The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on September 26th at the Mother of the Light Convent
This morning we will look at Chapter 3 of the Book of Revelation (the letters to the Churches in Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea) as well as a brief look at St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10: 16-22.
The Church of Sardis was located about 30 miles South East of Thyatira. It seems to be a living a Christian community, but it is in fact dead. External practices make it look alive, but most of its members are estranged from Christ, devoid of the Spirit and living in a sinful condition. Recall that the Lord Himself spoke of the prodigal son as being in a kind of death. St. Paul in Romans 6:13 exhorts Christians as men who have been brought from death to life.
Despite the corrupt society in which they lived there were some Christians who had not been contaminated by the immoral cults and lifestyles. Here John makes his first of several references to the Book of Life, the book of the living or the book of the Lord. Those whose names are enrolled in this book will share in the promise of salvation, while the unfaithful will be excluded, their names ‘blotted out’.
As indicated by St. Matthew today, genuine commitment to Jesus always involves effort. There are certain worldly things with which a Christian cannot compromise with, no matter how fashionable they may be. Christian life inevitably involves nonconformity with anything that contradicts faith or morality, but difficulties of this sort should not make us afraid; we are not alone. We can count on the powerful help of God to give fortitude and courage. “Worry not about what you are to say; the Holy Spirit will put the words into your mouth” (cf. Mt 10: 19 – 20).
In the letter to Church at Philadelphia, another busy place of material exchange, 25 miles South East of Sardis, Jesus speaks of the “key of David” with the power to open and shut, signifying God’s absolute sovereignty. Jesus used this metaphor of a key in handing on divine powers to Peter and the college of apostles (cf. Mt 18:18).
Moving to the seventh and final letter to the Laodiceans, a people once mentioned by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians (cf. 4:16). Laodiceans enjoyed a very high prosperity which may have contributed to their lukewarmness (mediocrity). Spiritual lukewarmness and mediocrity are closely related, and neither should be the direction a Christian life should take.
In the city of Laodicea, there were hot springs or thermal baths which may have prompted the indictment of spiritual lukewarmness used by St. John in this letter. From the writings of St. Cassian, one of the founders of Western Monasticism, we read: Lukewarmness is something that needs to be nipped in the bud. No one should attribute going astray to a sudden collapse; but rather to his/her moving away from virtue little by little, through prolonged mental laziness…this is the way that habits take root, without one’s even noticing and eventually lead to the sudden collapse. It is like a beautiful house which collapses on a fine day without warning, due to defect in its foundation or long neglect by the occupants. As is written in Proverbs 16: 18 – Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
In this letter we find another familiar image, that of Christ knocking on a door with no door knob on the outside. It is a picture of God’s intimacy inviting us to let Him in, using that key we spoke of in the previous letter. It can happen in any of a thousand ways in the course of our life.
We should be vigilant, like the wise virgins. We should be listening for His knock, ready at any time to open the door. Our Lord is waiting for our response to His call and when we make the effort to respond to His call, and to revive our interior life, we will experience that indescribable joy of intimacy with HIM.
At first it will be a bit difficult. You must make an effort to seek out the Lord, to give Him thanks through prayer. How is your prayer life going? At times during the day do you feel the impulse to have a longer talk with Him? Do you sometimes whisper to Him about things you will talk about with Him later?
Prayer becomes continuous like the beating of a heart, like our pulse (woe to us if it stops). Without this presence of God there is no contemplative life, and without a contemplative life, our working for Christ is worth very little, for vain is the builder’s toil if the house is not of the Lord’s building (Psalm 126:1).
Behold I stand at the door and knock. Make sure you do not lose the key which I have given you to open.