So, Pope Benedict is set to resign at the end of the month. I have to tell you that I did not see that one coming. In fact, I did not think that would be possible. I thought that you resigned as pope when, well, you died. You just hang on and hang on and then all your priestly work is done when six little cardinals carry you around in a wooden box.
I am sure that he has his reasons. The media (and at least my facebook) has started their speculating as to the why. In the next breath, who will succeed this man? What are the implications of there being a retired pope?
I guess I wonder what he will do next. That might sound a little funny, but I really wonder. Let's face it, where do you go from being pope? Makes sense that the next logical step is straight to heaven, somewhere seated next to all the other popes and saints. What else could he possibly do?
Frankly, I think there is something brave about his decision to step down. If he feels that he cannot fulfil this role to the best of his ability, God bless him for recognizing his limitations. God bless him for standing against the pressure to just hang on, for recognizing that just maybe the Holy Spirit is calling him somewhere new.
Within our culture, we are pushed to succeed. We are encouraged to keep climbing that corporate, educational, and even ecclesiastical ladder, regardless sometimes of whether someone feels the call of the Holy Spirit or not. Heaven forbid someone stop and listen to the unpopular call to serve differently.
We do not want to listen to that call because we want to make it to the top, and to receive all that glory and power and prestige. Strangely though, in that wild pursuit, we miss out on what we may truly be called to be. We miss out on what would make our hearts sing. We forget why we are even doing what we are doing.
I imagine that retirement for a pope will probably be pretty difficult. He has to give up that identity, and discover just what identity the Spirit has in store for him. Will he be willing to continue on that journey? Would any of us be willing to continue on that journey?
How do you let go of what the world expects of you and listen to what the Spirit is calling you to be? How do you stand against the pressure of what the world wants and what will make your Spirit sing? Are we willing to take the time to discover just what God wants us to learn and to share with the world with our gifts? Or do we just hang on?