Today’s find: Benedict, Emeritus
Along with the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, I witnessed a remarkable event today: Pope Benedict XVI retired from the papacy—the first pontiff to do so in about 600 years.
My heart is deeply grateful for his service to the church—to my mind, made all the more remarkable for his having taken on a very difficult responsibility at an age when most people have already been retired for years. And in some respects, that initial “yes” of his papacy pales in comparison to this final act of selflessness. I see Christ in Pope Benedict and in his diminishment today. I am blessed by the particular way he now demonstrates his love for the church.
At the same time, this pontificate leaves me a little heartbroken, too. I was troubled to read in recent months about the vicious in-fighting in the Vatican—the power struggles and dissension that may well have played a role in Pope Benedict’s decision to retire.
It shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose, that there’s jockeying for position even within the College of Cardinals. As we saw in yesterday’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel, power plays have been a part of our sinful church from the very beginning. My own patron saint John and his brother James bore the brunt of the ignominy in that memorable episode—as they sought, with an assist from their mother, seats of prominence on either side of Jesus. But Matthew assures us there were no clean consciences among the rest of the Apostles: “When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.”
We never seem to get this part of discipleship right, do we? (We men, anyway.) The chatter lately has been all about whether the Pope Emeritus will continue to wear red shoes, a traditional sign of the office.
What Jesus tried to show us is that it’s more important that we learn how to wash feet.
Ignore that call from our Lord, and it won’t be long before our egos take over…and the power struggles begin.
So as we pray in gratitude for Pope Benedict today, let’s pray for ourselves, too. Let’s pray for the holy, broken men in the College of Cardinals who will be gathering soon to elect a successor. And let’s pray that each of us becomes more faithful to Jesus’ call, asking that we be given servants’ hearts...along with the grace to resist the allure of power and prominence.
amen -in short i think his teaching was right on tho before he was pope i read how he abused authority in silencing way too many but maybe just doing what JPII wanted? and then all the abuse coverup for which i do not blame him but soooo sad and hurtful to jesus and us all -john
Great blog John. I expect more out of the Cardinals. But then again the apostles weren’t much different.