The Parable of the Rich Fool
The clock ticks and moves only in one
direction. All of us are one year older than last year and one day older than yesterday.
Every second that ticks we are closer to our death toll as well as the Day of
Judgment. Nobody can escape!
A Gallup Poll came up with a new
finding that can be applied universally: everybody living this day will no
longer be living someday, some minute, some second. The famous American novelist, Ernest Hemmingway,
put it succinctly: “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; the bell tolls for
you.” As another poet put it: “Time is
of the essence.”
These few words in this essay will address the topic of the elderly, those up in
years, and those who have reached the golden years of their earthly existence. The
message will be very simply, how we can help the elderly as they grow in years,
at the same time that they may grow in graciousness, wisdom and holiness.
CULTURE OF DEATH AND GOSPEL OF
LIFE. Blessed Pope John Paul II in his
immortal encyclical “Gospel of Life” divides the world in two categories: those who favor and promote life,
“The Gospel of Life”; and those who promote evil and death, “The Culture of
death”. You might even term this a
modern Ignation two Standards—Christ in opposition to Satan.
Forces adamantly opposed to human
life exert their energies and launch their nets far and wide. Abortion has been
institutionalized in our society since Roe vs. Wade, Jan 22, 1973—thereby
legalizing the killing of innocent babies. On the other side of the spectrum
there is a grass-root movement trying to eliminate the elderly and infirm.
UTILITARIANISM--- This is a socio-economic and philosophical
ideology that asserts that human life has value only inasmuch as it proves to
be economically productive and
prosperous. In other words, the
more money you make, the more possessions you accumulate, the more collateral
is yours the greater your value!
Unfortunately this false system of values has permeated and contaminated
the minds of many, all too many in our country!
Therefore, the elderly and infirm in a society that embraces this
philosophy should be discarded and buried as a burden to society. Beauty, brawn, brains and big-bucks—the
“5—B’s” are the dominating feature of many in the American culture!
St. Joseph and Jesus working hard as carpenters
Jesus lived, taught and preached a
philosophy diametrically opposed to Utilitarianism. Born in poverty of poor
parents, working as a carpenter many years, living without any stable abode---
“The foxes have their holes and the birds their nests, but the son of man has
nowhere to lay his head”--- Jesus
taught: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the earth.”
This being the most noble of
world-views, what can we do to foster in our lives the Gospel of life,
specifically in our dealing with the elderly and infirm? Let us offer a few
suggestions and try to live them out!
The joy of visiting the elderly
VISITATION OF THE ELDERLY! Pray right
now to the Holy Spirit and beg Him for light to see who in the world that surrounds
you could profit from your visit! The challenge is now! See if you can visit an
elderly and sick person with advanced Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease (or
both). This person may not recognize you. Equally challenging, this person may
repeat the same story ten times in 18 minutes.
You are challenged to smile, to be kind, to lend a listening ear, and to be compassionate and manifest loving
interest! The most efficacious manner
in which this can be carried out fruitfully is only if we have a supernatural
viewpoint. If you like, reading and meditating Mt. 25: 31-46--- the blue print
for the corporal works of mercy. “I was
hungry, thirsty, naked, sick…. And you did it for me…” In other words, this
elderly and infirm person is not an anonymous and faceless nobody, a simple cog
on a wheel! No! This person is Jesus Christ incarnate! As the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminded the world time and
time again: “We must see the face of Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
PRAY FOR AND WITH THE ELDERLY. Easy
it is to fall into the trap in deceiving ourselves in believing that all
elderly people were trained in prayer, pray frequently and have a simple knack
for prayer! Often it is the exact opposite. In a pagan, materialistic and
secular society many have never learned even the basics of prayer. What a huge
act of charity indeed it could be to teach the elderly the art of prayer and
simply to pray with them. Give the elderly—free of charge—a Rosary and Rosary
pamphlet as well as a card on how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Then guide them through the prayers and
meditations. This simple gesture could be the turning point leading to the
eternal salvation of their immortal souls. Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori emphasized the capital importance of prayer
with these words quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “He who prays well will be saved; he who does
not pray will be damned.” Profound words of immortal wisdom!
Padre Pio knew how to offer up his suffering to God
TEACH THE ELDERLY NOT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THEIR
SUFFERINGS, BUT TO OFFER IT UP! Two
common characteristics of the elderly are that of suffering sicknesses and
loneliness. Both entail suffering, and at times real, prolonged and intense
suffering! Human suffering can either make us better or bitter. It all depends on our attitude towards the
reality of suffering! Complaining,
cursing, muttering under one’s breath about one’s suffering can easily
transform the elderly person into a bitter, cantankerous, and venomous
monster! We have all met them and could
be one of them in the near future! These are those who have no understanding of
suffering and no supernatural perspective of the value of suffering. In sum,
they view suffering as a curse! On the
other side of the coin, it is the elderly who has been trained in the school of
the Holy Spirit to recognize that suffering can bring forth the most positive
fruits. If suffering can be contemplated in the light of the Passion of Our
Lord and savior Jesus Christ, if suffering can be united with the sufferings of
Jesus, if their suffering can be placed on the altar in the Holy Sacrifice of
the Mass and willingly accepted, then and only then will this suffering have
positive and redemptive value. That is
to say this suffering will make us better and not bitter!
The Corporal works of mercy
In conclusion, the Gospel of life
extends from the unborn child in the womb of the mother to the elderly 95 year
old person suffering from Alzheimer and Parkinson’s (maybe both). We indeed can
make a huge difference in the lives of these precious individuals. We can
instill in their last years, months, days, hours their great dignity as
persons; we can introduce them to God through prayer. Finally we can teach them
the salvific meaning of suffering, helping to unite their crosses to the cross
of Jesus. In sum, we can help them to end their lives by growing in years, but
also growing in wisdom, age and grace before God and man!