I'll never forget the first time I stood in St. Peter's Square in Rome. I was a sophomore in college, I was still sleepy from riding an overnight train, and I was overwhelmed.
We Americans think something is ancient if it comes from a time before color television, and I was walking toward a church built on top of the bones of a man who walked, talked, and lived with Jesus. The columns that extend from either side of St. Peter's Basilica look like arms embracing the world. All around me I saw signs, sculptures, and symbols of a faith much bigger and older than anything else I knew.
But there in the middle of the square, in the middle of this monument to the Catholic faith, stands an Egyptian obelisk (a tall tower that looks like the Washington Monument). Sure, it does have a cross on top of it, but I couldn't help but wonder who forgot to remove the pagan tower when they were building St. Peter's.
What Remains? The Church.
The story goes like this: the Roman emperors liked to proudly display their power and wealth, so they would take monuments and artifacts from all over and bring them to Rome to symbolize their power over the whole world. This particular obelisk was on display when Saint Peter, the first pope, was crucified upside down for his faith in Christ.
Saint Peter died defending a faith that wouldn't submit to any empire. The witness of millions of martyrs over the past 2,000 years gives testimony to faith that is unflinching and love that is stronger than death.
Today when you walk toward St. Peter's Square, you can't help but notice the obelisk that was once a sign of Rome's power. In the past two millennia, empires and kingdoms, presidents and dictators have risen and fallen . . . but the Church remains standing.
What the New Pope Won’t Change
As the Church prays and waits for the Holy Spirit's guidance in choosing a new pope, it's amazing how the whole world can't stop watching. Many ill-informed journalists, self-proclaimed theologians, and YouTube hit-makers are wondering if the next pope might radically change the Church's teaching on hot button issues.
Will there be women priests? What about gay marriage? Or maybe our old fashioned Church will come around to embrace the latest polls that say people need contraception to have sex without consequences?
The Catholic Church exists as the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). As the Bride of Christ, she (the Church) follows the truth of Jesus Christ who is 'the same yesterday, today, and forever' (Hebrews 13:8). We believe that God's truth does not change with popular opinion, and we belong to a faith that has outlived and outlasted the ever changing waves of fashion.
Jesus built His Church on a Rock, not a hashtag. #solidfoundation
Over time the Church will continue to find new ways to preach the Gospel to a changing world . . . but the Gospel remains the same.
As we eagerly await the next pope, we can be confident that the Holy Spirit will guide, protect, and preserve the Church just as He has for the past 2,000 years.
Jesus remains faithful to His Bride, whether she's trending or not.