To not honor the elderly as God commands, and to treat them as something to discard, “is a grave sin,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday.
During his weekly meeting with the public in St. Peter’s Square on April 20, the pope said “this commandment to honor the elderly gives us a blessing.”
“Please, care for old people,” he urged, “because they are the presence of history, the presence of the family. And it is thanks to them we are here. Please, do not leave them alone.”
Honoring the elderly is a form of love, giving life not only to those honored, but to those doing the honoring, he said.
For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope’s Wednesday general audience was back in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope’s lesson focused on seven verses from the book of Sirach, including Sirach 3:12-13: “My son, be steadfast in honoring your father; do not grieve him as long as he lives. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him; do not revile him because you are in your prime.”
“Honor is a good word to frame this aspect of returning love that concerns old age,” Pope Francis said. “We have received this love from our parents, now we return this love to our parents, to our grandparents.”
“Love for the human person that is common to us, including honoring a life lived, is not a matter for the old. Rather it is an ambition that will bring radiance to the youth who inherit its best qualities. May the wisdom of God’s Spirit grant us to open the horizon of this true cultural revolution with the necessary energy,” he stated.
He recalled that he would often visit the nursing homes in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when he was there. One time, he said, he spoke to a woman who had four children, and when he asked her if they came to visit, she said “yes.” But later, a nurse told Francis that in fact, it had been six months since the woman had seen her children, but she had lied because she did not want to speak badly of them.
“This special love that paves the way in the form of honor — tenderness and respect at the same time — intended for the elderly is sealed by God’s commandment,” he continued.
We have all thought at one moment or another that our grandparents were annoying, he said. “Do not say, ‘no,’ it is ‘yes.’ We have thought that.”
“‘Honor thy father and mother’ is a solemn commitment,” he said. “It is not just about one’s own father and mother. It is about their generation and the generations before, whose leave-taking can also be slow and prolonged, creating a time and space of long-lasting coexistence with the other ages of life. In other words, it is about the old age of life.”