A New Pope for Easter

I’ve been amazed—on two counts—over the public reaction to the recent election of a new pontiff for the Roman Catholic Church. The global press has been awash in accolades for Pope Francis. No doubt the dramatic contrast between the personalities of this new pope and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, has fueled the news media’s complimentary, sometimes glowing, coverage of this new reign.  And Pope Francis’ publicly warm and modest persona have only heightened the fascination of the secular press. The reports are nearly daily chronicling the self-deprecating, people-friendly style of Rome’s new leader—from his rejection of the armored Pope-mobile and wading out into the crowds to his decision this week to renounce the palatial papal quarters in the Vatican for a much more modest room in the nearby Santa Martha hotel-style residence that he will share with other priests. The International Business Times reported: “In what seemed to be a further confirmation to his simple, humble and laidback lifestyle, one-week-old newly installed Pope Francis has shunned the Vatican Palace and instead has chosen to remain living in the Vatican guesthouse where he has actually been staying since coming to Rome to participate in the papal conclave that chose him to become its supreme spiritual pontiff” (http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/450767/20130327/what-seemed-further-confirmation-simple-humble-laidback.htm#.UVL83RysiSo). The news media have dutifully pointed out that the new domicile for the resigned pope will be more opulent than that for Pope Francis! But just as amazing as the press coverage has been the scramble among the faithful to show that Pope Francis indeed fulfills the predictions of the canonized Irish archbishop Malachy (1094-1148). Purportedly Malachy predicted the cryptic identity of every pope (112 of them) between his day and the endtime judgment of the world. According to the faithful, Pope Francis is that 112th pope, and now expositors are showing that in fact his family name, along with his chosen name of Francis, are a literal match with Malachy’s identification of the final pope, when “Rome, the seat of the Vatican, will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people." How eager the human mind to latch onto a date for the terminus of history! But the genuine end of human history was writ large on that early Sunday morning when the incarnate God of the universe rose up from the dead, shattering not only His borrowed sepulcher, but also the very barred gates of Death and the Grave itself! “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18 NIV). There were no media to adulate over the risen Jesus—just a smitten band of Roman guards and a handful of women. And yet history was rent in twain by His triumphant resurrection, its ending forever secured for His friends—“Because I live, you will also live” (John 14:19). So never mind the popes, who come and go—for they, like we all, can only hope in the grace and power of the risen and soon-coming Christ!