On the first day of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Francis said that if young people and elderly don’t meet and talk, “life does not go on.” He lamented the fact that “every day in the world around seven thousand children under the age of five die due to malnutrition”. The pontiff expressed hope that the Olympics can be “a sign of hope and universal brotherhood”. He also called for a prayer for flood victims in China.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Today was the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. On this occasion, Pope Francis said that if young people and elderly don’t meet and talk, “life does not go on. [. . .] Grandparents have the right to dream while watching young people, and young people have the right to prophecy by taking sap from grandparents”.
The call for young and old to walk together was echoed in the homily the pontiff prepared for the Mass celebrated in Saint Peter’s, which he mentioned after the recitation of the Angelus when he expressed the hope that the Olympics might “be a sign of hope and universal brotherhood”. Francis also called for prayers for floods victims in China and their families, expressing “closeness and solidarity to all those who are suffering as a result of the calamity”.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, led the Mass in lieu of the Pope “so that he may not further tire himself and may [instead] spend these days of rest to fully recover his strength and pastoral ministry”.
In the homily, Francis stressed the need for a “covenant” between young people and grandparents. Inspired by the Gospel passage of the multiplication of the loaves, he said: “Jesus sees the crowd’s hunger; Jesus shares the bread; Jesus asks that the leftovers be collected. Three moments that can be summed up in three verbs: to see, to share, to preserve.
“To see. [. . .] Jesus, who is neither indifferent nor too busy to sense the hunger felt by a weary humanity. Jesus cares about us; he is concerned for us; he wants to satisfy our hunger for life, love and happiness. In his eyes, we see God’s own way of seeing things. His gaze is caring; he is sensitive to us and to the hopes we hold in our hearts. It recognizes our weariness and the hope that keeps us going. It understands the needs of each person. For in God’s eyes, there are no anonymous crowds, only individuals with their own hunger”.
“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.”
“To share. [. . .] 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 generations and to prepare a future for everyone.”
“Without such a covenantal sharing of life, dreams and future, we risk dying of hunger, as broken relationships, loneliness, selfishness and the forces of disintegration gradually increase. In our societies, we have frequently surrendered to the notion of ‘every man for himself’. But this is deadly! The Gospel bids us share what we are and what we possess, for only in this way will we find fulfilment.”
“To preserve. 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).”
“Even more so, no person is ever to be discarded. We need to make this prophetic summons heard among ourselves and in our world: gather, preserve with care, protect. 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 memory’.
“Let us not lose the memory preserved by the elderly, for we are 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 not feel alone.”
“Please, let us not forget about them. Let us covenant with them. Let us learn to approach them, listen to them and never discard them. Let us cherish them and spend time with them. We will be the better for it. And, together, young and old alike, we will find fulfilment at table of sharing, blessed by God.”
Francis spoke about the Gospel story at the Angelus. Before the recitation of the Marian prayer, inspired by the story of the boy who donated his bread and fishes, he said that “This is a great lesson for us. It tells us that the Lord can do a lot with the little that we put at His disposal. [. . .] This is how God loves to act: He does great things, starting from those small things, those freely-given ones.”
“We try to accumulate and increase what we have, but Jesus asks us to give, to diminish. We like to add, we like addition; Jesus likes subtraction, taking something away to give it to others.”
“Even today, the multiplication of goods cannot solve problems without fair sharing. The tragedy of hunger comes to mind, which affects the little ones in particular. It has been calculated officially that every day in the world around seven thousand children under the age of five die due to malnutrition, because they do not have what they need to live.
“Faced with scandals such as these, Jesus also addresses an invitation to us, an invitation similar to the one probably received by the boy in the Gospel, who has no name and in whom we can all see ourselves: ‘Be brave, give what little you have, your talents, your possessions, make them available to Jesus and to your brothers and sisters. Do not be afraid, nothing will be lost, because if you share, God will multiply. Banish the false modesty of feeling inadequate, trust yourself. Believe in love, believe in the power of service, believe in the strength of gratuitousness’.”