Pip’s Christmas doesn’t have much to do with Christmas, or Advent, but I figured this post should have something that looks ‘seasonal.’
“2 When John heard in prison 3 of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him
“4 with this question, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’
“Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see:
“5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
“And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.’ ”
Which reminds me: John the Baptist got himself executed for pretty much the same reasons that got Saints Thomas More and John Fisher killed. I’ve talked about Henry VIII, laws, and Chickenman, before. (August 14, 2016)
John’s question makes sense, since he thought our Lord would be imposing fiery judgment. We heard about that last week, in Matthew 3:10–12. My guess is that John was right about an impending fiery judgment, but wrong about its timing.
I think the Final Judgment is ‘imminent’ — from the Almighty’s viewpoint. Like I’ve said, God thinks big.
I’ll be getting back to that.
Bible-thumping Christians aren’t the only folks who predict apocalyptic events that don’t happen.
Comets were a perennial favorite for doomsayers. Folks seeing something big and new moving across the sky figured it couldn’t possibly be good news.
Unless they were Normans, who saw a harbinger of doom, and maybe figured it was a good time to invade England, since someone’s kingdom would fall, and that’s another topic.
Edmond Halley wasn’t the only one tracking comets after Tycho Brahe demonstrated that they weren’t odd clouds. But he’s the one who noticed that comets observed in 1531, 1607, and 1682, followed pretty much the same track.
He figured it was the same comet, and worked out when it’d show up next. A bunch of other folks fine-tuned his math, and sure enough: Halley’s Comet showed up on December 25, 1758 — not quite when predicted, but close.
These days we call the Great Comet of 1556 C/1556 D1. It might be the one seen in 1264, or maybe not. Like I keep saying, there’s lots more to learn.
Fast-forward to 1857. Someone, somewhere, said that the Charles V Comet was coming back: and would destroy Earth on June 13, 1857. That’s what the news said, anyway.
The story probably sold quite a few newspapers, gave at least one cartoonist something to work with, and nearly resulted in a suicide. The comet didn’t show up, we’re still here, journalists still file imaginative reports, and that’s yet again another topic.1
Fast-forward again, to the days of my youth — which I don’t miss. Mass starvation and assorted other catastrophes didn’t happen in the 1970s and ’80s, but the Ehrlichs’ reprise of Malthusian assumptions is still popular in some circles.
Hippolytus of Rome said the Second Coming would happen in the year 500.
Saints are canonized for their heroic virtue, not for being spot-on accurate. Preferring death to denying our Lord is a short, painful, way to display that virtue. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 828, 2473)
A messy death doesn’t guarantee Sainthood, martyrdom still happens, many Saints died of natural causes, and that’s yet another bunch of topics, for another post or three.
Wikipedia has a (very) partial list of fizzled Judgment Day predictions. There was an impressive cluster around the year 1000: possibly, as Scott Adams suggested, because folks assume that God uses a base 10 counting system, and likes round numbers.
Emanuel Swedenborg was right about what we call the nebular hypothesis. I mentioned that Friday. (December 9, 2016)
I give him points for originality.
It does, I also think, show that humans don’t change much as the millennia roll by. Also that trying to second-guess God the Father is a waste of time, at best.
“21 ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, 22 but the Father alone. …
“… So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
(Matthew 24:36, 44)
That works for me.
As far as I’m concerned, our orders haven’t changed, our Lord said that he’d be back, and we’ve still got work to do. If it had been anybody else, we would not still be waiting and working, two millennia later. But Jesus isn’t anybody else. (November 27, 2016)
Where was I? John the Baptist, Jesus, comets, predictions, getting a grip. Right.
I don’t remember what the book was about, or who wrote it, but one chapter included a simple timeline and this question —
‘Before you do something bad, consider this: How long do you plan to be dead?’
But I took the point differently. Here’s my version of the timeline:
For good or ill, I’ll never die: not permanently. I’ve got another few seconds, years, or decades. Then I’ll experience physical death, which I’m not looking forward to; and a final performance review we call the particular judgment. (Catechism, 1020–1022)
What happens is up to me: what I do now, and what I decide at my particular judgment.
Nobody’s dragged, kicking and screaming, into Heaven. If I decide that I’d rather not act like a rational creature, I can opt out of Heaven. It’s my decision. It’d be a daft one, but it is possible. (Catechism, 1021–1037)
“The sum of a man’s days is great if it reaches a hundred years:
“Like a drop of sea water, like a grain of sand, so are these few years among the days of eternity.
“That is why the LORD is patient with men and showers upon them his mercy.”
More, mostly about living like love matters:
- “Sin, Awareness, Repentance”
(December 4, 2016)
- “Advent and Being Prepared”
(November 27, 2016)
- “Celebrating Mercy”
(November 21, 2016)
- “Mercy: Still Practicing”
(November 20, 2016)
- “Hating People: Not an Option”
(November 15, 2016)
1 A Belgian newspaper, Tertio, interviewed Pope Francis recently. He talked about religious fundamentalism, the price of war, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and his desire for a synodal Church. He also talked about communications media. What he actually said may not be what you’ll see in the headlines:
- “Interview with the Holy Father Francis for the Belgian Catholic weekly, ‘Tertio’, 07.12.2016”
Holy See Press Office (December 7, 2016)
(From press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/12/07/161207a.pdf (December 10, 2016))
- “Pope grants interview to Belgian Catholic newspaper”
Vatican Radio (December 7, 2016)