History came barging into our lives once again this morning. It came by way of Rome.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”
These are the words of resignation from Pope Benedict XVI, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the first time in 600 years that a sitting pope has voluntarily removed himself from the holy office.
But what if I’m not Catholic, Jason? Why should we care?
Because Pope Benedict (nee Joseph Ratzinger) says something that we cannot, as Christians, afford to ignore: the world is changing faster than ever, and for the first time in millennia, the questions about a “life of faith” are being more and more scrutinized. Examined. Investigated.
Some have already returned a verdict, saying that faith in all its forms is not only useless, but poison: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett. Some have pointed us towards weighty conclusions about the sufficiency of science and fact, a la Dr. Stephen Hawking. Still others have gone the opposite direction; they have negated faith not by denying the transcendent, but by embracing it as an unchanging, unfeeling law that must be kept – i.e., Westboro Baptist.
We cannot pretend that these questions do not matter, because they do. And while we may not face the lights and glare from media attention, we are being considered and evaluated by those in our community (and if you’re a parent, by those in your homes). We must think deeply about our own faith, and be prepared to give an answer for it (see 1 Peter 3:15). Because in the end, that is what we will answer for in the presence of God and Christ.
So today, take a moment and pause to consider your faith. How deep does it run? How much does it inform and inspire your daily life? Is it just an add-on, an accessory to make you seem complete? Is it a form of function, something you do to have your eternal bases covered?
Or is it your life, your breath, your very being? Do you feel as the Apostle Paul did: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
History has once again given us the chance to stop and think. May God be with you as you do so today.