What the Pope's Death Means to You!
I can already hear it. The Pope has died. The next pope could be The One!
I haven't attended any kind of church service in almost thirteen years, but if I were a fly on the wall last weekend, I could almost have written the sermons myself.
The Pope is dead! This is fulFILLment of PROphecy! The NEXT pope is PROBABLY the False Prophet of Revelation! France and Germany OPPOSED the U.S. and Britain in the Iraqi war, and so did RUSSIA! The ten-headed beast is starting to STIR! Brethren, it's LATER THAN YOU THINK!!!
[hack! gag! vomit!]
The sermonettes would be all about the background of the Papal candidates, which ones worked for the Nazis, which ones turned their backs on the Jews, which ones match up to 666 when the letters in their names are numerically calculated.
I remember 1978, when Pope Paul VI died. Scared me to death. Then they elected a silly looking little man who grinned a lot and didn't look dangerous at all. I relaxed a little -- surely this friendly little guy wasn't the dreaded False Prophet we were waiting for.
Then, less than a month later, Pope John Paul (I) died unexpectedly. Holy crap! That was much too soon! And here came the guy from Poland, who called himself John Paul II. A sinister looking fellow, I thought. Didn't smile much. Prayed to Mary all the damn time! Scary! And during World War II he worked for the I.G. Farbin Company, the same outfit that manufactured Zyklon B nerve gas, which was used in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
Oh...my...god! This had to be the one!
I wasn't ready. The Tribulation was already six years overdue, and I still wasn't ready! Worse, I had a wife now, and a child. What would happen to them? And it would be my fault, because I was supposed to set the pace in our home. I was failing them; if I died in the nuclear fires, it was only what I deserved, but I had let them down!
I had trouble sleeping nights.
But 1978 turned into 1979, then 1980, and 1981. Nothing much happened in Europe. No hydrogen bombs coming our way, no jack-booted ranks of ebony-clad storm troopers. The pope prayed to Mary and otherwise pretty much minded his own business, as far as I could tell. So...maybe he wasn't the one after all.
Then some dude took a shot at the Pope. Hit him, too. Damn near killed him! I was at work when someone walked in and said the Pope had been shot. My blood turned to fractured ice. Oh, SHIT! Now this one's going to die, and surely ... THE NEXT ONE WILL BE THE ONE!
But the Pope didn't die. He survived, forgave his would-be assassin, and lived another twenty-four years.
Surviving the Pope
After 1992 I paid very little attention to the Pope. He was just an old guy wearing a dress who occasionally spoke out on this or that, occasionally petitioning the United States on behalf of some Death Row inmate, speaking out against abortion and birth control, and visiting a lot of countries where enormous mobs turned out to see him. Aside from that, he was pretty boring.
But as he lay dying, a rash of documentaries were aired on the History Channel and elsewhere, and I learned something I hadn't known -- Pope John Paul II was a pretty nice man. Certainly I don't agree with his theology (or anyone else's, for that matter), but he wasn't the jerk I had always assumed he was, and he really did do a lot of good things. He apologized for the church's failure during the Holocaust; he apologized for all the evils, such as the Inquisition, ever committed by the Catholic Church; he invited a Jewish composer to stage a Holocaust fundraiser in the Vatican; he prayed in the Jewish synagogue in Rome; he visited the Holy Land and preached peace and tolerance; he was instrumental in helping defeat communism...he did a lot of good things.
Suddenly, I wished I'd been paying more attention. Suddenly, I wished I had followed his career. Suddenly, I realized that a truly wonderful man was dying.
And I had been afraid of him! And, perhaps, so were you.
The False Prophet?
So what happens now? The College of Cardinals has already begun (or will very soon) selecting the next pope. What kind of man will he be? Will he be a hardliner? Charismatic? Or something in between? And how will he affect your life?
I already know how he's going to affect my life. I'm not a Catholic. I don't follow organized religion in any form. So the next pope, whoever and whatever he may be, will have zero affect on my life. None at all.
Because he's just a man. Not a tool of Satan. Not a prophetic fable from the feverish, sun-baked brain of the Apostle John. There isn't going to be any "Beast Power". There isn't going to be any "False Prophet" (aside from those we have already known personally). The number 666 is just 999 turned upside down. Nothing more, nothing less.
If the death of this pope has caused stress in your life, or has made you tremble with dread that the next pope might be THE ONE...
Have a drink (it's still okay).
Watch American Idol (it isn't really pagan!).
You have nothing to worry about. A nice old man has died. That's all it means.
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