“The Lord will complete what He has done for me; Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; foresake not the work of Your hands.”
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Our Holy Father declared July 24 as the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Pope Francis has been speaking with us about the richness of old age and the generations of wisdom which has built up the Catholic Church. In the Scripture reading of Genesis, Chapter 18, we hear Abraham, one of our ancestors, petition for the good people in a city that is overcome with sinfulness, that these good people may not be destroyed. I know in my own experience of meeting with your families and having just visited with my own family in Ireland, that the treasure of the elderly is not something outdated, but alive in Christ.
Pope Francis says, “In old age they will still bear fruit” (Ps 92:15). These words of the Psalmist are glad tidings, a true “gospel” that we can proclaim to all on this second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.” The elderly are our blessing, our gift! Often, we think only of those who are right before us. Sometimes our grandparents have already died, and we don’t think of them as participating in our lives because they are no longer physically here. Yet, they offered the faithful path for our parents to lead us to God. They teach us about humility and, like Abraham, petition and pray on our behalf, on earth and in heaven.
The elderly also teach us about suffering physical or mental disabilities as a beautiful Cross carried with Jesus toward heaven. The faith-filled elderly do not worry that they are no longer physically vibrant because their vibrancy is the experience of their daily living offered to God. When we visit our churches during the week for the celebration of Mass, whom mostly do we encounter? Older people. They take the time to travel to participate in the celebration of Mass and receive the Eucharist, so they are fortified to carry Christ into the world. During the pandemic, when our churches were closed, they were a loud voice crying out to restore the celebration of Mass that they might continue their spiritual journey. They are the example of perseverance because they hope and trust in the Lord.
Older people are story tellers. Like Jesus, they often use parables to help us understand our faith. Around a meal, they share with us what it was like as they were growing up. They show us the importance of God. Many will remind us of when they made their First Communion or how important the Sacrament of Confirmation was to them. They will recall how they met their spouse and the importance of God’s unifying love to sustain their marriage. They are the cry of the poor and the blessing of the Kingdom of God. They are the ones who teach us to pray, just as Jesus taught His disciples.
They are the ones whose pride of ownership is membership to the Body of Christ; a total commitment of our life and time to Jesus Christ, and it begins with the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism marks the beginning of our discipleship, and our mission is proclaiming and teaching, serving and sanctifying. Our grandparents, the elderly, our ancestors each lived this responsibility and have passed on this mission to each one of us.
If you consider yourself one of the esteemed elderly or are now a grandparent, do not be afraid. Receive our thanksgiving in the Lord! Continue to teach that all may seek and know God. If you are younger still, pay attention to your grandparents and the elderly. Serve them as they have and continue to serve you. They teach you about God’s love. Teach them also.
May our kindness toward each other be through, with and in God.