Thursday, January 13, 2011

We Won: Quite a While Ago

I don't know why so many folks are so pessimistic about so much.

A person might think I would know that, since I lived most of my adult life with undiagnosed major depression. Which is another topic. (November 30, 2010)

Sort of. I've often felt "as if life isn't worth living." ( But I've also thought that I could endure whatever was happening. Yet another topic.

The point is that I've generally realized that life goes on. And that although change happens: some things don't change. And that some change is good.

It probably helps that I studied history. Particularly ancient history.

What? Dry facts about dead emperors and lost empires perk me up?

Actually yes. Partly because, although some realms didn't last more than a century or two, and land changed hands: folks carried on. And there were phenomena like Rome and Egypt.

A Short Look at a Long Time

Egypt was something of a special case, with a desert buffer on two sides: but even so, lasting about two dozen centuries with only the usual dynastic turnover and a few major breaks in continuity isn't doing too badly.

Roman Senators had been debating for over six centuries by the time my Lord was born: and it was about three centuries later that Constantinople became the capital of a divided empire. Again, that isn't doing too badly.

A little over two centuries ago, some very sharp people on the east coast of North America studied Rome, and every other culture whose records they had access to, took the best ideas from all of them and - well, that's yet again another topic.

Bottom line, for several millennia of recorded history people have not only endured: we've learned.

Wildly Improbable Survival

About a thousand years before the Chaldeans had their moment in the sun, a man named Terah moved from Ur to Haran. He's known chiefly because of one of his sons, Abram. (Genesis 11:31, and the NAB's footnote 9 of that chapter)

God promised Abram, or Abraham as we know him now, " '...I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you....' " (Genesis 17:7)

The descendants of Abraham were in for some rough times, but they're still with us. And I worship one of them. He's the son of David who was laid in a manger after his birth. (Matthew 1:1, Luke 2:7)

As an adult, this son of David, Jesus, made some remarkable claims and was executed.

Three days later he wasn't dead any more, which made quite an impression on his followers. Before He left, Jesus put Peter in charge of His church, and gave us standing orders that we've taken to calling the Great Commission. (Matthew 16:18, Matthew 28:18-20)

So what?

The descendants of Abraham and Isaac have held on to their identity for thousands of years. That's quite an accomplishment. Maye they're incredibly lucky, very stubborn, or - as I think - they had help.

Then there's the Catholic Church.

We've had good Popes: and we've had some who weren't so much. And we've had folks who said they were Pope, and weren't. The years from 974 to 1181 were particularly rough that way.

I could assume that the Catholic Church is incredibly lucky - that the organization has 'just happened' to avoid collapsing under occasionally inept-and-worse leadership for almost two millennia.

That seems - unlikely, to put it mildly.

I've been over this before:
"...learning what sort of leadership the Church has had over the last 19 centuries - going on 20 - is one of the reasons I decided that God really was supporting the Catholic Church."

"Somebody or something was holding the outfit up: and Occam's Razor1 suggested that I accept the explanation that the Church has been giving from day one...."
(December 7, 2010)

" '...Where, O death, is your sting?' "

Like I said, I don't know why so many folks are so pessimistic about so much. Particularly Catholics.

Our leader is someone who was killed, but didn't stay dead. Jesus is alive.

He promised that " '...I am with you always, until the end of the age.' " (Matthew 28:20)

When Jesus put Peter in charge of His church, my Lord said, " '...the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.' " (Matthew 16:18)

I'm not inclined to believe every extravagant claim I read. In this case, though, it's the second Person of the Trinity making a promise. If that wasn't enough, there's pushing two thousand years of track record to show that He meant it.

So the last American election didn't go quite the way I liked, opinion polls show that quite a few folks just don't get it, and I'm coming down with a cold: SO WHAT?!

I'm part of an outfit led by a man who wouldn't stay dead, that's seen nations and empires rise and fall - and that is still carrying on my Lord's work.

As if that's not enough: We won't stay dead, either. When Jesus conquered death, it was for all of us. (Catechism, 632-637)
"25 Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,

"in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

"For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.

"26 And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'

"The sting of death is sin, 27 and the power of sin is the law.

"But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."
(1 Corinthians 15:51-58)
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Brigid said...

Missing article: "Constantinople became capital of"

Like the "didn't stay dead" line.

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Actually both sentences are correct as posted. I changed the "Constantinople" one because there was, in my opinion, more clarity with the article.

The "didn't stay dead" one I left as-is. Formal, just-like-it-is-in-the-textbook construction would have yielded something like this:

"Our leader is someone who was killed, but is someone who didn't stay dead. Jesus is alive."

Or "Our leader is someone who was killed, but who didn't stay dead. Jesus is alive."

Either way, my opinion was that the rhythm was better with a more colloquial construction.

Thanks for the input, by the way.

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