The ARM of St. Michael
Revelation 7: 13-14
Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, "Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?" I said to him, My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me,"These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb."
This mystery is uttered after earlier revelation of the number of blessed souls marked with the seal:144,000. This large sum, twelve times twelve times a thousand, is not a literal or calculated grand total. It is simply a great number, able to account for a multitude. This symbolic number names, potentially, every human person, part of the pageant of Heaven. The Father wants all His children there, not some or a few or a relatively large limited 'few'; but every human person is invited.
The first reading on the Feast of All Saints, from the Book of Revelation, echoes the theme spoken in the Gospels. Grace is the way to Heaven; not human strength,merit or capability; not through what we are doing or think we are doing for God, but what God accomplishes in and through us. Our only 'gift' to the Lord is the confession of creature weakness and insufficiency, need of mercy and His grace in all things.
The concluding line from this passage might seem strictly prophetic, announcing events taking place in the remote future.The time of great distress is not only a cosmic marker or eschatological warning. The time of great distress is the human lifetime; the long troublous voyage we are all familiar with, that seems to serve up challenge after hardship; a path never quite totally clean of difficulties.
The blessed ones have survived the trial on earth. There is no hint here of precocious deeds or 'ingenious' powers.The only thing they are written doing is to have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb. The robe is our raiment of flesh and soul; our whole being, entrusted by faith, to the divine care of Christ.
How do we wash unclean and impure robes in the Blood of the Lamb:by accepting that He is the purity and power which can remove the stain, Who must be God. It is by first believing, the triune God alone is able to, and will purify us.
This seems to point to the "mental decision for Jesus". Faith in the sovereignty of God, the kingdom of purity over which He reigns, is first a choice.Yet, it is one of those few great choices of life, like marriage, that expresses a vast trajectory of influence and commitment that can nonetheless never be glimpsed in its entirety, from a single vantage point.
The first way of the 20 is essential and looms above all - choose Jesus as Savior and Lord by faith. Yet, the recovery from addiction, not to forget the larger gradual climb into sanctity, is not a single-rung ladder. How to make this choice of Jesus continually, day after day?
The holy sacraments of the Catholic Church; baptism, eucharist, confession are what remain vital to the yes that launches faith, believing that Jesus is the Redeemer, the Son of God. Jesus has won the forgiveness of all human error, and gives us Himself through the Church.Freedom from moral disorder, freedom from sin and impurity is called deliverance, salvation. Our yes, in seeking sobriety and recovery, leads naturally to the greatest gift of all, freedom from the power of death. O happy fault!
Mother church does not submit to us Her sacraments from Jesus as if they were theoretical or interpreted. The sacraments, the received sign of divine action in a believing human being, made efficacious in the blood and by the name of Jesus, that remain available to all in need, even daily, flow directly from the Bible and the meritorious power of the passion, death and resurrection of the Savior. Christ instituted the sacraments, and the Church has discerned by revelation the meaning and power of what Jesus has given, and continues on, ever witnessing to His concrete reality, wonder and mercy.
The body and blood of the Lord under the sacramental signs of transubstantiated bread and wine is food for soul, food for endurance, food to strengthen the original yes to Jesus so that it always remains a faithful and continually life-transforming choice, leading to Heaven. The sacrament of confession is for the ever-needed renewal of our persons as we go this journey toward purity. Just as every week our soiled earthly clothes need laundering, so also our souls which meet frailty, weakness and imperfection, need washing in the perfect Blood of Christ.
If Christianity is the undoubting living conviction that I am possessed by Christ and belong to Christ, the sacraments are the tangible sign that Jesus actually enters us and continually heals, reconciles and builds us up from the inside and presides over us in safety. Conversion, is being turned into what I receive, Christ Himself, and when reaching the fullness of His purity, a saint.
Our journey is to let Jesus take off of us the soiled pagan garment of the dead past - idols and earthly slaveries, and put on Christ, who is freedom from the world, the flesh and the evil.The sacraments allow us to receive God Himself, The Purity Itself. The more this purity enters us the more we hate what God can never be; impurity, sensuality, selfishness, the lustful, and the dead.
To wash our 'robes', our persons, in the Blood of the Lamb, happens in the sacramental life of the Church, whose work has been from the beginning, reaching down to us to today through centuries of administering succession. This unbroken, uninterrupted inheritance, offered by Peter and 265 shepherds later, by Francis today, is Christ Himself at work in every human person that says "Yes I want to belong to the One Flock, the One Table, I want to be counted among the children of Light", who says eagerly "feed me and wash me my Lord and my God".
The Creator sent His only Son, the Word made flesh, who expresses in intelligible language the saving love of the Father, to be the one high priest and the only perfect sacrifice that makes good the sacrament, which we accept and which cleanses our 'robes' from the inside, out.
Jesus possess us, ignite within us the grace You alone have placed there, so that we may have a deep hatred of lust and that purity of heart which will attach us to You alone, Who are salvation. Amen.