At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the lives and witness of the elderly, looking at how they can ensure our spiritual grounding and teach us the importance of discerning God’s presence in our daily lives and the unfolding of His saving plan.
By Thaddeus Jones
Presenting the next part of his catechesis on the meaning and value of old age, Pope Francis this week explored how the Gospel account of the elderly figures Simeon and Anna help us see how the elderly are called to offer a personal witness of faith and trust in the fulfilment of God’s promises, and thus build bridges between the generations.
And while the passing of years can dull our physical senses, he said, at this precious time in life the Holy Spirit can sharpen our spiritual senses.
Fidelity of waiting
The Pope noted how in Luke’s Gospel we read how Simeon and Anna await God’s visit, and Simeon by premonition of the Holy Spirit knew he would not die before seeing the Messiah.
Both of them, “filled with spiritual vitality”, recognize the presence of the Lord in the Child Jesus who fills them with consolation before they bid farewell to life.
This “fidelity of waiting sharpens the senses,” as the Holy Spirit “enlightens the senses,” despite the limits or decline of our physical senses of the body that is natural as we age. And old age dedicated to God and waiting for His visit and consolation will be even more keen and ready to sense it, he noted.
Lively spiritual senses
Pope Francis underscored how much society needs older persons capable of recognizing and welcoming Christ’s presence and the gifts of his Spirit.
“Today we need this more than ever: an old age gifted with lively spiritual senses capable of recognizing the signs of God, or rather, the Sign of God, who is Jesus.”
On the other hand, a society that exalts pleasure and cultivates the illusion of eternal youth can act as an “anaesthesia of the spiritual senses,” he warned, and it is particularly insidious because we not even be aware this is going on.
We can lose a sense of touch or taste, he observed, but matters of the soul can be ignored causing an insensitivity to the spiritual senses related to compassion, remorse, devotion, tenderness, and responsibility for oneself and others.
Spirit of human fraternity
We need to regain a spirit of human fraternity, the Pope said, to regain our sensitivity to spiritual matters and creating a culture where social tenderness can grow.
The lives and witness of Simeon and Anna, as well as other Spirit-sensitive elderly in biblical accounts, can teach us ways to bring vitality and grounding into our own spiritual lives, as they teach us the primary importance of discerning God’s presence in our daily lives and the unfolding of His saving plan from one generation to the next.
Spiritual old age unites
In conclusion, the Pope pointed out how “spiritual sensitivity of old age is capable of breaking down competition and conflict between generations in a credible and definitive way,” by showing us the way to what is ultimately important in life, “for an advent of God in the generation to come, which arrives together with the departure of one’s own.”
“Only spiritual old age can give this witness, humble and dazzling, making it authoritative and exemplary for all.”
At the conclusion of the General Audience, Pope Francis greeted Ukrainian children hosted by the Italian Associations “Aiutiamoli a vivere” and “Puer”, and the Ukrainian Embassy to the Holy See. He added that our thoughts turn to the monstrosity of war, and he asked that we renew our prayers so that this savage cruelty that is war be stopped.