding of the seventh trumpet (which begins at verse 11:15 but will not be included in our readings).

In a very similar way, we are called on to “eat” the Gospel and the whole of the Scriptures. This is part of the real meaning of our “eating and drinking” in the Eucharist. It is not just a physical or devotional act. It is a community statement of our deepest desire to see and love Christ in every person and in every experience of our day.

Unfortunately, “eating the Scriptures, the Word of God” is for many Catholics a very small part of their daily diet. Some are quite illiterate when it comes to the Word of God. It is a sad situation where, among Christians generally, Catholics are probably the greatest offenders.

And yet, we cannot really call ourselves disciples until we have entered on what is a lifelong task – deepening our understanding of God’s Word and assimilating its vision into our very being. A knowledge of our school catechism will not fill this void.

We need, as Paul tells us, to have the mind of Christ, that is, to see life just as he sees it. We need to be able to say, as he could, “I live, no, it is not I, but Christ lives in me”.

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