Appearances

I, John, heard the Lord saying to me:
“To the angel of the Church in Sardis, write this:
“‘The one who has the seven spirits of God
and the seven stars says this: “I know your works,
that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die,
for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent.
If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief,
and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you.
However, you have a few people in Sardis
who have not soiled their garments;
they will walk with me dressed in white,
because they are worthy.

“‘The victor will thus be dressed in white,
and I will never erase his name from the book of life
but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father
and of his angels.

“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

“To the angel of the Church in Laodicea, write this:
“‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the source of God’s creation, says this:
“I know your works;
I know that you are neither cold nor hot.
I wish you were either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.
For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’
and yet do not realize that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich,
and white garments to put on
so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed,
and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.

“‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
then I will enter his house and dine with him,
and he with me.
I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.

“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
(Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22)

 

Scripture Study

3:1 Sardis: Thirty miles southeast of Thyatira. Sardis was once a wealthy and powerful city struggling to recover its former glory. Though a fortified city, it was twice conquered by surprise nighttime attacks. Christ may allude to this history when he warns readers to stay “awake” lest he come like a “thief” and the Church fare as badly as the unprepared city (3:3).

3:3 like a thief: This image can be traced back to Jesus (Mt 24:43; Lk 12:39).

3:4 soiled their garments: The white garments worn by angels and saints (4:4; 6:11; 7:9; 19:14) symbolize both purity and victory (Dan 11:35; 12:10) and were used in the ancient Church to clad the newly baptized. Some in Sardis had stained their robes by reverting to sinful ways and renewing their friendship with the world.

3:5 the book of life: A heavenly register of the saints. To be erased from this book is to lose the inheritance of eternal life (Ex 32:32; Ps 69:28). See note on Rev 20:12.

3:14 Laodicea: Forty miles southeast of Philadelphia. Laodicea was a prosperous commercial city that rebuilt itself without the aid of government subsidies after an earthquake around a.d. 60. It was known for its banking establishments, its medical academy, and its exported products, such as eye ointment and black wool textiles. According to Jesus, its material prosperity merely disguised its spiritual poverty (3:17). the Amen: A Hebrew acclamation used as a title for Christ. Expressing a sense of reliability and trustworthiness, it indicates that Jesus embodies the covenant faithfulness of God, for through him all the promises of God are carried to fulfillment. See word study: Amen at 2 Cor 1:20. ● The title comes from Is 65:16, where the Hebrew text underlying “the God of truth” is literally “the God of Amen” (CCC 1063–65). the beginning: The Greek term is capable of several meanings, ranging from “starting point” to “first cause” to “ruler”. Christ is the divine Alpha, or first cause, that brought all creation into being (22:13). Identical language is used of God the Father (21:6).

3:16 lukewarm: Unlike nearby Colossae, Laodicea had no cold drinking water, and unlike nearby Hierapolis, it had no hot medicinal springs. On a spiritual level, the Church had become so complacent that the Lord promises to spit them out like a mouthful of tepid water.[1]

Reflection

you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead

No man can look into the heart of another – only God can see into our hearts and know the trueness of our actions. The Church at Sardis was seen as a church who appeared to who could see that they were alive in the faith but Jesus tells us they were really ‘spiritually dead.’ Although their external practice of religion made them look like they were Christian, most of the members were estranged from Christ, devoid of an interior life directed towards the Lord but instead captivated by the world.

What is the reputation of your church? Does it speak to who you are? Have you become complacent as was the church in Laodicea? Has your heart become hardened to the Lord? As we draw close to the season of Advent, it is a good time to check our temperature. Are we lukewarm? Is the desire of our heart an intimate union with the Lord? Does this love drive our daily actions?  

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church
[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 498.