I love the ceremony of the event, the traditions that are honored, and the rules and guidelines that have to be followed in this process that has stretched back through the ages. As the time drew near for another in a string of ballot counts, one television reporter confessed that he could barely pull his eyes away from the smokestack to do his job, a perfect expression of the underlying excitement that many of us felt as we went about our daily activities while yet trying to stay connected with what was going on in Rome.
Perhaps I like the process because it’s a picture of how many of us live our lives; going about our daily duties while keeping an eye on the sky for smoke signals from God to give us the direction and guidance we seek. Sometimes our answers are not as quick in coming as we would like. I read in the coverage of the most recent conclave that a similar one in the past lasted as long as 33 months, until the residents of the town tore off the roof of the building in which the cardinals were meeting and restricted their meals to bread and water to hurry them along.
I’m reminded of four men who were so desperate to get an answer to their friend’s medical condition that they likewise broke through the roof of the home in which Jesus was teaching to lay him at the Master’s feet. And surely He Himself told us that some answers come only through prayer and fasting.
Similarly, after Jesus had ascended into Heaven, the disciples met to select one from their number to replace Judas, who had died. Two names came up for a vote, and his successor was eventually added to their number. Our local newspaper likewise printed the pictures and biographies of several likely papal candidates; the one that caught my eye was described as “relentlessly joyful”, a wonderful quality in any person, let alone a pope! But I think it’s the process of turning to God for our answers that brings joy to His heart and results that are certainly worthy of joyful celebration when the (white!) smoke has cleared and we move on down the road.
“And they prayed and said, You, Lord, Who know all hearts (their thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, purposes, and endeavors), indicate to us which one of these two You have chosen”
(Acts 1:24 AMP)