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Homily for 26 July 2022, Feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, Mt 13:36-43

Today, the feast day of the grandparents of Jesus, Sts Joachim and Anne, is the culmination of the three-day Conference for Grandparents and Elderly that began last Sunday with the World Day for Grandparents and Elderly People. In the message that I gave last Sunday, at the opening of the Online Conference, I began by calling attention to the theme for this year’s celebration: “In Old Age, They Will Still Bear Fruit” . It is actually inspired by Psalm 92, the Psalm that describes the Elderly “fluorishing like the palm tree, and growing like a Lebanon cedar, still bearing fruit in old age, still full of sap and still green.” In Tagalog they’d say, “May asim pa kahit may edad na.”

In most modern societies where fruitfulness is gauged in terms of material productivity, only the young will tend to be considered as assets, and the elderly will tend to be treated as liabilities. And yet we know that in most Asian cultures, we value the guidance and wisdom of the elderly. And whenever we can, we prefer to keep them as part of our regular family homes rather than entrust them to the care of institutions or homes for the elderly. In Tagalog, the term for growing old is PAGTANDA, because we regard our elderly as “signposts for travelers”. They can point the way because they have been there.

The Gospel today has a beautiful image for the wisdom of the elderly: the capacity to sort out between the weeds and the wheat. This is the kind of wisdom that we value, and the reason why we believe that keeping our young people in the close company of the elderly is a very positive thing.

In the Philippines we have even invented a word for the ministry entrusted to the elderly as “APO-STOLATE”, meaning, the care that lolos and lolas extend to their APOS (grandchildren), which is very important especially in terms of their contribution to the nurturing of the physical, intellectual, cultural and spiritual upbringing of their grandchildren. The online conference also featured reflections on the importance of grandparents and elders in inculcating the Christian faith and their role in the family and society.

If there is one thing most young parents are thankful for, it is usually the generosity of their elderly parents in sharing of their time, energy and even finances, especially when these young parents are not yet financially stable. In many instances, grandparents even go to the extent of spending their own retirement money in order to help their children and grandchildren get by. And since the young parents tend to be preoccupied with earning a living, it is often the grandparents who will tend to be more available, and more present to accompany their grandchildren in their tender growing up years.

In more ways than one, grandparents are actually part of the system of social security of most Filipino families. Often, they are the ones who end up with very meager resources in their moments of sickness and old age. And when such challenging times come and their children and grandchildren will be there for them, it can only mean that the family is genuinely anchored on Christian values.

We know of course that it is not always the case anymore among all families. I hear that in Singapore, there are many grandparents who live alone in high rise apartments. Many of them are hardly able to pay the rent because of the high standard of living. Many of them rarely get visited by their children and grandchildren. And so it is good that in many parishes, the elderly are organizing themselves into support groups that provide assistance to their fellow elderly people, especially for those who may not have had the good fortune of growing old in the company of loving and caring families.

The best Tagalog warning for people who do not know how to express care, respect, and love for the elderly is this: TATANDA KA RIN.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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