Pope Francis continues to deepen his catechetical journey on the theme of old age. In the General Audience that the Holy Father held on the morning of Wednesday, March 30, he invited us to look at "the tender picture painted by the Evangelist Luke, who calls to the scene two elderly figures, Simeon and Anna. Their reason for living, before saying farewell to this world, is the expectation of God's visit. Simeon knows, by a premonition of the Holy Spirit, that he will not die before having seen the Messiah. Anna went every day to the temple dedicating herself to his service. Both recognize the presence of the Lord in the child Jesus, who comforts their long wait and soothes their farewell to life".
Illuminates the senses
"What can we learn from these two elderly figures full of spiritual vitality?" asks Francis rhetorically. "First," he answers, "we learn that the fidelity of waiting sharpens the senses. On the other hand, we know that the Holy Spirit does precisely this: he enlightens the senses. In the ancient hymn Veni Creator Spirituswith which we still invoke the Holy Spirit today, we say: "....Accende lumen sensibus"It lights a light for the senses. The Spirit is capable of doing this: it sharpens the senses of the soul, notwithstanding the limits and the wounds of the senses of the body. Old age weakens, in one way or another, the sensibility of the body. However, an old age that has been exercised in waiting for God's visit will not lose its pace: indeed, it will also be more ready to welcome it".
The pontiff affirms that "today more than ever we need this: an old age endowed with living spiritual senses and capable of recognizing the signs of God, indeed, the Sign of God, which is Jesus. A sign that puts us in crisis - it is a "sign of contradiction" (Lc 2,34) - but which fills us with joy. The anesthesia of the spiritual senses, in the excitement and numbness of the bodily ones, is a widespread syndrome in a society that cultivates the illusion of eternal youth, and its most dangerous feature lies in the fact that it is mostly unconscious. It does not realize that it is anesthetized".
Using the parallel with the loss of the sensibility of touch or taste, in which one notices it right away, he recalls that with that of the soul one can ignore it for a long time. "This one does not simply refer to the thought of God or religion. The insensibility of the spiritual senses refers to compassion and pity, shame and remorse, fidelity and devotion, tenderness and honor, self-responsibility and sorrow for another. And old age becomes, so to speak, the first victim of this loss of sensitivity. In a society that mainly exercises sensibility for the sake of enjoyment, attention to the fragile diminishes and the competition of the winners prevails. Certainly, the rhetoric of inclusion is the ritual formula of all politically correct discourse. But it still does not bring a real correction in the practices of normal coexistence: it is difficult for a culture of social tenderness to grow. The spirit of human fraternity - which I felt it necessary to reiterate with force - is like a dress in disuse, to be admired, yes, but... in a museum".
Referring to young people, he affirms that "in real life we can observe, with moving gratitude, many young people capable of honoring this fraternity to the core. But precisely here is the problem: there is a discard, a guilty discard, between the testimony of this vital sap of social tenderness and the conformism that imposes on youth to tell themselves in a completely different way. What can we do to fill this discard?"
Simeon and Anna
The Pope brought up the story of Simeon and Anna, mentioning also other biblical stories of the Spirit-sensitive elderly. From this story "comes a hidden indication that deserves to be brought to the foreground. What, concretely, is the revelation that ignites the sensitivity of Simeon and Anna? It consists in recognizing in a child, whom they had not generated and whom they see for the first time, the sure sign of God's visit. They accept not to be protagonists, but only witnesses. God's visitation is not incarnated in their lives, it does not bring them on the scene as saviors: God does not become flesh in their generation, but in the generation to come. No resentment and no recrimination for this. However, great shock and great consolation. The shock and consolation of being able to see and announce that the history of their generation has not been lost or wasted, precisely thanks to an event that becomes flesh and manifests itself in the generation that follows".
In conclusion, the Pope stressed that "only spiritual old age can give this humble and dazzling witness, making it authoritative and exemplary for all. Old age, which has cultivated the sensitivity of the soul, extinguishes all envy between generations, all resentment, all recrimination for the coming of God in the next generation, which comes along with the farewell of one's own generation. The spiritual sensitivity of the old age is capable of abating the competition and conflict between the generations in a credible and definitive way. Something impossible for men, but possible for God. And today we need it very much!"