Posted by Fr. Andrew Young, St. Joseph Cathedral
Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but also a waiting for Him to truly come again at the second coming. We are all waiting, waiting for Christ to come. As I try to picture how we as a people should be waiting and not being so busy and going all the time, I think to the many parishioners and family members who currently rest in retirement and nursing homes waiting…really waiting for anyone to come through
their door to visit them. As priests, we have a responsibility and obligation to visit our homebound and those living in nursing homes. This is also a responsibility each of us have, to be Christ to the homebound, many who are elderly and even our own family members, to visit them and care for them in this their time of need.
Last week Pope Francis gave a very challenging daily homily reflecting on the Book of Maccabees where he recounts the story of Eleazar, who was a 90 year old man who was provoked by the authorities to eat pork which was against the Jewish Law. He refused this order and preferred to suffer and die than to go against the Law of God. Eleazar wanted to hand on and show to the future generations his faithfulness and trust in God, even
at the cost of his own life. He wanted to leave behind a noble and true inheritance to the next generations. Pope Francis used this witness of Eleazar, an elderly man, to point out the important and invaluable role that our elderly have played in the life of the Church and society. Unfortunately, these contributions and sacrifices are often overlooked and forgotten. He stated, “We live in a time when the elderly don’t count. It’s unpleasant to say it, but they are set aside because they are considered a nuisance” yet “the elderly pass on history, doctrine, faith and they leave them to us as an inheritance.”
We owe a great debt of gratitude to our elderly, many of whom belong to the Greatest Generation.
Pope Francis stated that we should exalt the precious role of the elderly in the Church and in society. They should not be forgotten or sidelined or left in nursing homes often abandoned. This Advent, let us remember to visit our loved ones, our parishioners or even a stranger who is homebound or living in a nursing home. When we visit them we recognize and remember their contributions of how they handed on to us the faith, how they sacrificed for freedom and how they upheld the moral fabric. To not do this would truly be an injustice. Pope Francis pointed out that, “A people that does not care for its grandparents, that does not respect its grandparents, has no future.”
“We should do well to think about the many elderly men and women, about those who are in rest homes and also those…who have been abandoned by their loved ones. Let us pray for them that they may be consistent to the very end. This is the role of the elderly, this is the treasure. Let us pray for our grandfathers and grandmothers who often played a heroic role in handing on the faith in times of persecution. Especially in times past, when father
and mothers often were not at home…grandmothers were the ones who handed on the faith.”