REFLECTIONS: Extracts from July 2020 Daily Thoughts

Jun 30, 2020

July Overview: At the opposite extremes of family life are youth and old age.  Youth was our theme for June; grandparents is for July.  In a forest the eldest tree, in an animal troupe the oldest and wisest members, are respected and guarded by their offspring and the community. Grandparents belong in families and are its historical memory.  Not all grandparents are elderly, many are active in their own lives, while many others play a great role in the lives of their children and grandchildren. They are the link between past and the future, a joy to all.

In the great circle of life there is a time for everything, for birth and death, for coming and going, for remaining and leaving. All should be done with patience, consideration and acceptance.  Violence towards the elderly, a negative trait, happens in human families but also in other realms of nature.

Very often it is grandparents who ensure that the most important values are passed down to their grandchildren and many people testify that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents.  AL 192. Our contemporary experience of being orphans as a result of cultural discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of the certainties that shape our lives, challenges us to make our families places where children can sink roots in the rich soil of a collective history.  AL 193 

Setting the scene.    During this winter and partial lockdown time, due to Covid-19, many grandparents, especially the older ones are still expected to stay safely at home and keep away from other people as much as possible. Some have been totally alone for months, even those in retirement villages, with very occasional essential outings. Many others are living with family and have been occupied helping out with chores and grandchildren. Very few have had a chance to meet in their usual prayer and seniors groups.   But grandparents have been learning how to use email, whatsapp, skype, zoom and other digital tools individually or in groups. So the means of faith reflection and sharing has changed but they are finding it is possible to keep in touch digitally and, of course as usual, through prayer.

As usual the Daily Thoughts are built around a scripture reading for the day with a relevant quotation from Pope Francis. The recommended process is READ – REFLECT- SHARE – PRAY- ACT. For this month a group of elderly parishioners, many of whom were grandparents and led by Evelina, a retired catechist, formed a facebook chat group to reflect and share on the readings of the day. The focus would be on the elderly, grandparents and also broadly on THE WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES.  We also encourage praying a special grandparents’ prayer.   Around the feast of St Joachim and St Ann the grandparents of Jesus, there could be a celebration and a blessing.  Resources can be found on www.marfam.org.za/Grandparents-matter-resource-booklet.pdf

We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude of appreciation and hospitality which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community.  AL 191

A GRANDPARENTS PRAYER.   Heavenly Father, I give you praise and thanks for the great gift of life you have given me.  With wonder and awe I acknowledge that through my life you granted life to my children and they in turn have become the parents of my grandchildren.   The world in which they live is different from my world and sometimes we do not understand each other.   We need your gifts of acceptance and forgiveness so that we can be at peace.   We need your gifts of love and joy so that together we may live out your plan for our family and all the families of the world.   We ask you to grant us these gifts in Jesus’ name.   Amen

Abbreviations: Pope Francis:  LS = Laudato Si. AL = Amoris Laetitia. EG = Evangelii Gaudium,  FM= The Face of Mercy.

July 1.   Evelina warmly welcomed the members to the facebook group and started the session, sending out their first message.  “This is a heavy one for the beginning of the month, but prophets have always had the task of reading the signs of the times and issuing warnings. We here are still in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic which has been a disaster for everyone. What brought it on?  Had the world been on a big partying and spending spree, taking life too easy and not caring about the environment and people in need? Was God punishing us or was nature getting its own back?”  Joseph responded, “I know that in the Old Testament the prophets gave those warnings too, and I do believe that this pandemic is God’s way of acting through nature which is reacting to our misuse and abuse.”

“I hate your feasts and take no delight in your solemn assemblies. But let justice roll down like waters. Amos 5:15, 24.   Pope Francis:  Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.   LS 159.   What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?   LS160 

July 3.  St Thomas.   The members of the facebook sharing group shared their experience of having the churches closed and participating in Mass on radio or TV. Many agreed they preferred a visual experience and some had got used to watching the Pope, or a favourite preacher.  Paulina shared, “Even if I am not physically present when Father raises up the host at the consecration I always say, ‘My Lord and My God.’  They are words of worship but for me it is also about belief. I often have to pray harder that God will increase my faith.”  Jess added, “Talking of faith, my sight is almost gone and as I try to see and walk around I certainly have to go “by faith and trust.”

Jesus said to Thomas,” put your finger here and put out your hand and place it in my side.  Do not be faithless but believing.” Thomas replied,  “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “You have believed because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  John20: 27-29. Pope Francis: “All that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and his might and the wonders which he has wrought. AL 16

July 5. Sunday 14A.  Fr Joseph still continued with his YouTube Mass while hoping that later in the month the church would be open again too, even for small congregations. He wondered who was watching but presumed there might be some  children but the largest number would be older people. He began his sermon by addressing them.  “There are two parts to today’s gospel but I am concentrating on the second part where Jesus says, ‘come to me, all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest.’ This month our special family focus is on grandparents.  Somehow we will have to have a special celebration for you later to thank you for what you do for our families, but today let us give you as a gift the words of Jesus. We know that many of you have been resting these last few months, but even so many are tired, and many still labour and many do carry heavy burdens. It may be overwork, anxiety or rejection, loneliness, especially if you are widowed people. Jesus promises to give you rest. I am inviting the young ones to be especially conscious of your grandparents and their needs.”

“Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls”. Matthew 11: 25-30 . Pope Francis. In highly industrialised societies where the number of elderly persons is growing even as the birth rate declines they can be regarded as a burden.  On the other hand the care that they require often puts a strain on their loved ones.  Care and concern for the final stages of life is all the more necessary today.  The elderly who are vulnerable and dependent are at times unfairly exploited for economic advantage.  AL 48

July 6. St Maria Goretti. Evelina posted a story, reminding the group of the poor young girl, Maria Goretti, who lived in Italy in the 19th century. She had been taught to love God and follow his ways.  When a young man, a tenant in their house, tried to rape her she resisted and he killed her. The young man was charged and spent many years in prison. He later repented and worked in the Church.  Maria was canonised and declared to be a model for young girls and for boys too.  That story could be repeated any number of times today in our own country.  “As grandparents we try to promote good moral values where we can, but mostly we pray for the safety of our children.”  Joe added.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.  You are not your own, you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body 1 Cor 13:20   Pope Francis:   The sexual abuse of children is all the more scandalous when it occurs in places where they ought to be most safe, particularly in families, schools, communities and Christian institutions. AL 45

July 7. Pauline shared, “When we were young sex and sexuality were not talked about.  Some considered it sinful.  I remember feeling excited when after Vatican II we heard that sex is good.  Marriage Encounter and later Theology of the Body helped us to deepen that understanding.” Others added, “There is too much promiscuity these days and purity and chastity have gone out the window. Our adult children, men and women, have relationships with other partners. Their kids are also into sex much too early and in schools these days homosexuality is discussed as if it was a choice.” “Now our kids can probably teach us a few things.” “And yet there is a deeper honesty about sexuality as well.”

How long will it be till they are pure in Israel?  From Hosea 8:4-13.   Pope Francis: it is not easy to approach the issue of sex education in an age when sexuality tends to be trivialized and impoverished.   It can only be seen within the broader framework of an education for love, for mutual self-giving.      Modesty is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used.   A healthy sense of modesty has immense value.   AL 282

July 8. The group members posted memories about their earlier years. “We used to have a wonderful farm, we grew lots of fruit and vegetables and became quite wealthy I must say.  But we were always so busy that we hardly had time for God and stopped going to church.  I suppose our idols, what the reading calls “sacred pillars”, were money,  new cars, expensive holidays.  As I look back I realise a time came when our children all left home and those material things didn’t matter any more.” “We started enjoying the holidays and did a lot of travelling. It is strange but these last months of being locked down has made me re-evaluate. Did some of what we took for granted contribute to global warming?”

Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit.  The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved he improved his sacred pillars.  Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt.  Hosea 10:1-2. Pope Francis: An empty nest obliges a couple to redefine their relationship. There are also personal crises that affect the life of couples often involving finances, work, emotional, social and spiritual difficulties requiring  forgiveness and reconciliation.  AL 237. Today the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.    LS 206  

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