The Holy Father continued his catechesis on old age this Wednesday at the General Audience and, with the help of the Word of God, as he told thousands of faithful, he reflected on what it means to "honor your father and mother".
"This commandment does not refer only to biological parents, but to the respect and care that should be given to the generations that precede us, that is, to all the elderly. Moreover, let us consider that it is not only a matter of 'honoring' the elderly by meeting their material needs but, above all, of 'honoring' them - of 'dignifying' them - with love, closeness and listening," Pope Francis continued.
"Unfortunately, the elderly are often the object of ridicule, misunderstanding and contempt. They even become victims of violence, because they are considered to be discarded material. For this reason, it is important that we transmit to the younger generations that love for life must always be shown, in all its stages, from conception to its natural end, and includes in a special way 'honoring the life lived' by our elders and honoring it with tenderness and respect," the Pope added.
"This special love that opens the way in the form of honor - that is, tenderness and respect at the same time - destined for old age is sealed by God's commandment," the Roman Pontiff noted. "'Honor father and mother' is a solemn commitment, the first of the 'second table' of the Ten Commandments."
"It is not only about one's own father and mother," the Holy Father specified. "It is about the generation and the generations that precede it, whose farewell can also be slow and prolonged, creating a time and a space of long-lasting coexistence with the other ages of life. In other words, it is about the old age of life."
"We receive love, we return love."
Regarding the concept of "honor," the Pope wanted to emphasize that "honor is a good word to frame this area of restitution of love that concerns the elderly. That is to say, we have received love from parents and grandparents and now we return this love to them, to the elderly, to grandparents. Today we have discovered the term 'dignity', to indicate the value of respect and care for the life of all. Dignity, here, is substantially equivalent to honor: honoring the father and mother, honoring the elderly and recognizing the dignity they have," he said.
In Buenos Aires
In his address, Francis recalled his visits to the elderly and senior citizens in the Argentine capital. "I tell you something personal: in Buenos Aires I liked to visit the old people's homes. I often went there and visited each one. I remember once I asked a lady: 'How many children do you have' - 'I have four, all married, with grandchildren'. And she started telling me about the family. 'And do they come?" -'Yes, they come all the time!' When I left the room, the nurse, who had overheard, said to me: 'Father, you have told a lie to cover for your children. For six months now no one has been coming!'
"This is discarding the elderly, it is thinking that the elderly are throwaway material. Please, this is a grave sin. This is the first great commandment, and the only one that indicates the prize: 'Honor father and mother and you will have long life on earth,'" the Pontiff stressed.
"This commandment to honor the elders gives us a blessing, which manifests itself in this way: 'You will have long life. Please guard the elderly. And if they lose their heads, guard them too because they are the presence of history, the presence of my family, and thanks to them I am here, we can all say it: thanks to you, grandfather and grandmother, I am alive. Please, do not leave them alone".
"A true cultural revolution"
"And this, of caring for the elderly, is not a question of cosmetics or plastic surgery, no. Rather, it is a question of honor, which must transform the education of young people regarding life and its phases. Rather, it is a matter of honor, which must transform the education of young people regarding life and its phases."
"The love for the human that is common to us, and includes 'honor for life lived,' is not a matter for the elderly," the Pope concluded. "Rather, it is an ambition that will enlighten the youth who inherit its best qualities. May the wisdom of God's Spirit grant us to open the horizon of this authentic cultural revolution with the necessary energy."