Cardinal Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope John XXIII in 1958 at the age of 77. At that age, he was deemed old and ‘safe’ enough to remain a “transitional/caretaker” Pope, one who would not rock the boat or make any waves. In other words, he was being stereotyped and written off. However, he surprised everyone less than 100 days later by calling for an Ecumenical Council – the first in almost 100 years! It was truly the action of the Holy Spirit to choose this simple and humble man to bring about a major renewal in the Church.
In addition, Blessed Pope John XXIII had a relatively short pontificate of about 5 years. He opened the Council but did not live to conclude it. To me, that is a clear reminder of our role as instruments and collaborators of the Holy Spirit; we are not the protagonists. God will finish what he has begun, with whoever he chooses. Our peace and satisfaction does not come from accomplishing great things from start to end but from a sense of blessing and gratitude to having been a part (however big or small) of God’s greater design.
Perhaps we can ask ourselves: Have we written anyone off recently? Who do we see as being ‘too old/too young’ or too ‘one way or the other’? Are we too busy setting limits on others or on ourselves? Are there things in our lives (projects, persons, etc.) we find difficult to let go of? Is there a decision we keep putting off? This Pentecost, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance – He who is our Paraclete (literally “he who is called to one’s side”) and Ad-vocatus (Jn 14:16, 26) – that we may see clearly and act charitably.
The Father sends us the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name, to remind us of all that Jesus taught (Jn 14:26); He can give ordinary folks like you and me the courage and desire to preach the Gospel in the most unexpected places and ways; the inspiration to perform small acts of kindness, to be the change we want to see, etc. The Holy Spirit is with us always and can work wonders; and while He is at it, we can safely expect the unexpected – hopefully with a good sense of humor and patience.
Note: I simply cannot do justice to Blessed Pope John XXIII (my favourite Pope!) with such a brief introduction. He was just full of down-to earth goodness, simplicity, humility and humor. His love for peace, unity and all humanity greatly endeared him to all and when he passed away, a secular newspaper headline read, “A death in the family” – a testimony to how well-loved he was, not just by the Church, but by the whole world. If you would like to get to know Blessed Pope John XXIII better and why the Holy Spirit chose him to bring about renewal in the Church, I highly recommend this inspiring movie: John XXIII – The Pope of Peace http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89KIDSKmCqI
This DVD ($29.90) is available from the Daughters of St. Paul, Singapore: Apostolate of the Media (6356 5958) or Parish Media Outreach.
--sr. Karen Eng, FSP