Memory of the Poor

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Revelation 9,1-12

Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven onto the earth, and the angel was given the key to the shaft leading down to the Abyss.

When he unlocked the shaft of the Abyss, smoke rose out of the Abyss like the smoke from a huge furnace so that the sun and the sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss,

and out of the smoke dropped locusts onto the earth: they were given the powers that scorpions have on the earth:

they were forbidden to harm any fields or crops or trees and told to attack only those people who were without God's seal on their foreheads.

They were not to kill them, but to give them anguish for five months, and the anguish was to be the anguish of a scorpion's sting.

When this happens, people will long for death and not find it anywhere; they will want to die and death will evade them.

These locusts looked like horses armoured for battle; they had what looked like gold crowns on their heads, and their faces looked human,

and their hair was like women's hair, and teeth like lion's teeth.

They had body-armour like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings sounded like the racket of chariots with many horses charging.

Their tails were like scorpions' tails, with stings, and with their tails they were able to torture people for five months.

As their leader they had their emperor, the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek Apollyon.

That was the first of the disasters; there are still two more to come.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

When the fifth angel blows his trumpet, John sees a "star" fall from heaven to earth; it is an angel who has been given the key to the bottomless pit, which contains the chaotic waters that threaten creation. The angel opens the shaft of the bottomless pit and from it new catastrophes emerge, as if to underline the fact that Evil does not have total, autonomous power, even if the destructive presence of evil in the world clearly remains a tremendous mystery. A swarm of monstrous locusts emerges from the pit and ravages the earth with all of its poisonous and destructive force. In the fantastic description, we can see the image of a war of chariots and horsemen that rage and destroy. These locusts do not attack the grass and the trees, they rage against the unfaithful and sinful part of humanity that does not bear the seal of faith. It is God’s judgment that falls on those who do evil and so make life a terrible torment: "And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them" (v. 6). The book of Job also remembers those who "who long for death, but it does not come, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures" (3:21). This is the desperation felt by those who are sick of their own lives. But this lack of meaning that pushes people to do rash things, this nothingness that haunts many people in our society, including the young, is not the result of chance; it is the work of the prince of Evil, the "angel of the bottomless pit" who ensnares in his nets those who let themselves be drawn in and who often have no one really to help them. The "angel of the bottomless pit" stands at the head of this surreal and monstrous army, and he bears a hellish name, which is given both in Hebrew and in Greek: "Abaddon," which means the kingdom of the dead, and "Apollyon" which means "destroyer." This angel of spiritual death reminds us of what we read in the biblical book of Wisdom: "through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it" (2:24). Nonetheless, evil’s triumph is limited; it is not complete and definitive. It only lasts five months (see v. 5), a limited time. A final note warns that these locusts are the first of the three "woes" announced by the mysterious eagle that appeared after the fourth trumpet was blown (8:13).