Homilette for Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 5:33-39)

It is always perplexing to hear people seemingly without a prejudiced sentiment in their soul deride old age. Perhaps they invert a friend’s age saying that she is “thirty-seven” rather than “seventy-three.” Or maybe they repudiate that the friend has any age at all be calling her “seventy-three years young.”

What is it about old age that we don’t like to think of ourselves or those whom we love as having any part in it? When living things become old, they naturally die so humans at least fear growing old for that reason. Similarly we know that in old age people experience a decrease in ability, be it physical -- the capacity to work day and night, or mental – the tendency to forget. But becoming old has positive connotations as well. People often correct destructive behavior patterns in old age, and there is some truth to the celebrated “wisdom of old age.” Antiques have a definite charm as they imply craftsmanship and originality. In today’s gospel Jesus reminds us of an item that generally improves with years – wine.

American Catholics need to be wary of denigrating old age because both their faith tradition and their government are practically ancient. The Catholic Church is sometimes subtitled “the oldest institution in the world.” Likewise, there are few constitutional governments older than that of the United States. We can say that it is good to be old when age has a regenerating element that self-corrects corrupting tendencies and adapts to current ways of life. In the Church we recognize this factor as the Holy Spirit. In American society we see it as a sense of human equality that recognizes the value of every person whether native born or emigrating from another land.