The Musings 30
Read: Deuteronomy 31
You wake up in the morning with a hope that all that you hear is pleasant and good. But yesterday people all over the world woke up in the morning with a startling news, a historic announcement that Pope Benedicts XVI had resigned. There was lot of mixed feeling and emotions as people started searching different new agencies to confirm the reports that were coming in. Finally the truth came out and dawned on million of people all over the world that yes Pope had indeed announced his intention of resigning and that he would demit the office of the Pope on February 28th. The resignation of the Pope has saddened the heart of millions of his followers especially those belonging to the Catholic Church. Saddened by the fact that it is for the first time in 600 years, that a Pope had showed the willingness to resign. In the last 600 years only two Pope had resigned. The first resignation was by Celestine V who in 1294 abdicated from the Papal office in a span of less than five months. This was when Charles II of Sicily was the ruler. Celestine realized that he would only be figure head for the secular powers and that he won't be able to discharge the office of Pope in a faithful manner and hence decided to demit office. Next to demit office was Gregory XII [1406-1417], who resigned during the great western schism. Now Pope Benedict XVI has made his intention to demit the Papal office. With his intention of resignation being known to the public, people are at a strange loss, at a feeling that you don't have a leader to give you direction, you don't have a leader to inspire faith living and to give vision to the church. But then Pope has announced that the reason for his resignation is on health grounds. In the full text that he had made available to the Press, we find a honest evaluation of his life and ministry as the supreme head of the Catholic church. Pope states that he has repeatedly examined his conscience before God, and has come to the conclusion that because of his advancing age and the health issues associated with the advancing age, he feels that he cannot do justice to the ministry of Jesus Christ, as a successor to Apostle Peter and that he feels that, the spiritual ministry that he is supposed to carry forward should be done in both words and action and for this to happen a lot prayer and suffering is required on his part. Pope has been very candid about his inability to move forward at his present level of health since he feels that to do justice to the ministry he needs to be strengthened, in both body and mind. Therefore taking into the seriousness of the ministry and the huge responsibility that it entails, the Pope admitted that he is not in a capacity to fulfill faithfully the duties that has been assigned to him as the supreme head of the Catholic Church. The news of the impending resignation has been greeted by lot of questions. Is there any need for the Pope to resign?. There are so many Cardinals in the Vatican and they are there to help the Pope and after all Pope is only a spiritual authority so why can't Pope continue even if his health may be failing:?. What about those politicians who are also in the same age as the Pope who feels that they still have many more years to exercise authority or before they think they will become senile. In a world where people find hard to hand over power, or relinquish the so called powers of authority, the Pope has set a legacy in the history of the Catholic Church. At this time, I proudly remember our late Valiya Metropolitan Alexander Marthoma, who was also very gracious in willing to demit his office of the Metropolitan to the then Suffargan Metropolitan Philipose Mar Chrysostom. Chrysostom thirumeni thus became the Metropolitan of the Marthoma Church, with Alexander Marthoma Metropolitan becoming the Valiya Metropolitan. That legacy continued with Philipose Mar Chrysostom Metropolitan also, as he also demitted the office of the Metropolitan to the present Metropolitan Joseph Marthoma. In a time when Christians all over observe lent, the Pope has set an exemplary model at the time of lent. A model of renunciation, a legacy where one should not be holding on to power, on the contrary be gracious enough to understand ones limitations and help the church to find dedicated and committed leaders for the future.
When we read the Bible, we will also find leaders in the history of the church and in the nation of Israel who was willing to demit the power of authority that had been vested on them. One of the most poignant incident is recorded in Deuteronomy 30. In this you find Moses calling up Joshua and informing the people of Israel that he will be unable to be their leader in their ongoing journey to promised land. Moses tells the people that he is hundred and twenty years old and that he will no longer be able to lead them. He also reminds them about them the God's judgment about him "Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them" [ Num 20: 12]. Moses knows that he will not be able to lead them to the promised land, but then he has no regrets that he could not join them. He understands God's judgment. But in this passage what should be highlighted is not the judgment of God on the contrary the genuineness, the transparency and the willingness of Moses to bring out his frailties and also in the process nurture Joshua as the leader who would lead the Israel to the promised land. To tell others how weak and frail I am, requires a lot of courage. This is what both Pope Benedict XVI and Moses have in common. Here is Moses declaring that he is old and that he is not in the correct physical frame, both in body and mind to lead the Israelites. It is not just about the promised land, but just to be a leader of Israel was being tough for Moses. Here is Moses ready to let go. To let go is not easy and thus you have countless leaders both in the religious and political field holding on to power and positions of authority. It is in such context, that Moses teaches us that we need to learn to let go our hunger for power, let go the craving to rule over others. As Pope Benedict XVI resigns, he leaves behind a void in the throne of Peter, which will now take some time to fulfill, as the procedures have to completed to elect a new Pope. But he has left a legacy, a trail blazing path in showing others, that when one feels weak and frail and one feels that one incompetent to rule or govern, one should be wise to let go all those positions of power and authority and move to the next stage of calling in life which God has set for each one of us. Thus my belief is that lent is all about letting go our desires and hunger for power and authority. Ready to let go?
Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla