The famous German atheist Frederick Nietzsche used to say, “Christians sure don’t look redeemed!” A more flippant way to say it would be, “If you’ve been redeemed, please inform your face.” In other words, even on our worst day, we have cause for joy, and we need to outwardly show we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.
Knowing we are a son or daughter of God fills us with great hope, because our God is good and His mercy is infinite.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola often spoke of the importance of “holy desires” for our lives. We pray in Advent “Come Lord Jesus!” That is a holy desire which will have an impact on our lives—an ardent desire for Christ to come into our lives and into our world.
Think of the promise from Saint John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Think of that! To actually see God. And to be like Him. It’s overwhelming.
An image for the virtue of Hope is the anchor. If you throw an anchor ashore, and pull on the rope, you’re coming closer and closer to the shore (to Heaven). It’s where Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the saints are. Hope is our anchor.
Family prayer is so important! If the grandkids are over for dinner, be sure to pray the grace before meals. After the meal, stay at the table and go around the circle. Ask each one “What should we pray for?” Look for opportunities for family prayer in your home.
Right after He teaches us the Our Father, Jesus says, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). Clearly, forgiveness is huge in the eyes of our Lord. Beg God’s help to forgive anyone you have not yet forgiven.
Some researchers report that how we desire to spend our time depends on how much time we believe we have. One thing clear about aging is that we realize we have more time behind us than ahead of us. God can do great things in us with this awareness. It’s a powerful motivator for making holy choices in the time we have left.
Have you heard that quote, “You may be the only Gospel some people ever hear.” It’s true. We who have been given the gift of Faith and have been baptized in Christ Jesus have been given a great task by our Lord, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19, RSVCE).
Pope Paul VI said, “Our world today listens more to witnesses than to teachers.” It’s true. When speaking of your faith, use the word “I.” “I believe because…” or “My experience of God is…” People today are starving for a personal witness of faith.
Faith is more “caught” than “taught.” How do people “catch” it? Pope Paul VI says, “Through the witness of life.” People watch us. They hear our words and see our actions. We’re not perfect, but when they see we are sincere in our love for our Lord, they are more receptive to hearing “What is the reason for the hope that is within you?” (See 1 Peter 3:15.)
There’s a controversial saying that has it, “It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven.” But wait. We say in the “Hail Holy Queen” that we are “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” So which is it? Clearly, it’s both. But, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). So yes, our faith in God colors even the worst day of our lives. It sustains and encourages us in the hard times as well as in the good times.
It’s true we have here on Earth no permanent home. So we are waiting. We are like those bridesmaids waiting for the groom to arrive, but we want to be sure we have plenty of oil in our lamps as we wait. The “oil” is our love of God with our whole heart and soul and our love for our neighbor. How’s your “oil supply?”
Matthew 23:37b: “How many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” That captures two realities—God’s great love for us and our surprising propensity to reject or turn away from that love.
A frequent prayer in the Church’s Liturgy goes this way: “Through the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever-virgin, may we be set free from present sorrow and come to enjoy eternal happiness.” We see our Blessed Mother always interceding for us, like a good mother praying for her children. What a comfort and what a hope to know we have this wonderful Mother, always praying for us.
Especially the season of Advent focuses our hearts on waiting in readiness for the Lord to come. Hopefully our waiting only increases our desire to see God face to face. Our being ready for that great moment will make our lives a true success.
From the perspective of a Christian, Saint John Paul II, in his 1999 Letter to the Elderly, reminds us “…the twilight of life can be seen…as a ‘passage’, a bridge between one life and another, between the fragile and uncertain joy of this earth to that fullness of joy which the Lord holds in store for His faithful servants” (#16).
Saint Ignatius of Loyola often speaks of “consolations” in prayer, where we experience joy and a sense of God’s closeness to us. He also speaks of “desolations” where we are praying but don’t have any sense of God’s presence with us. Desolations in prayer are very common in the life of a Christian. God seems to withdraw those joyful feelings so we learn to cling in faith to Him. What are we to do when we experience desolations in prayer? Keep praying exactly as before.
Remember what we were told as we grew up when we had an ache or pain? We were told to “offer it up.” Actually, there’s a certain depth to that advice. Aging brings with it new aches and pains and limitations, but when we unite those to Christ’s sufferings on the Cross, they become part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. “Offer it up” turns out to be profound advice indeed.
When we pray the “Hail Mary” we say “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Think of that for a moment: we believe our Blessed Mother is praying for us at this moment, and that she’ll be there in a special, motherly way at the hour of our death, praying for us. Thank you, our beloved Mother!
A joyous task of aging is helping others achieve their potential. Psychologists call this desire to help others flourish “transcendence.” I think we call it “Agape”—self-sacrificing love.
Aging brings with it a certain freedom. We become less interested in accumulating and achieving and more interested in loving God and one another.
We are used to certifying the truth of things through our five senses. We say, “I saw it happen, so I know it occurred.” But when it comes to our faith, our senses fail us. The Host still just looks like bread. I can’t see original sin being washed away in Baptism. And so it goes. But there is a certitude of faith, based not on our five senses but on Jesus Christ, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. He is the one Who promises us eternal life.
Interestingly studies show people grow happier as they age. They are less prone to anxiety, depression, and anger. They grow in appreciation of simple pleasures and everyday relationships. Ultimately, only God matters.
Bishop Bob Barron often speaks of the Theo-Drama (the story God wishes to write with our lives) and the Ego-Drama (where we prefer living out our own plans for our lives). Christmas asks us: “Will I let Jesus be born in me? Is there room in my heart, in my life, for Him?” Christmas is a gift of love from the Father to us (namely, His Son Jesus) which asks us that we give Him a gift in return (namely, a heart of love for Him).
Love conquers death. It’s a theme writers and poets often turn to. And it actually expresses a great truth—death does not have the last word. Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55 claims, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (RSVCE). In His death and resurrection, Jesus is the Conqueror of Death.
Pope Pius XII once said we feel “a homesickness for things eternal.” Yes, we have an important part to play in this world, but ultimately we belong to God in Heaven.
Bishop Barron makes the observation that Jesus “relativizes death.” The opposite of “relativize” could be termed “absolute-tivize.” Jesus shows us that death is not absolute, it’s relative. In other words, it’s not the whole story. The reign of death is over. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ has ended the reign of death forever.
With fatherly love, Saint John Paul II in his 1999 Letter to the Elderly, encourages us: “I encourage each of you to live with serenity the years the Lord has granted you…I find great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord will call me: from life to life!” (#17). So, no matter what your “life” has been like, God will bring it from little to big, from mediocre to great, from life to Life! Isn’t that a wonderful thought?!
A frequent image for our human knowledge in the face of death is that of a bridge which comes to an end without reaching the other shore. Our human knowledge doesn’t bring us all the way to Heaven. Faith must complete the journey. Another good image for death is a boat that leaves the shore. We see the boat leave, but we don’t see where it ends. Again, faith helps us to cross into the unknown.
Think of it—in every phase of our lives, God is calling us. As long as we live, God is calling us. The blind poet John Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” If I’m homebound, or of limited health, is God still calling me? Absolutely! I can still pray for others, I can still unite my sufferings with those of Jesus Christ on the Cross, I can still be a vital part of God’s plan for the world.
Available from Amazon as an eBook or paperback!