A Catholic Monthly Magazine

“In old age they will still bear fruit”

“In old age they will still bear fruit" (Ps 92:15). These words of the Psalmist we can proclaim on this second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. 

Many people are afraid of old age. The elderly, they think, should be set apart, lest we have to deal with their problems. This is the mindset of the ‘throw-away culture’, which leads us to think that we are somehow different from the poor and separated from ‘them’ and their troubles. The Scriptures see things differently. A long life is a blessing, and the elderly are not outcasts, but living signs of the goodness of God who bestows life in abundance.

Old age is not easily understood even by those who are already experiencing it. No one prepares us for old age, and it seems to take us by surprise. On one hand, we are tempted to ward off old age by hiding our wrinkles, while on the other, we imagine all we can do is bide our time, thinking glumly that we cannot “still bring forth fruit”.

The recognition that our strength is ebbing or sickness undermines us. The fast pace of the world leaves us with the idea that we are useless. We can resonate with the Psalmist: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (71:9).

Yet that same psalm urges us to persevere in hope. Along with old age and white hairs, God continues to give us the gift of life. We will come to see that growing old is more than the natural decline of the body, but the gift of a long life. Getting old is a blessing!

We ought to cultivate our interior life through the reading of the word of God, daily prayer, reception of the sacraments and participation in the liturgy. In addition, we should also cultivate our relationships our families, our children and grandchildren, and also the poor and those who suffer, by practical assistance and our prayers. These things will help us not to feel like mere bystanders, sitting on our porches, as life goes on all around us. Instead, we can become a blessing for those who live next to us.

Old age is no time to give up, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission is the sign of our love for the younger generations. This would be our contribution to the revolution of tenderness, a spiritual and non-violent revolution. 

Our world is passing through a time of trial: the pandemic and a war that is harming peace and development on a global scale. All this points to the need for a conversion to see others as our brothers or sisters. We grandparents and elderly people must teach the women and men of our time to regard others with the same understanding and loving gaze with which we regard our own grandchildren. We ourselves have grown in humanity by caring for others, and now we can be teachers of a way of life that is peaceful and attentive to those in greatest need.

One fruit that we are called to bring forth is protecting the world. “Our grandparents carried us on their knees”; now is the time for us to carry on our own knees – with practical assistance or with prayer – not only our own grandchildren but also the many frightened grandchildren who may be fleeing from war or suffering its effects. Let us hold in our hearts the little ones of Ukraine, of Afghanistan, of South Sudan…

Many of us have come to recognise that we are not saved alone, and that happiness is a bread we break together. Let us bear witness to this. The very fact that we allow ourselves to be cared for is a way of saying that living together in peace is necessary.

Dear grandparents, dear elderly persons, we are called to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness in our world! Let us do so by more frequent use of prayer. Our trustful prayer can accompany the cry of pain of those who suffer, and it can help change hearts. We can be “the enduring ‘chorus’, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise sustain the community that toils and struggles in the field of life”. 

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is an opportunity to proclaim joyfully that the Church wants to celebrate together with all those whom the Lord has “filled with days”. 

Let us ask Our Lady, Mother of Tender Love, to make all of us artisans of the revolution of tenderness, so that together we can set the world free from loneliness and the demon of war.

To all of you, I send my blessing and the assurance of my affection. Please, do not forget to pray for me.

Taken from Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, May 3rd 2022. 

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