First it was the bird. Then it was the white smoke. Finally, it was the white curtains on the balcony where the new Pope would soon emerge. People around the world watched and waited with eager anticipation.
Why? What difference does white or black smoke make to a Protestant?
I learned the news that the white smoke had signaled a individual had been selected on Facebook (where else?), from another Protestant. And while his status leaned toward sarcasm, it sent me to the television for the “unveiling”. Did I think I would actually know the man chosen? Not a chance. Did I have an opinion about who it should be? No, again. So why did I care?
The simplest answer is that I was curious. Beyond that, I recognize that this man is a world leader of sorts. He represents people from every nation, makes decisions that impact those people and is responsible for leading them spiritually. It is not a job for the faint of heart. Just ask his predecessor.
When the man who will now be known as Pope Francis I stepped onto the balcony, I had no idea he was Argentinian, Jesuit or in his seventies. I just knew I wouldn’t want the pressures of that position. I had no idea whether he and I share any similar theological convictions. As I watched his first interactions with his followers, though, I couldn’t help but grin.
He seems to be a simple man, with a sense of humor and a humility I’ve not seen from the past two popes. I appreciate the way he has lived out his faith in the past: riding public transportation, living in an apartment and caring for the poor. But more than anything, I was moved when he asked those he will lead to pray FOR him before he bestowed the blessing. It indicated both humility and a recognition that he will be unable to faithfully fulfill the role without divine assistance.
I don’t pray to saints or the Madonna. I do not attend mass. I don’t own a rosary. However, I admire anyone who lives as Jesus did.
Jesus, too, asked his followers to pray for Him. They fell asleep.
Jesus, too, lived simply. The Son of Man had no place to lay His head.
Jesus, too, rode public transportation… if you count a borrowed donkey.
For a Pope to ask his global parishioners to pray for him, he has to understand and know that those individuals have the capacity to speak to God themselves. That is only possible because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.