Jesus and Expectations

Pip’s Christmas doesn’t have much to do with Christmas, or Advent, but I figured this post should have something that looks ‘seasonal.’

“…Blessed is the One Who Takes No Offense at Me”

We’ll be hearing Matthew 11:211 this morning. The readings still aren’t particularly ‘Christmassy.’

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.’ ”
(Matthew 11:46)

Our Lord balanced that rebuke with a reminder of the Baptist’s great function in Matthew 11:715, and a complaint about folks who wouldn’t listen to John or Jesus.

That’s in Matthew 11:1619 — and perhaps a reminder that telling the truth can get a mixed response.

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 3:1012. My guess is that John was right about an impending fiery judgment, but wrong about its timing.

“the work of each will come to light, for the Day 7 will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one’s work.”
(1 Corinthians 3:13)

I think the Final Judgment is ‘imminent’ — from the Almighty’s viewpoint. Like I’ve said, God thinks big.

4 Indeed, before you the whole universe is as a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.”
(Wisdom 11:22)

6 7 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”
(2 Peter 3:8)

I’ll be getting back to that.

Comets, Normans, and Spaceships

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.

The European Space Agency sent a ship to fly by Halley’s Comet, landed another on 67P/C-G, and that’s yet another topic.

Then there was the Great Comet of 1556. Emperor Charles V saw it, said “By this dread sign my fates do summon me,” abdicated, and entered a monastery. Or maybe he quit because of gout.

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.

A Few Fizzled Judgment Day Predictions

Hippolytus of Rome said the Second Coming would happen in the year 500.

He died a martyr more than two centuries shy of his spurious Parousia. He’s Saint Hippolytus of Rome now. I gather that his feast day is some time in August.

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)

Swedenborg also published “The Last Judgment and Babylon Destroyed….” in 1758: announcing that the Last Judgment had happened in 1757 — “in the spiritual world.”

I give him points for originality.

Being Prepared

All that does not, I think, show that Christianity is silly.

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)

“Therefore, stay awake, 5 for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
(Matthew 25:13)

” ‘But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
(Mark 13:3233)

8 ‘Gird your loins and light your lamps …
“… You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’ ”
(Luke 12:35, 40)

That works for me.

I’ve got my hands full, dealing with my own jobs, and am more than willing to let the top brass handle ‘big picture’ decisions. (November 8, 2016; August 7, 2016)

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?’

I’m pretty sure the author was making the usual carpe diem argument, which makes sense. So does memento mori. (November 11, 2016)

But I took the point differently. Here’s my version of the timeline:

“These Few Years Among the Days of Eternity”

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, 10201022)

Then I’ll be with our Lord for eternity: or not. (Catechism, 10231050)

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, 10211037)

“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.”
(Sirach 18:79)

More, mostly about living like love matters:


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:

About Brian H. Gill

I’m a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I’m only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.

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