This week saw "white smoke" billowing from an Italian tourist site-slash-historical landmark-slash-house of worship. The largest group of Christians in the world saw a new leader at the helm. An Argentine. A Jesuit. What does the average evangelical, or non-Catholic of any brand, make of this?
I'm not sure.
What I do know is that if Pope Francis I is dedicated to humility, to suffering with those who suffer, to living out the Kingdom of God in both policy and personal habit, then I will stand and cheer in the great cloud of witnesses. We may differ on birth control, communion, membership and authority, but ultimately there is a cross in St. Peter's Basilica, St. George's, St. Elizabeth Seton, etc. that matches the cross on the hill just outside Jerusalem, and we share the ground beneath it after all.
As Jesus said, "Anyone who is not against you is for you." (Luke 4:50) I pray God will bring hope and transformation through the new pope's leadership, and that he'll examine his conscience daily as the founder of the Jesuit movement did many years ago.
In light of the Pope's replacement, I take a page from my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ and offer today's brief prayer as it came from the pen of the Church's first "pope" - St. Peter. May His words bless you as you head toward worship and honor - whether it is with the rosary and the missal or with drums & video or any number of ragamuffin liturgies in between.
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen. Peace to all of you who are in Christ." (1 Peter 5:10-11, 14)