The Book of Revelation, often mistaken for a book of predictions, is an eschatological book. It is really about the imperial Roman Empire which is persecuting the Church. The eschatological imagery allows the author to critique the Roman Empire without appearing to critique the Empire. Rome is the Beast.
In chapter 20 the author says:
Then I saw thrones; those who sat on them were entrusted with judgment.
I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded
for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God,
and who had not worshiped the beast or its image
nor had accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands.
They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
We live in a modern imperial empire—America. For all its good and all the hope that it holds out, the American empire often acts contrary to its founding principles. Those who refuse to wear the seal of approval of empire are abused, harassed and oppressed. Those who try to live Gospel values in the midst of empire are marginalized.
We profess to be a Christian nation; however, our actions betray us. As I watch football games—professional or college—these days, I am reminded of the strategy adopted by the Roman Empire. It was bread and circuses (games). Make sure most of the people have food and entertain them. Then they will not challenge the beast. Football games and golf tournaments have become venues to worship the military might of the beast. It is called “support our troops” when in reality it is “support our imperial policies of world domination.”
How many of us would be counted among those “who had not worshipped the beast or its image?” When are we going to shun the food that does not satisfy and stop playing the games that delude us from proclaiming the Gospel? When are we going to choose life over death?
Advent is a season to celebrate life—divine life become human. It is a time of hope—hope that the values of Jesus the Christ will prevail over the values of the beast. It is a time to hope that the promise of eternal life—life lived in union with God—will happen now—soon and very soon!