When was the last time you called your grandparents?
Pope Francis’ homily for World Day
for Grandparents and the Elderly – July 25
VATICAN – As he sat down to teach, Jesus “looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him.” Jesus did not just teach the crowd; he was alert to the hunger present in their lives. In response he fed them with five barley loaves and two fish provided by a young man nearby.
On this day devoted to grandparents and the elderly, let us reflect on three moments: Jesus sees the crowds hunger; Jesus shares the bread; Jesus asks that the leftovers be served. Three moments that can be summed up in three verbs: to see, to share, to preserve.
Jesus cares about us; he is concerned for us; he wants to satisfy our hunger for life, love and happiness. Jesus’ gaze is contemplative. He looks into our lives; he sees and understands.
Our grandparents and the elderly have looked at our lives with that same gaze. That is how they cared for us, ever since we were children. Despite lives of hard work and sacrifice, they were never too busy for us, or indifferent to us. They looked at us with care and tender love. When we were growing up and felt misunderstood or fearful about life’s challenges, they kept an eye on us; they knew what we were feeling, our hidden tears and secret dreams. They held us in their arms and sat us on their knees. That love helped us grown into adulthood.
And what about us? How do we see our grandparents and elderly persons? When was the last time we visited or telephoned an elderly person in order to show our closeness and to benefit from what they have to tell us? I worry when I see a society full of people in constant motion, too caught up in their own affairs to have time for a glance, a greeting or a hug. Our grandparents, who nourished our own lives, now hunger for our attention and our love; they long for our closeness. Let us life up our eyes and see them, even as Jesus sees us.
Seeing the people’s hunger, Jesus wants to feed them. That is at the heart of this miracle, by which some five thousand people were fed, we find a young person willing to share what he had.
Today we need a new covenant between young and old. We need to share the treasure of life, to dream together, to overcome conflicts between the generations and to prepare a future for everyone. The Gospel bids us share what we are and what we possess, for only in this way will we find fulfillment. Young and old, the treasure of tradition and the freshness of the Spirit.
After the crowds had eaten, the Gospel relates that much bread was left over. So, Jesus tells the disciples: “Gather up the fragments, that nothing may be lost” (Jn 6:12) This reveals the heart of God: not only does he give us more than we need, he is concerned that nothing be lost, not even a fragment. Grandparents and the elderly are not leftovers from life, scraps to be discarded. They are precious pieces of bread left on the table of life that can still nourish us with a fragrance that we have lost, “the fragrance of mercy and memory”.
Let us not lose the memory preserved by the elderly, for we are the children of that history, and without roots, we will wither. They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and do not feel alone.
Let us ask ourselves: “Have I visited my grandparents, my elderly relatives, the older people in my neighborhood? Have I listened to them? Have I spent time with them? Let us protect them so that nothing of their lives and dreams may be lost. May we never regret that we were insufficiently attentive to those who loved us and gave us life.
To read the entire text of Pope Francis’ homily, please click here