There comes a time in every man's life when he has to retire from his work. Will he step down with dignity when he can no longer do the job? Or will he attempt to stay until death or some other set of circumstances decide the issue for him?
For a long time in history we've heard: "The king is dead! Long live the [new] king!" A similar utterance can usually be applied to Supreme Court Justices, Supreme Ayatollahs in Iran, Supreme Leaders in North Korea ... and the leaders of some churches, such as Prophets of the Mormon Church.
In the world of Catholic Christianity an exclamation practically the same in principle is now in the minds of many, "The pope is retired! Long live the new pope!" A pope retiring, stepping down? Well, it hadn't been unheard of ... at least among a small cadre of historians who publish ancient papal statistics. But such a rare occurrence surprised many ... yet probably felt right to many. Why should someone stay in a position when not able to give anywhere near the amount of energy to the position which a new comer could give?
But there is deeper principle. Even if the current holder of a position can give as much energy as another can give, it might still be time to retire from the position. The question is: What is God saying?
Here are the words of Jesus Christ in his modern-day revelation A Course in Miracles:
All miracles mean Life, and God is the giver of the Life. He will direct you VERY specifically. (A Course in Miracles: Miracle Principle #4)
Imagine you are working in a particular position, maybe you have been in this position a long time, maybe no one expects you to retire, maybe even you don't expect to retire ... but God says something like, "It's time to move." Would you even hear God's voice? If you did hear God's Voice, would you easily follow divine instruction, or would you resist?
Obviously Pope Benedict XVI heard God's Voice and did not resist. There were popes in history who were known to have not always heard God's Voice. So why is it so obvious that Benedict heard? Consider, even though Benedict may have recognized his energy deteriorating, the previous 60 popes before Benedict had watched their energy deteriorate all the way to the very end. But they all resisted retiring. 60 successive popes, 600 years of popes, is a powerful precedent to set aside ... unless ... unless one is hearing God's Voice.
It is reported that Benedict is very happy now, showing the world the kind of joy one feels when one has listened inside and yielded one's heart to divine guidance.
So its a new time, and we pray that the cardinal-electors were deeply dedicated to hearing God's Voice throughout their process, enjoying constant communication with God, and that Pope Francis was elected not due to politics but due to not the least uncertainty.
It is quite possible to listen to God’s Voice all day without interrupting your regular activities in any way. The part of your mind in which truth abides is in constant communication with God, whether you are aware of it or not. It is the other part of your mind that functions in the world and obeys the world’s laws. It is this part which is constantly distracted, disorganized, and highly uncertain. (A Course in Miracles: Lesson 49)
Whether the cardinals hear God's Voice all day or not, we often trust God's Voice is heard when it truly counts, wouldn't you say? It is as if we expect God to speak extra loud when something really, really important is to be heard. Like during the election of a new pope.
A few people thought Pope Benedict XVI would be the last pope, fulfilling St. Malachy's prophecy. Well, he was not the last, but wouldn't it be amazing if he turned out to be the last pope to hold the office "until death do us part?" Maybe from now on, and forever into the future, popes will hear God's Voice telling them the time is right to retire.
But most people interpret St. Malachy's prophecy to mean that Benedict was really the second-to-last pope, and Benedict's successor, Pope Francis, will reign during the end of the world as we know it. If this second interpretation were to be correct it would definitely be a good idea for everyone everywhere to really experience the lesson given by Jesus, lesson 49 from A Course in Miracles:
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"...nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)
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