My thoughts in Words
Framing the world through a unique lens to provoke different solutions. "The difficulty... is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish" - R. L. Stevenson
The resignation of the Pope has the Catholic world shocked, surprised and wondering who will be next. The Pope celebrated his last Mass on Ash Wednesday and said he was resigning, “for the good of the church.” I am not a catholic, nor do I follow the rituals or practices associated with the Catholic Church, but my writing about the Pope has very little to do with that and more so about his decision to step down.
A colleague in ministry the Rev. Malcolm J. Byrd offered these words when news first broke regarding the Pope’s resignation:
“There is no shortage of commentary regarding the shocking announcement that the former Joseph Ratzinger, Bishop of Rome is removing his white zucchetto at the end of the month. I am not sure what prompted this decision (I am sure that it will come out at some point) but there is a larger sentiment that remains – the Pope has acknowledged that his task is over. He has discovered the exit door and has opted to take it without the benefit of death. Here is today’s question: do we have the courage to do the same for the sake of our organization’s future? Can we say in the words of the Negro spiritual “Lord, I done done what you told me to do…” and then bid the crowd good day? At times, comfort makes us desire to stay; duty urges us on to the next task. So, are you comfortable or are you dutiful?”
If I may take the question one step further and ask, “Do we have the ability or the right to resign from what we believe God has called us to do?” Moses, Elijah, Peter, and many other men of faith preached and taught until they were killed or died due to sickness or age. Can we actually “retire” or “resign” from ministry? If my health is failing, my body is weary; do I acquiesce to the physical, and ignore the spiritual? I am not “elevating” the Pope to the level of the aforementioned individuals, but speaking more to the level of vocation (calling) versus occupation. I can leave my job, I can retire from my career, but can I actually leave my spiritual vocation?
The answer may be a bit more simplistic, or maybe not. Perhaps, retiring should be relinquishing a physical position such as a Pastor, Bishop or Priest. But, not giving up our spiritual position. An individual may not be the “main” leader, but they can still contribute to the further progression of the Kingdom.
In this past year I saw a pastor who has surpassed 80 years old, pass the reins of his church to a younger leader. He is “retired”, but he still comes to church and still has a fire and unction for sharing the Word of God. Which brings us back to Rev. Byrd’s early thought of duty versus comfort. This pastor could have comfortably stayed in leadership, but he realized more needed to be done that he could not do, so he passed the reins to someone else, but did not give up his passion or ministerial vocation. I think then the realization is that we may resign from a position, but we cannot (or should not) attempt to resign from ministry. Even when Peter tried to go back to fishing, Jesus came and challenged him to go back to preaching and “feeding His sheep.”
If we can easily “resign” and walk away from preaching, teaching, researching and sharing God’s Word, then that person’s calling may be questionable. But, if a person resigns, yet still lingers in the church chambers then their calling may be pure and from above.
Let us be in prayer for the Catholic church as they look to elect a leader to serve 1.2 Billion Catholics around the globe. Pray that the his heart would be one that focuses on drawing the people closer to God and His Truth versus using his position for his own vain glory, which will not amount to much.
God Bless and Always Be Encouraged!
Byron Washington, MPA is a Consultant, Youth Mentor, and Life Coach. He is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University and Princeton University. He currently resides in Shanghai, China with his family. - "Change Without Direction is Chaos"