Young in Spirit

thought-for-sundayFrom the desk of Fr. Ignatius Waters, cp

Sunday, 15th January 2017



A young lad asks an old lady: “What is it like being an old lady?” She answers: “Well I have my good days and my bad days.” What is a bad day like?” he then asks. She answers: “Young man, a bad day is when someone like you asks me what it’s like to be an old lady!” What underlies this response? Isn’t it something like, “I don’t enjoy being old and I don’t like being reminded of it!”

This is probably the prevailing attitude in our culture towards old age. It’s almost regarded as a sickness in itself. In our community we like recalling one of our old men who said, “Old age is not all it’d cracked up to be. I feel I’m in a cul de sac and I’m going nowhere!” And the same man was always going places!  But the time will come for all of us when our activities will be curtailed, when we have less energy and can’t do as much as we once did. And, because of that, we can feel we don’t matter much anymore. Needless to say, this is not easy to face but the real tragedy of aging is if our spirit begins to shrivel up as well as our body and we isolate ourselves in a prison of our own making. Someone said, “Years only wrinkle the skin but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

All our lives we’ve been letting go of one age and stage and opening up to another. So yielding to old age and all the changes it brings is just an invitation to a new yielding and can be our greatest moment. Just as the highpoint in Jesus’ life was his utter and absolute helplessness on the cross. The gift is greater because there’s less of self in it. This can sound like pious talk or wishful thinking but it’s real. We’ve all known people who did yield and abandon themselves into the hands of the Lord and in the words of rhe psalm they were quite definitely, “still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just.” Ps. 91:13-16. We’ve known people who grew younger in spirit with the passing years, as they abandoned concerns and worries about passing things. Ken Whitaker, who died during the week aged 100 years, was definitely an example of positive aging. As St. Paul wisely said, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor.4:16) We’ve also known the opposite, people who are bitter and soured by life. I suppose a lot depends on our state of health and how we’ve negotiated earlier transitions in our lives. Cranky old people were probably cranky at every stage of their lives; it’s just more obvious in their uninhibited eighties or nineties!

Wouldn’t it be great if the old lady could truly say to the young lad, “My body is old and wrinkled but my spirit is young and bright”