Old age, “a season in which we can still bear fruit” – ZENIT

“Aging is not a condemnation, but a blessing,” says Pope Francis, and the elderly are “living signs of God’s benevolence, which gives life in abundance.” That is why old age “is not a useless time”, “but a season in which we can still bear fruit: a new mission awaits us and invites us to look to the future”.

In his message to 2th World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated on July 24, 2022, announced this Tuesday, May 10, 2022, Pope Francis often uses “we” and thus expresses all his closeness. With the headline after Psalm 92:15, “They still bear fruit in old age,” the message urges us not to be “afraid of old age,” but to “prepare for it.”

The Pope indicates two directions for this: “the relationship with God” and “the relationship with others”. It is a matter of cultivating “our inner life through diligent reading of the word of God, daily prayer, use of the sacraments, and participation in the liturgy,” he says, and of giving his “full devotional attention” to his “family,” his “children” and “grandchildren” and being close to “poor and suffering people”.

By condemning “developed societies” that offer “aid plans, but not life plans”, Pope Francis reverses the approach and urges the elderly to “make a choice of love” for the new generations: c is, he explains, “our contribution to tenderness revolutiona spiritual and disarmed revolution that I invite you, dear grandparents and elderly people, to become the protagonists ”.

Here is the announcement in French, mediated by the Holy See’s press office.

“They still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:15)

Very expensive !

The verse in Psalm 92, “they still bear fruit in old age” (v. 15), is good news, a true “gospel” that we can preach to the world on the occasion of the Second World Day of the Great Parents and older. It goes against what the world thinks of this age; and also of the resigned attitude of some of us, older people, who are moving forward with a little hope and without expecting anything more from the future.

Many people are afraid of old age. They consider it a kind of disease with which it is better to avoid any kind of contact: the elderly do not worry us – they think – and it is appropriate that they stay as far away as possible, perhaps from each other, in structures, who take care of them and keep us from bearing their sorrows. It is the “throwing culture”: this mentality which, while making us feel different from the weakest and alien to their fragility, allows us to imagine separate paths between “us” and “them”. But in reality, a long life – as Scripture teaches – is a blessing, and old people are not outcasts that we must distance ourselves from, but living signs of God’s benevolence that give life in abundance. Blessed be the house that holds an elderly person! Blessed be the family that honors its grandparents!

Old age is actually a difficult season to understand, even for those of us who already live it. Even though she arrives after a long road, no one has prepared us to meet her, it almost seems like she surprises us. The most developed societies spend a lot on this age, but they do not help to interpret it: they offer aid plans, but not life projects.[1] That is why it is difficult to look to the future and to seize a horizon that one can strive for. On the one hand, we are tempted to drive out old age by hiding wrinkles and pretending to be forever young, on the other hand, there seems to be nothing we can do but live defiantly, resigned to no longer having “fruit to bear”.

The end of professional activity and the fact that we have independent children makes us lose the reasons we have spent so much energy on. The awareness that the forces are diminishing, or the appearance of a disease, can put our safety in crisis. The world – with its fast times, which we have a hard time keeping up with – does not seem to leave us any alternatives and makes us internalize the idea of ​​disposal. Thus the prayer of the psalm ascends to heaven: “Cast me not away now that I am old, / as my strength fails, do not forsake me” (71, 9).

But the same psalm – which traces the presence of the Lord in the different seasons of life – invites us to continue to hope: when old age and white hair come, he will still give us life and will not allow us to be overwhelmed. evil. By trusting in him, we will find the strength to multiply praise (cf. vv. 14-20), and we will discover that growing old is not only the natural deterioration of the body or the inevitable course of time, but the gift ‘. a long life. Aging is not a condemnation, but a blessing!

For this we must watch over ourselves and learn to live an active old age, even from the spiritual point of view, cultivate our inner life through diligent reading of the word of God, daily prayer, use of the sacraments and participation in the liturgy. And with the relationship with God, the relationship with others: above all the family, the children, the grandchildren, to whom we must offer our full devotion; as well as the poor and suffering people whom we must approach through concrete help and through prayer. All this will help us not to feel like mere spectators in the world theater, not to just “see from the balcony”, to stay by the window. On the contrary, by refining our senses to recognize the presence of the Lord,[2] we will be like “beautiful olive trees in the house of God” (PS 52:10), we can be a blessing to those who live beside us.

Old age is not a useless time when we have to stand back and stop evolving, but a season where we can still bear fruit: a new mission awaits us and invites us to look to the future. “We, the special sensitivity of the elderly to the marks of attention, the thoughts and the marks of love that make us human, should again become a calling for many. And it will be a choice of love from the older to the new generations ”.[3] That is our contribution to tenderness revolution,[4] a spiritual and disarmed revolution that I invite you, dear grandparents and elderly people, to become the protagonists.

The world is living through a time of severe ordeal, first marked by the unexpected and furious storm of the pandemic and then by a war that is damaging global peace and development. It is no coincidence that the war has returned to Europe at a time when the generation that experienced it in the last century is disappearing. And these major crises risk making us insensitive to the fact that there are other “epidemics” and other diffuse forms of violence that threaten the human family and our common home.

Faced with all of this, we need a profound change, a conversion that demilitarizes hearts by letting everyone recognize the other as a brother. And we, grandparents and older people, have a great responsibility: to teach the women and men of our time to see others with the same understanding and tender gaze that we have for our grandchildren. We have honed our humanity by caring for others, and today we can master a lifestyle that is peaceful and attentive to the weakest. This might be perceived as weakness or submission, but it will be the meek, not the aggressive and prevarent, who will inherit the land (cf. mt 5.5).

One of the fruits we are called to bear is to take care of the world. “We all walked past the knees of the grandparents who held us in their arms”;[5] but today it’s time to hold on to our knees – through concrete help or even just through prayer – beyond our own, the many frightened grandchildren we do not yet know and who may be fleeing war or suffering because of it. . Let us keep in our hearts – as Saint Joseph, a tender and caring father – did the children of Ukraine, Afghanistan, South Sudan …

Many of us have matured a wise and humble conscience that the world so desperately needs: we cannot save ourselves alone, happiness is a bread eaten together. Let us bear witness to those who deceive themselves that they find personal satisfaction and success in opposition. Everyone, even the weakest, can do it: Our own way of letting ourselves be assisted – often by people from other countries – is a way of saying that cohabitation is not only possible but necessary.

Dear grandmothers and dear grandfathers, dear older people, we are called to be craftsmen in our world of the revolution of tenderness ! Let us do this by learning to use more and more and more and more the most precious tool we have and which is most appropriate for our age: prayer. “Let us also become a little poet of prayer: feel like searching for our word, recovering what the word of God teaches us.”[6] Our confident invocation can do much: it can accompany the cry of pain from those who suffer, and it can help change hearts. We can be “the permanent ‘choir’ in a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayer and praise support the community that works and fights in the realm of life”.[7]

So the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is an opportunity to once again happily say that the Church wants to celebrate with those whom the Lord – as the Bible says – has “made do with days.” Let’s all celebrate it together! I invite you to announce this day in your parishes and communities; to find the loneliest elderly, at home or in the residences where they live. Let us make sure that no one lives this day in solitude. Having someone to wait on can change the direction of the days for those who no longer expect anything good from the future; and from a first meeting a new friendship can be born. Visiting the elderly alone is a work of mercy in our day!

Let us ask the Virgin, the Mother of Tenderness, to make each of us a craftsman tenderness revolutionto together liberate the world from the shadow of loneliness and the demon of war.

May my blessing reach all of you and your loved ones with assurance of my loving presence. And do not forget to pray for me!

Rome, John Lateran, May 3, 2022, Feast of the Holy Apostles Philip and James

FRANCOIS

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[1] Catechesis on Old Age1. The grace of time and the alliance of the age of life (February 23, 2022).

[2] Catechesis on Old AgeFaithfulness to God’s visitation for the future generation (March 30, 200).

[3] Old age catechesis – 3. Old age, a resource for carefree youth (March 16, 2022).

[4] Catechesis on Saint Joseph – 8. Saint Joseph’s Father in Tenderness (January 19, 2022).

[5] Messe Homilie for Itime World’s Grandparents ‘Day and Senior Citizens’ Day (July 25, 2021).

[6] Catechesis over the family 7. Grandparents (March 11, 2015).

[7] Ibid..

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