Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White Smoke

As I watched the images on my television screen of the white smoke flowing out from that chimney atop the Sistine Chapel, and as I listened to the people cheer and the news reporters excitedly announce that the new pope would soon be appearing on the balcony, I was overcome with mixed emotions.

Look at all those people...

VIVA IL PAPA!

Look at how packed in they are...

VIVA IL PAPA!

Look at all of the excitement, joy, and eagerness...

VIVA IL PAPA!

Do all of these people practice Catholicism? Maybe they all call themselves Catholics, but do they actually practice on a daily basis? Are some of these people there just because they want to witness a historic event? What a coincidence for people who just happen to be there on vacation this week- getting to see history unfold before them. Why am I watching this? I'm not Catholic. Why does this mean so much to so many people? Why do those of us who aren't Catholic even care? 

VIVA IL PAPA! ... They continue to chant.

I wonder, if Jesus was about to walk onto that balcony, would a city today flock to catch a glimpse of Him? 

I think of the times when I've witnessed similarly large gatherings of people gather simply in the name of Christ.

...

VIVA IL PAPA! ... They continue to chant... Now they're jumping up and down. 

I recall Christians jumping as they worship. Uninhibited. Excited to be alive now and forever. Excited to know and be in intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe. 

Conversely, I recall a cathedral in Ecuador. My dear friend Monica Proano wanted to take us through the largest cathedral in Ecuador a few years ago. As we walked inside, I first noticed how beautiful it was. Everything was ornately decorated. It was huge and filled with people. There were paintings upon paintings on the walls portraying famous Bible stories. 

I felt myself becoming anxious. I wanted to leave. I'd seen enough... It didn't matter how beautiful everything was, or how many people were there, or what the priests and bishops said ... I felt the absence of God in that place. 

After leaving the cathedral, Monica told me that was the very reason was why she wanted to take us there. She wanted us to better understand the Catholics of Ecuador. I learned the first time I visited Ecuador (as a 15 year old) that Catholicism looks different in different places of South and Central America. Many people, particularly the people who live in more rural areas, practice a blend of Catholicism and Mayan/Aztec/Incan beliefs, depending on which country they live in. 

...

As I waited for the new pope to be announced, I thought about the woman I spoke with this past summer during one of our clinics in Guatemala. She told me she wanted to accept Christ as her Savior, but she couldn't, because she needed the support she received from her Catholic church. I desperately wanted her to "get it." She couldn't. She was in bondage to a lie that she wouldn't let go of - Christ isn't enough.

...

VIVA IL PAPA! 

"God, wouldn't it be amazing if this new pope 'got it.' If he understood the true Gospel," I prayed.

I've met Catholics who understand the true gospel, who believe that it is only our belief in Christ's death on the cross that saves us from the punishment we're due for our sins. That there is only one way to God, and it's not through good works, or our own sacrifices, or a pope - it's through Jesus. 

"God, the influence of the Catholic church... It's so far-reaching. So many people are connected to it world-wide. It would be so great if the 'leader' of it got it right."

...

Pope Francis from Argentina. 'The Pope of the People' the newscasters are saying. The Humble Pope.

...

I sat there and looked at a man's face. A man who so many had just put their faith in. And I got it. The reason everyone is so excited is because maybe this guy has the answers. After all, the majority of the cardinals thinks he does. 
...

At our core, no matter where we live, no matter how we were brought up, we want answers. And more than anything we want the big answer to the biggest question of all - what happens when I die? Will I be enough to get me through to what comes next? And if I'm not enough, who can help me be enough?

They think Pope Francis will be enough. He'll help lead people to Christ. He'll pray to Mary for them. He'll pray blessings over them. Maybe that will be enough, they'll hope.

It won't.

But, Christ, Christ is enough. When it's hard and it's scary and it's lonely, when you're standing in the middle of a cathedral without a god, when it's easier to take control of everything into your own hands and believe in the "security net" you feel that you've established for yourself maybe that's exactly the time when you're supposed to acknowledge that nothing is enough to help you except the One who gave His life to SAVE YOU. 

"For by grace you have been save through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Ephesians 1:8

It's Jesus. Only Jesus. He is the only answer and will always be enough.


Your grace is enough,
Your grace is enough,
Your grace is enough for me....
Yeah, your grace is enough,
Heaven reaching down to us,
Your grace is enough for me, for me.
Chris Tomlin, 'Your Grace Is Enough'