“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”–Pope Benedict XVI, February 11, 2013
After the shock wore off about hearing the resignation of the Pope, I had to look around at the faithful and think that we have recovered nicely. I was proud to see how the faithful stood behind the Holy Father’s decision. We could not fully understand the decision, because we are in no position to grasp the magnitude of his role as the Vicar of Christ. But, as loyal people do, we accepted his explanation because we believe in him and we have faith that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church as she has been guided for the past two millennia. Now, we will wait for his resignation date and the time for conclave to begin. Then, our prayers will increase even more as we look to the coming day of the next successor in the apostolic succession of Christ.
I think we were able to recover nicely because of the way Pope Benedict resigned. His admission to the world was a humble one. His words were the kind of honest that is painful and sad, but that is the best honest. That is the kind of honest that leads to change in a good way, even if we don’t realize that we need it yet. Pope Benedict has led us well over the years and no one was thinking that this was going to end so abruptly. I count it as a blessing that it is not an abrupt passing of his life that is causing us to look to the next successor.
His reasons, though, for resigning were ones that only he would recognize. Sure, we may recognize these signs ourselves as we age. But when was the last time you thought: “Hey, the Pope should resign because he is getting too old?” Maybe if you did, you then remembered Bl. John Paul II, and the kind of strength he displayed even as his health deteriorated.
That does not mean that Pope Benedict is not as strong as John Paul. We all know that there are different strengths. I saw a good message about that on the Facebook page of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist yesterday. It said: “Pope John Paul II remained in office so that he might show us how to suffer and how to die. Pope Benedict XVI is leaving the Papal Office so that he might show us how to live in humble honesty.”
This humble honesty is a great way to look at ourselves as we begin Lent. What can we honestly say about ourselves that we can work on? What are honest sacrifices we can make for Christ? What can we honestly do more in our lives to express charity? Pope Benedict has given us a great example of humility to witness. Now, he will be exalted (a lot by the people) even though he did not exalt himself, as Scripture tells us.
“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” –Matthew 23:12
When the world was in need of radical Christianity, the Holy Father delivered. He stepped down from the Petrine ministry in order to strengthen it. What can we step down from in order to strengthen our relationship with Christ? What can we step down from in order to show others that we see a better path; a path laid out to our own eyes by the grace of the Lord.
It appears that the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has brought more questions than answers. But if we are not questioning anything, how can we grow? If we cannot examine ourselves before God, how will we get closer to God? The Holy Father became more dear to me when he announced his resignation, because he brought all these questions to the front of my mind. I hope and pray for his peace and ask that all do the same.
Vivo Cristo Rey!