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Futility of Predicting Christ’s Return

The story goes that on New Year's Eve 999 a crowd pushed its way into St. Peter's Basilica in Rome to pray at a midnight mass led by Pope Sylvester II. Some trembled, some wept—all were on their knees or prostrate in prayer. The beginning of the end, the great day of wrath, God's judgment, was moments away.

For months reports of meteors and earthquakes seemed to signal the end. All across Europe, people donated lands, homes, and goods to the poor to better their souls for the coming judgment. Sins were confessed, businesses neglected, fields left uncultivated as people waited in dread. On New Year's Eve at St. Peter's, the tension was so thick that, as the clock ticked toward the end of the millennium, one account says, "not a few [died] from fright."

Then the clock struck twelve: "The crowd remained transfixed, barely daring to breathe." And life went on. Bells peeled forth and people cheered. So the story goes.

But it never happened. It is a tale created by some medieval storyteller who thought that Y1K should have been more fearful and exciting. We’ve had plenty of fear-mongering about Y2K, not only about the technological catastrophes that awaited us but also, according to many religious books, the apocalyptic terrors that were going to be released as Christ was about to come in judgment. And nearly all of it has been proven false.

It just goes to show, once again, that Jesus really meant it when he said no one knows the hour or day of his coming. It is not our business to calculate his coming, and certainly not to fear it, but simply to await in hope and in the meantime do what he’s called us to do day by day.

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