Numbers don’t lie

American Christian Radio Broadcaster Harold  Camping is a genius!

Obviously not a genius when it comes to Biblical numerology but a genius at PR. His outlandish prediction which, by the way, has done nothing but hurt the Christian Church (we’ll get over it)  I’m sure has helped his radio program. Who is Harold Camping? Come May 21, 2011 the whole world will know and when the end of the world doesn’t come and the entire world is laughing at him he’ll be doing the exact same thing. But he’ll be doing it, as they say, all the way to the bank.

Perhaps he was sincere about the whole thing. Personally, I doubt it. I don’t know Mr. Camping but I would assume he knows his Bible. I’m sure he’s familiar with the opening scene in Acts when the disciples, after the Resurrection of course, asked Jesus “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom of Israel? And He said to them, ” It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Act. 1:6-7). In other words, all numbers aside, it’s none of our business!

But that’s what this whole thing has been about: numbers. I’m sure the name “Harold Camping” has been googled a googol of times. People have read up on him, visited his site, tuned in to his radio show…. You know, I’d be interested to know just how many of his followers will finally realize he’s full of hot air come May 22nd.  Instead, something tells me that instead of losing he’ll be gaining new followers.

Maybe not. Maybe, like Harold, I’m wrong.

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The Samaritan Woman and the End of the World

Tomorrow is the fifth Sunday of Pascha, the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. In a homily given by Fr. Andrew Phillips (here) he makes an interesting point especially in light of the recent end-of-the-world scare. (See link above for full homily):

“And this is why this world still continues today, why the world has not yet ended. Until the Gospel of Christ has been preached in spirit and in truth, that is, in Orthodox manner, in all lands, throughout the world, the world cannot end. For as long as there are new Samaritans, new peoples, new tribes to hear the Truth, as long as there are people who can still potentially become Orthodox, the world must continue, for there is harvest still to be reaped.”

The most enduring words in history

H/T: Vatopaidi (here)

Science studies the Jesus Prayer

It may seem a lot of effort over just seven words: Finding 110 Eastern Orthodox Christians, giving them a battery of tests ranging from psychology to theology to behavioral medicine, and then repeating the tests 30 days later. But the seven words—”Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” (a.k.a. the Jesus Prayer)—are among the most enduring in history. What Boston University psychologist George Stavros, Ph.D., wanted to find out was whether repeating the Jesus Prayer for ten minutes each day over the 30 days would affect these people’s relationship with God, their relationships with others, their faith maturity, and their “self-cohesion” (levels of depression, anxiety, hostility, and interpersonal sensitivity). In short, Stavros was asking whether the Jesus Prayer can play a special role in a person’s “journey to the heart.”

The answer—at least on all the scales that showed any significant effect compared to the control group—turned out to be a resounding yes. Repeating the contemplative prayer deepened the commitment of these Christians to a relationship with a transcendent reality. Not only that, it reduced depression, anxiety, hostility, and feelings of inferiority to others. So powerful were the psychological effects of the prayer that Stavros urges his colleagues to keep it in mind as a healing intervention for clients. He recommends that the prayer be used along with communal practices so that one’s relationship with God and others is “subtly and continuously tutored.” In other words, going inside to find God does not mean going it alone.

World to end this Saturday

When will the end of the world occur? No one knows.  We read in Matthew’s gospel 24:37-39, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

H/T: Time News Feed (here)

Judgment Day? No Way! What’s Behind the May 21, 2011 End of the World Rumors

Forget the Mayan calendar Doomsday in 2012. One Christian radio network has calculated its own apocalyptic date – and it falls next Saturday.

You’ve seen the billboards and heard the ads. The Christian ministry Family Radio has hearkened for months now about the impending Judgment Day on May 21. But how did they come to such a seemingly arbitrary date that they’re basically guaranteeing will be the beginning of the end?

The network’s president, 89-year-old Harold Camping, is a decades-long student of the Bible who claims all the numbers add up to Christ’s second coming on the 21st.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Camping cites two Bible passages to determine the date. The book of Peter implies that the end of the world will occur 7,000 years from the date of the Great Flood. And the book of Genesis says the flood occurred on the “17th day of the second month.” Taking a look at the Jewish calendar, the de facto datebook in that era, May 21, 2011 is the corresponding date. Family Radio predicts great earthquakes will shake the Earth at 6 p.m. on the 21st, continuing for five months.

Though if the world doesn’t end on Saturday, Camping has an excuse to diffuse the doubters. In fact, it’s not the first time he’s forecast the end of days. He once predicted that the apocalypse would occur in September 1994, but when we were still alive by October, he reversed his claim, stating “important subsequent Biblical information was not yet known.”

Did he get the math right this time? NewsFeed’s prediction? We’ll see you right here on these pages on May 22nd.

Fourth Sunday of Pascha

Christ is Risen!

On this fourth Sunday after Pascha the gospel, for the first time during this post Pascha period, is not about the Resurrection. It’s about the healing of a paralytic.

And chronologically speaking Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover (the Gospel says one of the Jewish festivals – it may have been Pentecost). This is his second time in Jerusalem during His ministry. The first was just after the Miracle at Cana. This second visit provokes the beginning of a conflict with the Jewish authorities. And his final visit one year later is the scene of the crucifixion. So we are now midway through Jesus’ ministry, the second of three years – three Passovers. At Passover or Pentecost, Jerusalem would have been crowded, and this Gospel does indeed mention the crowds.

This paralytic had been laying in the porticoes of the pool of Bethesda for years waiting for what must have seemed to him an impossible task. The important point in the Gospel reading is when we read: “Jesus saw him lying there.”  This seems to be a very important word in John’s Gospel:

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’” (1:47-48).

“Now as [Jesus} passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth” (9:1).

“Therefore, when Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” (11:33).

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’” (11:33).

This “seeing” by Jesus seems to be an indication of the beginning of grace. It is the first step toward salvation and blessing, and God is the one who makes that first step. The important thing, therefore, is to be seen by the Lord.

But this “seeing” is assuming that there is something for God to see. The Lord knew that this paralytic “had been in that condition a long time” and it’s precisely for that reason that He asks Him the question: “Do you want to be made well?”

Christ brings salvation to the  entire world and to every single person. But we have to do something, we have to work actively towards our salvation. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus walks by the Pool of Bethesda where “lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water”; and the Lord only helps one person. Certainly, with a single wave of His hand He could have healed them all at once. Yet, the key is in what the Lord “saw”; or, in this case, what He didn’t see and He didn’t see this one paralytic doing anything about his condition. And so He poses the question: “Do you want to be made well?”

It is significant to note that this pool was near the Temple. Certainly there are sick everywhere but those who come to the pool of Bethesda are supposedly doing something about getting better. Similarly, we are all sinners – those who come to church and those who don’t. One would assume, however, that those who attend church services are doing something about growing in their faith.

And if they are not then this question that the Lord poses to the paralytic is also directed at them, that they too  might “rise up, take their pallets and walk” and embark on that path which will lead to salvation.