A year or so ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to produce the audio version of author Jon Sweeney’s The Pope Who Quit. I was delighted to work with the author in our studios. Engaging the book in preparation for this recording, I was struck by how the author was drawing parallels between Celestine V (pope for 15 weeks in 1294) and our present-day pope, Benedict XVI. It seemed a stretch—at the time.
Inspiration can be found in odd places, even in a pope who resigns. As Sweeney pointed out in his book in regard to Pope Celestine, and as we are now seeing in Pope Benedict, the office is occupied by a person. That person, that human person, is of greater importance to God than any office. In Celestine V, and now in Benedict XVI, we can perceive a subtle yet affirming witness. God is not the taskmaster, bending us to his will against our own freedom and in locked struggle.
The same God whom Jesus invites us to call “Abba” is compassionate, gentle, and works with us, not in spite of us. Sometimes that means we lay things down, step down, walk away, turn to more refreshing vistas. It’s not about what we do so much as who we are—and to whom we belong.
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