We read in Scripture about God’s love:
- “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
- “Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you…” (Isaiah 43:4a).
- “His mercy for us is strong; the faithfulness of the LORD is forever” (Psalm 117:2).
Scripture is so clear about God’s love for us. How could we ever doubt it?!
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10, RSVCE).
God gives Himself to us. It’s overwhelming to think about. And He only yearns that we would love Him in return. As we get older, hopefully we get better at making God our number one priority, at loving Him with our whole heart and soul.
Aging has the Cross built right into it. Our bodies won’t do what they used to do, we get slower, and even simple tasks are more difficult. It is Christ who calls us to take up our Cross every day and follow Him. And we have daily opportunities to do so! We change when we see the crosses of our lives as privileged opportunities to follow Him.
The Gospel proclaims, “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:23). God is with us. He is constantly present to us. He dwells within us. Our response? It’s called “the practice of the presence of God”—to be constantly aware of His presence in us. Just a short prayer often throughout the day can help: “Jesus, I know You’re with me.” This little prayer can have an incredible impact on our lives.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity said she constantly reflected on her baptism and that Jesus was constantly living within her ever since that day. It was her recipe for sanctity. It can be ours too.
If we commit a serious sin, God leaves our soul. But if we make a good confession, He returns to dwell within us. May it be our resolve to always, through a holy life, have our Lord living within us.
At the beginning of the Gospel, we’re told that Jesus is “Emmanuel,” the God-Who-is-with-us. At the end of the Gospel, Jesus promises us that He will be with us always until the end of the age. It’s like bookends at the start and end of the Gospel, in both places Jesus promising us He will be with us. The same is true of our lives—at the beginning and all throughout our lives and at the end, Jesus is there. He is with us.
The Prophet Zechariah often speaks of a “faithful remnant.” He says it won’t be the majority, but there will be a remnant of people who remain faithful to God. That kind of describes our situation today, doesn’t it? What’s important for us is that we remain faithful.
A priest friend told me, “Aging is the greatest gift God could have given me. It gives me an opportunity to continue to do God’s work and to grow in holiness.” Actually, all of us could say that. Amen.
Aging shows us every day that we are passing, that our destiny is Heaven. That message is built right into our daily life.
One reward of frequent reception of the Eucharist is that we are literally becoming more and more part of Christ’s Mystical Body. We become more and more truly the Holy Food we are consuming.
There’s a beautiful prayer after Communion for the Mass for the seventh day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord. It goes this way: “May your people, O Lord, whom you guide and sustain in many ways, experience, both now and in the future, the remedies which you bestow, that, with the needed solace of things that pass away, they may strive with ever deepened trust for things eternal. Through Christ our Lord.”
Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Yes, of course we need to grieve the good things that pass away, all the while, with God’s help, having a deeper and deeper trust for the things that last forever.
A dear friend of mine recently died of cancer. Before she died, she left me this treasure. She said she remembered as a girl loving to play outside and resisting when mom called her in for supper, but once she got inside the house, loving being there, too. She said that was an image for her for where she was—loving this life with all its goodness, but knowing that the life of Heaven held an even greater love.
A word in praise of good spiritual reading: It matters what we put into our mind! Just a word of encouragement for you to find a good spiritual book if you don’t already have one, and to spend 15 minutes every day in good spiritual reading. It’s a wonderful way to “prime the pump” for prayer, too—it leads us right into prayer. If you need help, your priest can recommend a good title.
Silence is not empty. It’s filled with God. Befriend it. Grow in your love for silence, just “being with” our Lord. No great thoughts are necessary. It’s enough to just be with Him. The pervasive noise of our time makes silence all the more critical. Silence helps us reflect on the things of God, to be open to God’s voice. Our silent prayer is known only to God. It’s a privileged, personal dialogue between God and ourselves.
Aloneness does not equal (≠) loneliness. Aloneness allows us to open up to God on a deeper level.
It’s good to begin our prayer time with just some quiet relaxation. That helps us to bring our full attention to prayer. I have this image of an elevator in a skyscraper, going down, down until it rests on the bottom floor. In much the same way, we go down, down in our many concerns until we rest in the arms of God.
It’s a joy to experience new forms of prayer as we age. We never know when one of them will be an excellent “fit” for us. One form is just a slow, prayerful, meditative reading of Scripture. Just start with an act of faith (e.g., “Lord, I know this isn’t just any old book. This is Your living Word. Open my heart to what You want to tell me today.”) Then slowly read the Scripture until something hits you. When it does, put a marker in the Bible and think about/pray over it for as long as it speaks to you. Then re-open the Bible and continue reading slowly. The Gospel of Mark is a good place to begin. This is not a speed-reading course. It might take you a year to get through Mark, and you’ll know Jesus a lot better at the end of the year.
It seems like there are two groups of the elderly. Group A folks are very active and say, “I’m busier than ever. The days fly by.” Group B folks are more limited, maybe even homebound, and for them the days seem long—time drags on. Wherever possible, it’s great to get the two groups together—for the active to bring their energy and enthusiasm and “sparkle” to the more restricted folks who appreciate that so much.
The Last Supper Discourse in the Gospel of John is magnificent. Read John Chapter 15 and personalize it. Let it be Jesus talking directly to you as indeed He is.
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6-7a, RSVCE). Aging involves a certain “emptying of self” as well. It’s comforting to know that our Lord Jesus has gone there before us. He knows exactly what we are experiencing.
Saint Basil and Saint Gregory were contemporaries and dear friends. Saint Gregory preached Saint Basil’s funeral in 379 A.D. He said, “Basil, welcome me in your dwelling when I have departed this life, that we may live together and gaze…at the Holy and Blessed Trinity” (see Oration 43). That’s a wonderful image for us—that in Heaven we are united with our loved ones in awe of the vision of the Blessed Trinity.
There’s a strong strain in Catholic thought that sees Heaven as the reward for the battles we have fought and the struggles in which we have been faithful to Christ. It’s good to keep that reward in front of our awareness, especially on difficult days.
In a way, death, and even the time approaching our death, is a great “leveler.” Power, prestige, rewards, even financial success recedes into the background. What matters is Faith, Family, and Friends. Hopefully, those are our priorities even now.
Gilbert and Sullivan wrote a wonderful play called The Mikado. In it, they sing derisively about “the idiot who praises, in enthusiastic tones, all centuries but this, and every country but his own.” Not a bad point. God knows what He’s doing, and He has us living in this time and in this place. There are no accidents with God. Hopefully that helps us bring all that we are to the people and places in our lives.
Our youth need the elderly. They need your virtues, your values, your long-range viewpoint. Don’t withdraw from them—you have a precious gift to give them.
As we age, difficulties in sleeping often seem to be part of the package. One of my favorite prayers for nighttime wakefulness is this: “Give Your people hearts that wake in love of You, unsleeping Lord.” Just think—no matter what hour of the night we wake up, our God is right there with us! Let us waken in love of our wonderful God.
Jesus said to Peter, “…when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18b). Isn’t that the truth?! I had surgery in 2016 and walked the hospital halls with my gown not quite covering my rear end. As I did so, I thought of those words of Jesus to Saint Peter. There are, indeed, indignities in aging. May we embrace them graciously.
As we get older, we have more available time. That’s good, because we need it—for doctors’ offices! We become experts at saying our birth date in record time. We become regulars where we never wanted to go. But there’s an opportunity there—pray for all the folks there in the waiting room with you. Ask God to bless and protect them. Target your prayer just for them.
There’s a cute saying that has it as “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.” Not a bad idea. A great form of prayer is just to become quiet, turn off the radio and T.V., and just sit in God’s presence. Be aware He’s loving you right then and there. And just sit with Him.
Saint Augustine famously said, “Late have I loved You, O beauty ever ancient ever new.” That applies to many of us. Even the great Saint Teresa of Ávila was a very mediocre nun for many years before she became serious about her faith. But the great news is, it’s never too late. While there’s life, there’s hope. “Now” is always a good time to begin loving and following God with our whole heart and soul.
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