General audience: Education text

Read here the Catechism that Francis gave to his general audience. You can find all of the Pope’s pronouncements in the official German version of the Vatican website

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On the journey of this catechism on old age, we meet today with a biblical figure named Eleazar, an elderly person who lived during the time of the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. He is a beautiful character! His personality is a testament to the special relationship that exists between the fidelity of old age and the honor of faith. He is a proud man! I only want to speak of the honor of faith, and not just of the perseverance, gospel, and resistance of faith. The honor of faith comes under pressure from time to time, even violent pressure, by the culture of rulers who try to devalue it by treating it as an archaeological find, an ancient superstition, an outdated fetish, etc.

The biblical story – we’ve heard part of it but it’s good to read it all – tells the story of Jews being forced by royal decree to eat the meat of an idol. When it came the turn of Eleazar, an old man respected by all—90 years old, respectable and influential—the king’s officials advised him to cheat, that is, pretend to eat meat, without actually doing it. hypocrisy. Religious hypocrisy. There is a lot of it! There is a lot of religious hypocrisy, the hypocrisy of the clergy, a lot. They tell him: be a little hypocritical, no one will notice! In this way Eleazar would save himself, and in the name of friendship – they said – he would have accepted a gesture of sympathy and affection. Hypocrisy director. They emphasized that pretending to eat and not eating is a simple gesture, a frivolous one.

Living in the coherence of faith

Eleazar’s calm and decisive answer is based on an argument that we like. The point is this: insulting faith in old age to earn a handful of days cannot be compared to the legacy it must leave to young people for generations. Good man, this Eleazar. An old man who lived all his life in the consistency of his faith and now agrees to pretend his denial, condemns the new generation to believe that all faith was an illusion, an outward one which he must abandon if he thinks he can remain within. It’s not like that, says Eleazar. Such behavior does not honor faith, even before God. The effects of this external disregard will cause chaos in the inner lives of young people. Hold tight this guy who thinks of boys! He thinks about the future inheritance of his people.

Especially old age – this is good for the elderly! – It appears here as the crucial and indispensable place of this testimony. An older person who accepts, because of his weakness, that the exercise of faith is irrelevant, would lead the young to believe that faith has no real connection to life. This will appear to them from the start as a set of behaviors that can be emulated or hidden if necessary, because none of them are of such importance for life.

The ancient non-Orthodox Gnosticism, which was a powerful and so tempting trap of Christianity in the first centuries, theorizes just that, it is an ancient thing: this belief is spirituality, not practice; A spirit force is not a life form. According to this heresy, devotion and the honor of faith have nothing to do with the ways of life, the institutions of society, and the symbols of the body. It is not related to. This perspective is tempting, because it explains in its own way an undeniable fact: this belief cannot be reduced to a set of dietary rules or social practices. Faith is different. The problem is that the Gnostic extremism of this fact invalidates the realism of the Christian faith, because the Christian faith is real, and not just to recite the creed: it is to endure the doctrine, to feel the doctrine and to apply the doctrine. To work with hands. This Gnostic view, on the other hand, means pretending, but the important thing is that you have spirituality inside and that you can do whatever you want. This is not Christian. This is the first heresy of the Gnostics, and it is very fashionable at the moment, in many spiritual centers and so on. It also voids the testimony of these people, shows tangible signs of God in the life of the congregation, and counteracts the perversions of the soul through the gestures of the body.

Gnostic experience

The Gnostic experience, which is one of the heresies – let’s say the word – is one of the religious deviations of the time, and the Gnostic experience remains omnipresent. In many directions of our society and culture, the practice of faith is portrayed negatively, sometimes in the form of cultural irony, sometimes through covert exclusion. These Gnostics, who existed as early as Jesus’ days, view the practice of faith as a useless and even harmful outward appearance, an ancient relic, and a disguised superstition. In short, something for the elderly. The pressure that this undifferentiated criticism puts on the younger generations is strong. Of course we know that practicing faith can become a soulless outward appearance – that’s the other danger, and vice versa, isn’t it? This is true, isn’t it? But in and of itself it is not without a soul. Perhaps it is precisely our task, you elders, an important task: to restore the faith to its glory, and to hold it together, and this is the testimony of Eleazar: to hold together to the end. Practicing faith is not a symbol of our weakness, but a sign of its strength. We are no longer children. We weren’t kidding when we set out on the Lord’s Way! no

Faith deserves respect and honor to the end: it has changed our lives, purified our minds, and taught us to worship God and love our neighbor. It is a blessing to all! But all faith, not part of it. We will not exchange our faith for a handful of quiet days as Eleazar did not. Do not knit to the end. And so he becomes a martyr, right? We will humbly and resolutely show in old age that faith is not just a matter of “old people.” No, it is a matter of life. Believe in the Holy Spirit who makes all things new and he will be glad to help us.

Dear brothers and sisters, not to mention the elderly, we are in the same group: Please, let’s look at the young. They look at us. They look at us. We must not forget that. A beautiful post-war film comes to mind: The Children Looking at Us (by Vittorio De Sica, editor). We can say the same about boys. Young people look at us and our cohesion can pave the way to a wonderful life for them. On the other hand, any hypocrisy will hurt a lot. Let’s pray for each other. God bless all the elderly. Thanks.

(Vatican News – MG)

Leave a Comment