Tonight, Pope Benedict XVI leaves his pontificate. Looking back at the start of his journey brought some thoughts.
Taking upon himself the weight of the Church, flawed as she is, he faced the inevitable criticisms that arose from comparisons made between him and Blessed John Paul II.
Be it his appearance, charisma, spirituality, personality, mannerisms, leadership, to many, Pope Benedict falls short. Period. Some cannot wait for a new pope to be elected so that the era of chants and Latin inclusions in the Mass can at last be sealed in its grave and remembered without fondness as a thing of the past. Some hope for a leader who knows what to say in the correct time and place.
Many people felt that he would not be able to fill the shoes left behind by the previous pope. In some ways, this may be true. After all, they are not clones but unique individuals with their own personal spiritual journeys and formations according to the Holy Spirit's execution of God's Will, these among many other background differences. But perhaps, not to see them in a comparison but as separate entities, outstanding in their own ways, each having a specific purpose, each contributing their gifts, strengths and weaknesses, unknown to our human comprehension, in the history of the Catholic Church, in ways that we can only see at the completion of God's salvific plan.
Before I read Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth vol. 1 and 2, I had very little knowledge of this man. But today, I hold him close to my heart as a fellow pilgrim on earth because I know we both share a common love for God, a thirst for the Divine. In his writing is revealed who he is, what he stands for, his beliefs and values. His profound image and understanding of God is not something that can be borne out of reading and analysing or by engaging in an unending discourse about what is. It can only be the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who unveils, opens up, teaches and reminds.
We all have our hopes and expectations of a "dream pope" just like a girl dreaming about her "prince charming". And when we see one who is rather different from what we 'know' is best for the Church, we turn around and walk away, disappointed, resent the current and await the next.
Brings to mind these questions:
What if I were to live as a Jew in Jesus' time?
What would be my image and expectations of the promised messiah, my "dream saviour"?
Seeing that Jesus opposed every preconceived idea of what a king ought to be, dashing my hopes of my "dream king", would I still believe in Him in that time and space?
Would I be able to turn down the volume of my self-righteous thoughts and turn up the volume of faith?
How about you?
What thoughts and sentiments have you had from the beginning about Pope Benedict?