18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love
The world has been waiting for white smoke.
I’m just old (unfortunately) enough to remember either one or two other papal elections. I think I remember one in particular, though I don’t remember which Pope it was, that fascinated me. I’ve always been a news junkie….even as a younger child/adolescent. So I remember really thinking about that smoke, waiting to see if it was going to turn white, and wondering what everyone’s reaction to that was going to be.
I know that right now there is a lot of renewed interest in Catholicism due to the resignation of the former pope and the recent elections for the new pope. In this morning’s copy of USA Today, there was a full page article on the rise of Catholicism amongst African Americans. On the early morning news today, there was much conjecture over whether it is possible that the pope could be an American this year.
I have my own thoughts on Catholicism that I’ll not get into here; space is limited. But I do want to reference the world watching and waiting for white smoke. You see, once the sequestered cardinals finish a vote by ballot, those votes are burned. A chemical is added to the ballots to create the white or black smoke. Black smoke indicates an unsuccessful vote. White smoke indicates a successful vote. This afternoon the smoke was white. And the crowd was relieved and….happy? Joyful? I’m not sure.
What is the world really looking for? Are they truly looking for that white smoke they saw this afternoon? Are they truly looking for the new Pope to be an intermediary between them and God? Bigger question: What are we all looking for?
I think the answer is hope. In the same way that, to some degree, white smoke signifies “hope” to the Catholic community and therefore eyes are turned that way, I believe all eyes—and souls—are searching for hope.
Hope, though, does not come through the signal of white smoke. It does not come through charlatans who try to predict the end of the world. It does not come through addictions, through relationships; it doesn’t even come from burying ourselves in doing “good things”—even “church things”.
Hope only comes through the gospel. And the gospel ensures that we do not need a human intermediary to approach God. He invites us to approach Him, ourselves. He sacrificed His son for our sins, who then was resurrected on the third day after His death—and now lives along with the Father and the Spirit, providing us the only sure hope in this word, which is the hope of eternal joy. Eternal life.
We do need to pray for the new Pope. He enters an embattled religion—not relationship, but religion—that needs godly leadership. Evil clergy sexual abuse must be addressed harshly and immediately stopped where it may be occurring. Other Catholic Church issues that are boiling need a firm hand, just like boiling issues in other religions. But I do not recognize the pope as a more holy person who has single access to God. The pope is a man. A sinner in need of grace. Just like a pastor is a human, a sinner in need of grace. Just like you and I are human, sinners in need of grace.
So, as you may have watched along with the world for the “white smoke”, ask yourself what are you really looking for? What is your soul really searching for? If you don’t know, or even if you do know yet you’re not sure how to get to that which will fill the hole in your soul, please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. Feel free to email me. Get in touch with a local Christian pastor. Either I or they would love to talk to you about real hope.