Helig Stol’s press office, bulletin n. 0558Tuesday 26 July 2022
Today is the feast of the grandparents of Jesus, and the Lord wanted so many of us to meet, on this very occasion, which is as dear to you as it is to me. In Joachim and Anne’s house, the baby Jesus got to know his ancestors and experienced the closeness, tenderness and wisdom of his grandparents. Let’s also think about our grandparents and reflect on two important aspects.
The first : we are children of a history to preserve. We are not isolated individuals, we are not islands, no one comes into the world separate from others. Our roots, the love that awaited us and that we received when we came into the world, the family environments in which we grew up, are part of a unique history that preceded and created us. We didn’t choose it, but got it as a gift; and it is a gift that we are called to preserve. Because, as the Book of Sirach reminded us, we are the “descendants” of those who went before us, their “beautiful heritage” (About 44, 11). A heritage which, beyond the skill or authority of some, the intelligence or creativity of others in song or poetry, has its center in righteousness in faithfulness to God, to his will. And it was passed on to us. To truly embrace who we are and how precious we are, we must embrace those from whom we came, those who have not only thought of themselves, but who have given us the treasure of life. We are here thanks to the parents, but also thanks to the grandparents who made us feel welcome in the world. They are the ones who often loved us unconditionally and without expecting anything from us: they took us by the hand when we were afraid, reassured us in the darkness of the night, encouraged us when we had to face life’s choices in the sun. Thanks to the grandparents, we received a caress from the history that preceded us: we learned that kindness, tenderness and wisdom are solid roots of humanity. In the grandparent’s house, many of us, in addition to all this, have breathed the perfume of the Gospel, of a faith that tastes like home. Thanks to them, we have discovered a family faith; yes, because faith is essentially communicated like that, it is communicated “in dialect”, it is communicated through affection and encouragement, care and closeness.
This is our history that must be preserved, whose history we are heirs to: we are children because we are grandchildren. Grandparents instilled in us the original stamp of their way of being, which gave us dignity, confidence in ourselves and in others. They transferred to us something that can never be erased in us, and at the same time they allowed us to be unique, original and free people. Thus we learned precisely from grandparents that love is never a limitation, it never deprives the other of his inner freedom. That’s how Joachim and Anne Marie loved; and it was in this way that Mary loved Jesus, with a love that never stifled or restrained him, but followed him to embrace the mission for which he had come into the world. Let us try to learn this as individuals and as a church: never to oppress the conscience of another, never to chain the freedom of those before us and, above all, never lack love and respect for the people entrusted to our care, these precious treasures who preserve a history greater than themselves.
Preserving the history that gave birth to us – Sirach’s Book tells us again – does not mean hiding the “glory” of our ancestors: not losing their memory, not forgetting the history that gave birth to our lives, we always remember the hands that have caressed and held us in their arms because it is from this source that we find comfort in times of discouragement, light in discernment, courage to face life’s challenges. But it also means always returning to the school where we learned and lived love. It means, faced with the choices to be made today, to ask ourselves what the wisest old people we have known would do in our place, what our grandparents and our great-grandparents advise us or would advise us.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us therefore ask ourselves: are we children and grandchildren who know how to keep the wealth received? Do we remember the good inherited teaching? Do we talk to our elderly people, do we take the time to listen to them? And again, in our homes, which are increasingly equipped, modern and functional, we know how to create a dignified space to preserve their memories, a reserved place, a small family sanctuary which, through pictures and dear objects, also allows us to raise our thoughts and prayers to those who have gone before us? Have we preserved the Bible and the rosary from our ancestors? To pray for them and in union with them, to set aside time for remembrance, to preserve the legacy: in the fog of oblivion that invades our turbulent times, it is fundamental to cultivate the roots. This is how the tree grows, this is how the future is built.
Let us now reflect on another aspect: beyond being son of a history that must be preservedwe are craftsmen of a history to be built. Everyone can recognize themselves for what they are, with their lights and shadows, according to the love they have received or missed. The mystery of human life is this: we are all children of someone, born and shaped by someone, but in becoming adults we are also called to be givers of life, fathers, mothers and grandparents of others. And then, looking at the person we are today, what do we want with ourselves? The grandparents from whom we come and the elders who dreamed, hoped and sacrificed for us ask us a fundamental question: what kind of society do you want to build? We have received so much from the hands of those who preceded us: what do we want to leave as a legacy to our descendants? A living or ‘rose water’ faith, a society based on individual profit or on brotherhood, a world at peace or war, a broken creation or a home that is still welcoming?
And let us not forget that this movement that gives life goes from the roots to the branches, to the leaves, to the flowers, to the fruits of the tree. True tradition is expressed in this vertical dimension: from bottom to top. Let us be careful not to fall into the caricature of tradition, which does not move in a vertical line – from roots to fruits – but in a horizontal line – forward/backward – which leads us to the culture of “going backwards”. in a selfish refuge; and which does nothing but store the present in a box and preserve it in the logic of “we have always done it”.
In the Gospel we have heard, Jesus tells the disciples that they are blessed because they can see and hear what many prophets and righteous people could only wish for (mt 13, 16-17). Many had indeed believed in God’s promise of the coming of the Messiah, they had prepared his way and announced his arrival. But now that the Messiah has come, those who can see him and hear him are called to welcome him and proclaim him.
Brothers and sisters, this also applies to us. Those who went before us gave us a passion, a strength and a desire, a fire that it is up to us to rekindle; it is not a question of storing ashes, but of rekindling the fire that they lit. Our grandparents and our elders wanted to see a fairer, more brotherly and more united world, and they fought to give us a future. Now it’s up to us not to disappoint them. Supported by those who are our roots, it is up to us to bear fruit. We are branches that must blossom and bring in new things seeds in history. And then let’s ask ourselves some concrete questions: faced with the history of salvation to which I belong and with those who preceded and loved me, what am I doing? I have a unique and irreplaceable role in history: What trace do I leave behind me, what do I leave for those who follow me, what do I give of myself? Very often we measure life by the money we earn, the career we achieve, the success and consideration we receive from others. But these are not fruitful criteria. The question is: do I give life? Am I introducing a love into the story that wasn’t there before? Do I preach the gospel where I live, do I serve anyone freely as those who went before me did for me? What am I doing for my church, my city and my community? It is easy to criticize, but the Lord does not want us to be only people who criticize the system, he does not want us to be closed and “go back”, but craftsmen of a new history, weavers of hope, builders of the future, artisans of peace.
May Joachim and Anne intercede for us: may they help us to preserve the history that gave birth to us and to build a fruitful history. May they remind us of the spiritual significance of honoring our grandparents and our elders, using their presence to build a better future. A future where older people are not turned away because they functionally “no longer serve”; a future that judges not only the value of people by what they produce; a future that does not care about those who are now older, needing more time, listening and attention; a future where the history of violence and marginalization experienced by our indigenous brothers and sisters is not repeated for anyone. It is a possible future if, with God’s help, we do not break the connection with those who have gone before us, and if we promote dialogue with those who will come after us: young and old, grandparents and children – children, together. Let’s move forward together, let’s dream together.