Of course not!
It feels icky, blasphemous almost, to even write that.
Throughout the world, the Pope is known as a Good guy. Crossing ethnic, religious, and financial lines, people believe the Pope to be, if not the leader of the one true church, at the very least a really Good guy. No one of any faith would expect to see the Pope in a situation as described above and the reason why is obvious.
He’s the Pope!
It’s got to be easy to be Good when you’re the Pope. No one is going to tempt the Pope to hang out at the local pub. No binge drinking is going to lure the Pope from the altar. No woman is going to seriously proposition the Pope. Temptation is virtually removed from him.
But why and led him to become Pope?
Well, the obvious answer is that the Lord chose him to be Pope.
Jesus said, on this rock I build my church designating Peter as the leader of the church on earth. Jesus knew that, just as in the case of a family, sports team, school club, volunteer committee, professional business, or other organization, humans crave leaders and structure. Jesus knew that, because of humanity’s inclination toward chaos, more is done when a leader is in charge.
Without a doubt, the intervention of the Holy Spirit led Pope Francis to be Pope, but Francis the man also had a say in the decision. To say the Pope had no choice but to be Good discounts the gift of free will given by God the Father.
Of course it’s easy to be Good when everyone expects you to be Good. Expectations often deliver results.
But no Pope was born knowing he’d be Pope one day. No nobel’s son was thrown the title at birth or Baptism or upon graduation. A Pope is not a king appointed without choice, without his say so, without using his free will to make that title happen.
It’s easy to look at Pope Francis and forget that he was once a child succumbing to the temptation to sin. It’s easy to forget that Pope Francis was tempted to lie to his mother in order to avoid consequences. It’s easy to believe Pope Francis was never lured by sexual temptation or greed or just plain laziness as he grew older. It’s easy to think he is unaffected by such things today.
Yes, it’s easy to be Good when you’re the Pope and kept under the public eye, but Pope Francis became Pope, not because it was easy for him to be Good growing up, but because he made the godly decision time after time after time in small matters which gave him the strength to make the godly decisions in big matters.
Francis, the man, drew one tiny step forward to being the person he was created to be every time he said no to temptation, every time he reached out to someone in need, every time he closed his ears to the world and, in silence, opened his heart to the Lord.
Temptation is something we all, from the least to the greatest among us, deal with; popes are no exceptions. We can take heart in the fact that we are not alone in our temptation and that we are not alone in our ability to fight against temptation. We can take the example of Pope Francis in his present day holiness and remember that he was once a child just as the children we have are. He was once a teenager just as the children we teach are. He was once an adult facing the questions many of us face.
We are similar to Pope Francis except that time after time, Pope Francis makes a godly choice when we might make a worldly choice. One does not become Pope overnight. It is a lifetime of making little God-based decisions that make a life of Goodness. That is the example we can draw from in Pope Francis.
As Pope Francis visits the United States, follow his example in your little things. Remember, it is all those little things that led him to be Pope, and it is the little things you do or don’t do that will or will not lead you to be the person you were created to be.
Take the opportunity to see the little things that happen today, not as temptations, but as opportunities to grow in holiness. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask where you need to make changes? Silence what is going on around you.
Silence how you were wronged by your spouse. Silence what he does and ask yourself how you can make the relationship better. What can you do to strengthen rather than divide your family? How can you make small changes today so that big changes are seen later?
These questions apply to the divorced but to the married and struggling as well – maybe more so to the married and struggling who have the opportunity to change their own direction and thereby change their family’s destiny.
It’s often difficult to do the next right thing. It often seems like the next right thing is so small it is insignificant.
You may wonder what harm it will do if no one ever knows you succumbed to temptation. You may question why you are stretching yourself to do something Good when no one notices. You may question how doing one small Good thing today will make a difference when there is so much wrong with your world.
The answer lies in the fact that no one is born Pope.
But we are all born with the ability to choose right from wrong, to make Good decisions over evil ones, to be selfless rather than selfish, and it is in those small, every day decisions that we grow to be Good, to be the kind of people others would not expect to see hanging out on street corners, throwing back shot after shot of whiskey, lusting after those who do not belong to us.
It is in those small decisions that we build up our stamina. It is in those small decisions that we invite the Holy Spirit to give us the Strength to stand up to those big decisions and to avoid temptation, and it is in doing Good day in and day out and in picking ourselves up and in seeking forgiveness when we fall that allows others to see us as Good.
It is in doing the right thing in our small decisions that allows others to think concepts such as lying, adultery, greed, and sloth are as foreign to our nature as they now are to the Pope’s, and it often then that temptation is removed a bit and we can concentrate more fully on doing the next right thing and on reaching for the Lord as our guide.
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