Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hell is to Lose Hope

Korea's aging population is one of the fastest growing in the world. According to the standard of the United Nations, a country with over 7 percent of its population over 65 is considered an aging society, over 14 percent an aged society, and over 20 percent a super-aging society.
Writing in the View from the Ark a professor uses these statistics to remind us of a situation in Korea we may not be familiar with. According to the statistics from last year, 11.8 percent of the population is over 65 years of age; in contrast, Catholics over 65 make up slightly more than 15 percent, which puts the Catholic community in the aged society category; a matter of some concern to the Korean Church.

The aging of the population is a serious problem, especially if one looks at the quality of life and degree of happiness that continues to spiral downward among the aged. After the ruin of the Korean War, all that the older generation was concerned with was the education of their children. They had to feed and prepare to educate them, even if it meant going hungry themselves. And because they spent their time helping their children, they were not able to prepare for retirement. Now, they don't have the energy, or the money, to take care of themselves, to deal with the inevitable sickness, economic problems and loneliness that are the normal lot of many of our elderly. As a consequence there has been an increase in the numbers who  choose extreme solutions to their problems. 

The reasons for putting an end to their life is varied, says the professor, but primary reason, he believes, is a sense of hopelessness. The lack of expectation and desire drives them to this stage of giving up, for in their eyes their life is no longer a life worth living. Without hope, life is a living hell; with hope we are already living the heavenly life.  

He reminds us of the martyrs of Korea who suffered every kind of cruelty imaginable, and did not give in or lose hope. Faced with hunger in prison, they would  take the mat on the floor of their prison room, which was made of straw, and use that for a meal. They hoped for a life after death with God. Looking forward to the joys of heaven and fearing the pains of hell, they were given strength to overcome all difficulties. Life on earth was to them no more than a flash of lightning.

The aged and all those who are nearing death are not to be seen as miserable creatures. They will be experiencing new life before the rest of us. They will be able to look ahead to a new life and calmly breathe peacefully. They can enjoy their present life and still dream of the better life to come. The words of Jesus give us life, and even if we are in a helpless situation his words give us strength and courage. He concludes the column with the last words of the Gospel of Matthew: "And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!"

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