Posted November 13, 2009 in Word Made Flesh:
Reading to Snakes and Bugs

by Fr. Pat McNulty.

I imagine the bugs and snakes must have all been scratching their heads (how can a snake scratch its head, Fr. Pat?) and wondering, "Who is this crazy man standing in the middle of our living room shouting out these weird words?"

Well, what would you say if you came home and discovered a partially clad man standing on top of a table in your living room shouting out words like There were… flashes of lightening coming from the throne… twenty four elders casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea… Alleluia… Holy, Holy, Holy… Come, Lord Jesus… Amen.

Yes, what would you say? Probably the same thing the bugs and the snakes were thinking: "Who is this crazy man?"

Well, it was just little ole me standing on a huge hot rock in nature’s own living room somewhere out in the middle of the Sinai Desert, dressed (or undressed) a bit like John the Baptist, reading the Book of Revelation out loud for all creation to hear: in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth. Including the bugs and snakes.

The Book of Revelation? Out loud? In the desert? All alone? Was I crazy? Perhaps. That’s nothing new. But that wasn’t why I was reading this strange book out loud.

I was reading it because, as part of my time alone in the desert, I wanted to read the whole Bible from cover to cover without any needless interruptions or distractions.

As I progressed in my biblical endeavour, I discovered that when I came to a part that was difficult for me to understand, if I read it out loud a few times, something happened: it was like a new level of "understanding" without understanding. I don’t know; it was strange.

One of the most difficult books for me to understand in all the Bible has always been the Book of Revelation, sometimes called the Apocalypse, the book about the distressing phenomena prophesized for the end of time.

I had never read it all the way through, from beginning to end. I had only read those parts which appear in our Liturgy of the Word at Mass or in other communal prayers.

But now, having almost finished my biblical endeavour, I was face to face with that bizarre book which I didn’t really understand at all. So what was I going to do with it?

Just as I was about to call it quits, I thought to myself, "Read it out loud, Pat. That helped you understand the difficult parts in all the other books, didn’t it?"

"Read it out loud? You mean the whole book?"

Well, I don’t mind telling you I was a little spooked when I thought of doing that out there in the desert all alone. And doing it with the bugs and snakes, especially when I thought about some of the weird creatures in this book, creatures covered with eyeballs and horns and wings and stuff! Uhhhhhhh!

But one day I climbed up on a huge rock overlooking the desert, took my stand, cleared my throat, and began to read chapter 1, verse 1, of the Book of Revelation. This is the revelation given by God to Jesus Christ….

Without a single interruption, I read, out loud, all 22 chapters, all the way to the last word, "Amen." And then the weirdest thing happened.

I went right back to chapter 1, verse 1, and started all over again.

And the next day, I read it all again. And then again.

By the time I left the desert, the Book of Revelation had become one of my favorite books in all the Bible. (I think it became the favorite of the bugs and snakes as well!)

"Wonderful, Reverend. Can you tell us now what the book means?"


"Well, did you discover when the End Times would commence and when Jesus was comin’ again?"


"You can’t tell me what it means, and you can’t tell me when Jesus is comin’. You obviously didn’t learn anything at all, did ya?"

"Oh, but I did. I learned that this incredible book is about a lot more than the End of Time and the Second Coming. You and I should read some parts together out loud."

"Like what parts?"

"Well, let’s take a look at chapter 5, verse 11 to the end. Or how about Chapter 7, verse 9 to the end or Chapter 21, verses 1 to 6?"

"Reverend, I don’t have time to do a whole bible-thing while reading yer article."

Fair enough. Just keep your heart open during the wonderful month of November in our liturgical life and see what happens.

It’s a month which begins with that mysterious, spooky All Hallowed Eve of the feast of the saints and then the feast itself and then the poor souls in Purgatory. Sounds like the Book of Revelation to me.

Then the month ends with that cosmic cry that the risen Lord Jesus Christ is King, and that all creation is under his footstool—everything in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth—even death itself. Sounds like the End Times to me.

So this November if you find yourself wondering about the saints, or about persecution and martrydom, or about what’s really happening at a Mass for the Poor Souls, or Christ the King, and wishing you had some way to make those mysteries more vivid in your own personal life of faith, go to chapter 5, chapter 7 and chapter 21 in the Book of Revelation and, voilà: there they are: images beyond anything you could ever have thought up yourself.

I dare you to read them out loud. Just once. And then, if you do, don’t be surprised if, all of a sudden, out of the blue, one day you find yourself humming or even singing "The Halleluiah Chorus," from Handel’s Messiah.

What? Yep. If you read from this book, you tune your heart to new visions of faith.

"Ha-a-a-a-a-le-luya. (bum bum bum.) Ha-a-a-a-a-le-luya. (bum.) Ha-a-a-a—le-luya. (bum)….fo-o-o-o-r the Lord God Omni-i-i-i-i—potent re-e-e-e-neth…."

There it is, the whole Halleluiah Chorus, hidden in Chapter 19 in the Book of Revelation. A chorus which has certainly become one of the most recognized of all choral presentations in the Western world. And good ole Handel got it from that book!

And what about almost all of the major apparitions of the Mother of God on this earth? She is usually dressed in light like the sun, standing on the moon with twelve stars around her head. I guess she must read Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, too, because there it is: Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.

Yes, the Book of Revelation truly is a difficult biblical book to understand—unless perhaps you just start reading select parts of it out loud, simply because it is the Word of God, and forgetting about the meaning for a while.

P.S. If you start, don’t be surprised: you might read the whole thing again and again and again.



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