I often see our Blessed Mother as an example of how to live a holy old age. From the Cross, her Son Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son.” He gave Saint John to her as her son. That must have been for her a call to re-invest in life, to love John as her son. We are called often as we age, perhaps in a new locale, to love again, to re-invest in life.
We’re all aware that “the aged” is a very broad category. It includes people who are very active and healthy, those with some limitations, and those who are confined to bed or who are homebound. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible” (#2276).
So if you are among the “active aged,” you have a precious opportunity to make life better for those less mobile than you. Call them. Go visit them. Maybe offer to get groceries for them or drive them to the doctor. These offers of love will be a gift not only for the other person but also for you!
My Aunt Mary was a wonderful person, but she had a very hurtful, difficult life. One day she told me, “You know, Dan, whenever I feel sorry for myself, I think of someone who’s a lot worse off than I am and I go do something nice for them.” I thought, “Aunt Mary, you’re right! You’ve found the secret!” And it won’t surprise you to hear that Aunt Mary was full of joy.
It’s no small grace to be able to accept help when someone offers it. That’s hard for us to do. It takes a certain amount of humility, but you are actually doing the other a favor when you accept his/her kind offer of help. Both are blessed in that exchange—the giver and the receiver.
The other day, I went out into the garage, and then thought: “Now why did I go out here?” Then I just began to giggle and laugh at my forgetfulness. Short-term memory loss seems to be an almost unanimous fact for old age. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to take ourselves lightly.
Theologians speak of the three “Transcendentals,” or the three paths to come to God. They are Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Some are inspired by the wonderful “truths” of our faith. Some see the “goodness” of others (like Saint Mother Teresa) and that opens them to God. And some see “beauty” and are led directly to praise of God.
As I get older, I find I am more and more a “beauty” person. The beauty of God’s creation, a child’s smile, or a sunset all seem to take me directly to praise and adoration of our God. Interestingly, there’s lots of “beauty” passages in the Psalms. One of my favorites is from Psalm 19 which proclaims, “The Heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork…to all the Earth their voice resounds, and to the ends of the world, their message.” Praise You, God of creation!
The Scriptures often speak of the brevity of our lives, no doubt to help us be prepared for the moment of our death. Psalm 90 puts it this way: “Our life ebbs away…our years end like a sigh. Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong…they pass quickly, and we are gone…Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” Hopefully, awareness of the brevity of our lives leads all of us to wisdom of heart.
One of the most sobering messages from Jesus about being prepared for death is Luke 12:16-21, the story of the rich farmer who builds more barns to store his huge crop. God says to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” Then Jesus calls us to be “…rich in what matters to God.” The point is, our Lord is directing our focus to eternal matters and to what ultimately matters to us as well.
It’s fruitful to ask ourselves, “Am I on a journey toward my eventual death, or am I on a journey toward life?” The destination of our lives that we fix in our mind matters immensely. Jesus says it simply, “But seek first the kingdom [of God]…” (Matthew 6:33).
Many Christian authors make the point that the time God gives us always involves a mission. The fact that God gives us the time means we have something to do, and even more importantly we have someone to become—the radiant child of God.
Spiritual authors speak of “tyranny of the past” for us as we age, but this is never true for the Christian. All that was wrong in my past has been forgiven through the Sacrament of God’s Mercy. So now I can even thank God for my sins and mistakes, because God can use even the consequences of my sins for His glory and my good. All is grace when we see our past through the eyes of faith.
On Ash Wednesday, some parents bring up their toddlers, and even their infants, to receive ashes on their foreheads. It’s a sobering experience to hear those words “Remember man that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Yet even for these beautiful babies, it’s true. None of us will live forever. We are meant for eternity from the first moment of our lives.
Spiritual authors speak of the reality of tension and stress in our lives. The call is to surrender that tension to God and to His love for us. It is good to pray, “I surrender (whatever the issue is) to You, Father.” Repeat the prayer slowly and often, and feel the tension leaving you.
As we age, it is meaningful if we can think of our lives as an expanding circle of blessings. The circle may start off small—the blessings of parents, family, being raised in the faith, but as we go on, the circle of blessings becomes bigger and bigger! I notice that God’s love for me is etched in every phase of my life. “For great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever” (Psalm 117, RSVCE).
It’s easier for us to forgive others if we’ve received the forgiveness of God in our lives. What we’ve received, we’ve passed on. But we find it so hard to believe that God really forgives us. If we have problems forgiving others, we presume that God will have the same problem forgiving us. Not so! God has no problem forgiving us. Jesus even does it on the Cross for His executioners!
“You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16, RSVCE). Think of that. From all eternity, God chose you to be His beloved son or daughter. We see ourselves choosing God, which is true, but isn’t it something to realize that we were the second one to choose, and that from all eternity God had already chosen us.
There’s a lovely saying that points out, “The will of God will not lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us.” It is an encouraging thought, especially when our human mind can’t see any reason or solutions for the situation at hand.
Saint Joseph is the patron of a happy death. It’s easy to see why. We see him on his death-bed, with Mary at one side and Jesus at the other. It doesn’t get much better than that! Pray to him for a happy death.
We’re finding today that many people 65 or older no longer go to Confession and often went rarely throughout their life. If this is you, perhaps this is a good time to return, or to start a whole new spiritual habit. Just go to a priest and say, “Father, I’d like Confession to be more meaningful for me, can you help me?” And he will, and you can experience the meaning of that wonderful sacrament.
It’s a great grace to accept God’s plan for our lives. We can trust His plan and put aside any fighting or bitterness about ourselves and what we are. Whether we’re healthy or sick, strong or weak, mild-mannered or passionate, clever or not, we can trust God. In every case, only God can fill the emptiness of the human heart.
Revelation 3:20 includes that wonderful quote: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” No doubt you’ve seen that picture of Jesus at the door, knocking, and noticed there’s no door knob. The door only opens from the inside. We open to Jesus Christ “from the inside” by daily prayer, frequent reception of Confession and Holy Communion, and doing all we can to be aware of the presence of Jesus Christ right there with us all throughout our day.
For some reason, it’s hard for us humans to “get” that God truly loves us. Perhaps we project the conditional human love we receive onto God. But that’s not how He loves us. Jesus tells us, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” (John 15:9, RSVCE). Ask for the grace to take Jesus at His Word. “Oh Lord, our God, unwearied is Your love for us.” (See Psalm 86.)
Saint Mother Teresa often said that when Jesus said “I thirst” on the Cross, He was not calling for something to drink; rather, He was telling us that He thirsts for our love, that we would return His great love for us. Just think, when we love our Lord, we are quenching His thirst!
Happily, we are living in a time when adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is increasingly available to us. Give it a try. Give God one hour in His Eucharistic presence. You can pray or read the Scripture, but most of all just sit in quiet adoration of our Lord. After one hour, you’ll be amazed at the peace in your heart—God’s gift to you.
Here’s an idea: ask God to enter you and to take charge of your life. And He will.
One of my favorite times to pray is immediately after receiving Holy Communion. The Body and Blood of Christ are actually in your body and blood! What are the deepest, most important prayer intentions in your heart? This is the best time to bring them to our Lord.
In Philippians 3:14, Saint Paul says, “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” May that describe our lives as well.
Catherine Doherty of Madonna House used to say, “My life is spent between two Masses.” Isn’t that a lovely way to visualize our lives—as after my last Mass and approaching the next one? It’s a good gauge for living a Eucharist-centered life.
It’s important to distinguish between repentance and discouragement. Repentance of sin leads us to action: “With Your help, I won’t do that anymore, Lord.” Discouragement leads us to loss of hope, and that cannot be from God.
Isn’t it amazing, all the opportunities aging offers us to take ourselves lightly? No doubt, that’s a good thing.
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