Friday, February 4, 2011

Growing Old Gracefully

Writing in the Kyeongyang Magazine a professor explores the meaning of growing into old age. For many, aging is just an addition to the passage of time. Instead of finding meaning in aging, accepting it and preparing for it, they fear the passing of youthfulness and of health. 

It's necessary, he says, to acknowledge the weakening of our body and mental functions and to begin focusing on the spiritual dimension of life. The second half of life should not be a repetition of the first half; doing so, we delude ourselves.

Our society is getting older and the media do not see it in a positive way, which then affects how most of us respond to growing old. Is it true that there is nothing to see positively in growing old? the professor asks.

We commonly say: we are rusting as we get older. However, the professor tells us that  rust can also be seen in a positive light. Black rust and even red rust, because of certain chemical changes, makes the metal  stronger and gives it many new uses.

He turns our attention to Simeon and Anna in the gospel of Luke; they are the first ones to proclaim the Gospel. Both have suffered much, which enabled them to  have a full spiritual life. They prayed, fasted and served others, giving them the wisdom and the insight to see themselves and life correctly.

To grow in wisdom like Simeon and Anna, we have to embrace growing old like they did. We have to know ourselves, divest ourselves of youthful desires and from the values of power, honors, material goods and health. Our real values are not external to us but exist within us, in knowing we are loved by God.

In old age, as our bodies get weaker, we can become stronger in defending ourselves against temptations and trials of life; it can be a beautiful time. Along with the 'rust', we can take on a jewel-like existence, which is another gift of God. When society can see the internal life of the aged positively, they will no longer see them as a burden on society, and we will have more of us living a fuller life.  

Like Simeon and Anna, if we grow in wisdom and peace and  pray that God's blessings be given to others, is this not loving God and our neighbors and living successfully our twilight years?  With this outlook, we can peacefully accept loneliness, disease, and even death. To do this, we have to forgive more, practice detachment more, and pray more. 

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