"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Monday, February 11, 2013

I have never so vehemently disagreed with the Pope.

Okay, we've had our quibbles, Benedict and I.  On women's ordination to the diaconate, on the role of Mary, on whether or not Anglicans are in Apostolic Succession and have valid sacraments.  We've had our disagreements... but this one tops them all.

In world news today, the Pope resigned citing his age as the reason he cannot move forward in ministry.

Now we all know that being Pope is a demanding job, an abusively demanding job.  Traveling all over the world and being in the public eye is a 24/7 marathon.  No 85 year old man should have to endure that!  Being the Pope is phenomenal work...

IF being the pope is about function, doing.

And not being.

But biblically speaking ministry is about being, and doing flows out of that.  Its not about coming out on top in some sort of spiritual and social action last man standing display (except maybe during holy week).  Its not about taking something up and setting it aside because you can't, humanly, do it.  Being the Pope is about being, about stepping into a role, depending on God to make it work, and reflecting God's glory.

Pope John Paul II was still pope when confined to his death bed.   He was no less Pope in his last frail days than in his first.

And I wonder what kind of message this sends to the elderly about their role in ministry.  We spend so much of our work at St. Elizabeth's encouraging the elderly in ministry, that "you're not done yet."  Here is the Pope! (Yes, we're Anglicans, but in this little corner of the world, so many of our Anglicans are former Catholics, it matters what the pope does.)  Here is the Pope saying "yeah, I'm done."  What message does that send to our 90 year old altar guild lady.

I wish he'd just redefined pope-ness to fit his old age.  I remember a dear friend, a priest, who felt he was too old to properly and reliably celebrate the Eucharist.  But that didn't mean he stopped showing up on Sunday morning, wearing his collar, identifying himself as a priest, caring for the people and giving wise counsel.  His body began to give way, he fell a lot in the end years and couldn't get around much, he had been losing his hearing for some time... but he never stopped being a priest.  In fact, he was in many ways a more effective priest than his younger colleagues who could still do it all.  Fr. Don's ministry was ontological, even when it could no longer be functional.

I am deeply saddened to see the Pope resign.  I think this loss dimishes all of us.  Of course I respect his free will, no one can put a gun to his head and demand that he remain the pope.  But I really wish he hadn't done this.  I really wish he had simply rested in his identity as an icon of St. Peter and redefined Pope for his old age.  Maybe because he hasn't been Pope all that long, it seemed to hard for him to do that.  Maybe because he watched the previous pope struggle and grow ill and old, he was too daunted by the task.

At any rate, I wish him well.  I hope he isn't suffering from some deep illness he isn't telling us.  But I am saddened on his behalf for the day when he discovers on his own that there's no such thing as an ex-Pope.