I’m not Catholic, so you might think that the events taking place today in Rome mean very little to me. The tradition that my denomination is a part of broke away from Catholicism nearly 500 years ago. My own family left the church, led by my grandmother, two generations ago.
The new pope, whomever he may be, will have very little direct bearing upon my life.
But I am still interested. And I’m particularly interested in the very unusual circumstances surrounding the end of this Pope’s reign. I’ve heard the rumors of why he is leaving. People say he has been forced out by blackmail, or that something is being hidden. And I do believe that churches, Catholic and Protestant, have at times been bastions of systemic dysfunction. But, I’m inclined to take Pope Benedict at his word on this one. I think he’s just stepping aside because he can’t perform the duties of his office in the manner that it deserves any longer.
That in itself is worth consideration. We sometimes don’t know when to step aside. We are sometimes so filled with our own self-importance, and our own belief that we alone can do things the right way, that we fail to see when we are starting to become ineffective. We are so afraid to admit our brokenness, that we break the things that surround us.
In Lent we are reminded of our limitations. And I think that’s why Lent is so scary to some Christians. No one wants to admit that they are powerless. And no one wants to admit that one day, if we are fortunate enough to grow old enough, we just won’t be up to the job anymore.
I don’t agree with Pope Benedict on a lot of things, but I give thanks for his example today. I give thanks for the reminder he brings to us in Lent that we are fallible, and finite, and that one day we will have to step aside and let someone else take over. It’s a huge gift to give to the church, and especially to we who are clergy. It’s not about us. It’s about something much bigger. Thanks be to God.