In today's reading, the Lamb opens six of the seven seals. From the first four spring the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, testing the faith of the faithful by bearing calamities on earth: first, false prophets, then killers with sword, famine, and plague. Disturbing as these images are, it is the sixth seal that reveals even more frightening and horrific images, dark images of destruction and ruin, distress and anguish.
It is revealing to note that it was the Lamb who opened the seals. And while the last line of this chapter affirms that no one can stand up to the wrath of God, "...for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" it also points to the one ray of hope alluded to earlier by the opening of the fifth seal: the Lamb gives white robes to the martyrs waiting under the altar and tells them to rest a little longer. We know from the fifth seal that the martyrs will stand.
Another thing I noticed is that this reading deals with extremes. At one end are the martyrs who have died "...for the word of God and the testimony they had given..." At the other extreme are the evil-doers who cannot hide, even in caves and mountains, from the wrath of God. Between the martyrs and the evil-doers, between the faithful and the wicked, there is a wide range. Where do you fall within this range? What will save you? What will save me? Is it Faith? Works? Prayer? Will we persevere in the face of false prophets, war, violence, plagues, and injustice?
If we remain faithful followers of Christ, if we continue to pray and remain motivated by love, if we repent of our sins and ask forgiveness, maybe we, too, can earn the protection of white robes lovingly placed on our shoulders. Perhaps then we will be prepared to stand with the martyrs and be shielded from the wrath of the Lamb who was slain for our sins.
"Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us." Amen.