In my first parish, I was a very young priest who ended up being a part of a community of parishioners who took me under their wings. I was in my late 20’s snd they were in their 40’s. What a group we were/are. We were about 25-30 strong, gathering regularly to celebrate, but also to support when the fragility of life enters. These individuals became friends who deeply cared about me and my priesthood.
Today, we are about 6 people strong, our numbers have so diminished due to the passage of life. Being the youngest in this marvelous group, I am called to remain and let go of these friendships, as the reality of this short life becomes more and more apparent. There is a sadness at the many partings that have occurred over the years, but a joy fills the heart, as the belief that we will ALL gather again in friendship sets in.
The first reading from Ecclesiastes is a reminder to enjoy our youth while it lasts, and it’s span is fleeting. Old age happens, it is a part of life, and it reminds us that our physical lives diminish as we grow older. Energy levels drop a bit, the metabolism slows, and aging becomes more noticeable, even if you can afford cosmetic surgery.
There is nothing depressing about this truth because there is more to this picture. As we grow older, we gain a wonderful perspective in life and growth that elude the young. Experience, and the ability to make it through years of challenge, develops strength of character. We CAN make it through any storm because we are strong of Spirit. As we look back on the years of our lives, we have the choice to see blessings or curses. Our hearts can be filled with either gratitude or bitterness. Those who despise old age clearly are in the latter.
Wisdom is a gift that comes with time, experience, reflection and the ability to adapt. Some people do become cranky and tiresome as they grow older, but others are a joy to be around. My group of friends could never be described as bitter or resentful. They lived/live life to the fullest, passing on the torch of hope, lighting the path for the young.
Being young at heart and spirit is a gift to be had by all, but only if we choose this gift and live by. I am so fortunate to have had people around me who have taught me well about growing older in Grace and dignity.