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What Do We Understand by the Mark of the Beast?

QUESTION

Does the Church teach anything definite about a future manifestation of the Mark of the Beast? How is the Mark unforgivable? Does this not conflict with the Church teaching that all sins are forgivable?

RESPONSE

You are referring to Revelation 13: 16-18: “It forced all the people, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to be given a stamped image on their right hands or their foreheads, so that no one could buy or sell except one who had the stamped image of the beast’s name or the number that stood for its name. Wisdom is needed here; one who understands can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a person. His number is six hundred and sixty-six.”

Catholics are not fundamentalists and we would not take literally the symbolism of the Apocalypse. The beast signifies the pagan Roman emperors that persecuted early Christians, the single most being Nero. His name in Hebraic numerology is designated as 666. Many exegetes presume that the mark of the beast has to do with the coinage that bore his image. (Remember the incident when Jesus was asked about the legitimacy of taxation and he asked whose image was on a coin. When the answer came back Caesar he told his listeners to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Of course, ultimately our loyalty and most everything belong to almighty God as the Creator.)

We belong not to the world or the Roman Empire but to Christ and his kingdom. We have a jealous God. He will not share us. We might live in the world but we must never forget that we are wayfarers and our true home is heaven. We may give human respect to the earthly community but we place our ultimate faith and find our values in the Lord.

The mark of the beast in the narrative is compelled and not voluntary. This mitigates responsibility. What is damning is that some worship the beast and thus violate the first of the commandments. Such strips one’s name from the Book of Life because we are only permitted to render worship to God. This work of true worship is perfected in the Mass. The so-called beast would urge idolatry and an abandonment of the Eucharist. We place our trust less in men and foremost in the Lord. Christ is the invisible head of the Church and the Pope is his vicar and the visible head. The beast and/or the anti-Christ would attack the Church and all who remain steadfast. As in the early Church, while there may be a reluctance to reconcile traitors to the faith, today the sacrament of penance is more liberally offered. Such has been the operation of the keys given to Peter and his successors. As long as one lives, there is the chance for repentance and absolution.

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