CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis urges us to care for the young and for the old, in families and in society at large. Speaking at Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, he says that to neglect children and the elderly because they are not productive is not a sign of God’s presence.

September 30, 2019

Pope Francis told the faithful on Monday that God’s love for his people is like a burning flame. He said that notwithstanding the fact that His people betrayed Him and forgot about Him, His Love is such that His promise of salvation continues to be offered to each and every one of us.

Reflecting on the 8th chapter of the Book of the Prophet Zechariah which says “I am intensely jealous for Zion,” and “I will return to Zion,” the Lord, the Pope said,  is telling us that thanks to His love,  Jerusalem will live.

Caring for the elderly and for children is a promise of future

In this First Reading, the Pope noted, the “signs of the presence of the Lord” with his people are clear. They are made evident by an abundance of life in families and in society: old men and women sitting in the streets, boys and girls playing.

When there is respect, care and love for life, the Pope explained, this is a sign of God’s presence in our communities.

The presence of the elderly, he continued, is a sign of maturity. This is beautiful: “Old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.”

And so many children too, he continued, who bring with them a swarm of activity.

“The abundance of elderly people and children. This is the sign that when a people care for the old and for the young, and consider them a treasure, there is the presence of God, a promise of future,” he said.

Culture of waste

The Pope recalled the prophecy of Joel: “your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” explaining that there is a reciprocal exchange between them, and that he said, is something that does not happen when the culture of waste prevails.

He described the culture of waste – a culture that “sends children on their way back to the sender” or that locks the elderly up in retirement homes because “they are not productive” and perhaps hinder us in our everyday lives – as a ruinous one.

Pope Francis recalled a story his own grandmother used to tell him about a family in which the father decided to move the grandfather to the kitchen during meal times because he would spill his soup and soil his clothes.

“One day,” the Pope said, “the father came home to find his son building himself a little table because he assumed that sooner or later he too would be a victim of that same kind of isolation.”

When you neglect children and the elderly, he said, you end up being part of those modern societies who have given life to a demographic winter.

“When a country grows old and there are no children, when you don’t see children’s prams on the streets and you don’t see pregnant women (…), when you read that in that country there are more pensioners than workers, it’s tragic!” he said.

It’s tragic also to lose the traditions passed down by the elder generations, the Pope said, describing traditions “not as museums,” but as lessons for the future:  “the lymph of the roots that make the tree grow and bear flowers and fruits”.

The old and the young: hope for the nation and for the Church

At the heart of God’s message, Pope Francis explained, is a “culture of hope” which is represented by the old and the young.

“The elderly and the young, together. This is the sign that a people cherishes life, that there is a culture of hope: the care of the young and the elderly,” he said, “they are the certainty of the survival of a country and of the Church.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily recalling how during many of his journeys across the world, he has been struck by those parents who raise their children up to him when he passes by asking for a blessing, and at the same time showing him who their true treasure is.

By Linda Bordoni

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