There is no future without the encounter between generations, Pope Francis said — addressing the tens of thousands of grandparents and elderly men and women gathered for Mass in Saint Peter's Square.
The Sept. 28 Mass followed an international encounter with the Holy Father and the elderly earlier in the morning.
Pope Francis opened his homily with a reflection on the Gospel reading in which Mary was greeted by her cousin Elizabeth, describing the passage as ”the encounter between young and old, an encounter full of joy, full of faith, and full of hope.”
In the scene, Mary is very young, while “Elizabeth is elderly, yet God’s mercy was manifested in her and for six months now, with her husband Zechariah, she has been expecting a child.”
Here, the Pope said, “Mary shows us the way: she set out to visit her elderly kinswoman, to stay with her, to help her, of course, but also and above all to learn from her — an elderly person — a wisdom of life.”
Turning to the first reading, the Holy Father reflected on the commandment to "Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (Ex. 20:12).
“A people has no future without such an encounter between generations,” he said, “without children being able to accept with gratitude the witness of life from the hands of their parents.” This gratitude on the part of children to those who “gave you life is also gratitude for our heavenly Father.”
Acknowledging how young people, “for complex historical and cultural reasons,” at times feel the need to break free “from the legacy of the older generation” in a “kind of adolescent rebellion,” the Pope called for “a new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium” to be restored. Otherwise, the result is “a serious impoverishment for everyone,” and a society in which prevails a “false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism.”
Pope Francis turned his reflection to the letter of Paul to Timothy, stressing that “Jesus did not abolish the law of the family and the passing of generations, but brought it to fulfillment.” Rather, he “formed a new family, in which bonds of kinship are less important than our relationship with him and our doing the will of God the Father.”
At the same time, it is “the love of Jesus and the Father” which “completes and fulfills” the love and respect for the rest of the family,” renewing “family relationships with the lymph of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit.”
Like the head of the community who, in the reading, is compelled to show respect for the elderly and other family members, so to the Virgin Mary, “though she became the mother of the Messiah, felt herself driven by the love of God taking flesh within her to hasten to her elderly relative.”
“The wisdom of Elizabeth and Zechariah,” he continued, “enriched her young spirit.” Although they were not expert parents, they were nonetheless “experts in faith, experts in God, experts in the hope that comes from him: and this is what the world needs in every age. Mary was able to listen to those elderly and amazed parents; she treasured their wisdom, and it proved precious for her in her journey as a woman, as a wife and as a mother.”
In turn, the Pope continued, “the Virgin Mary likewise shows us the way: the way of encounter between the young and the elderly.”
“The future of a people necessarily supposes this encounter: the young give the strength which enable a people to move forward, while the elderly consolidate this strength by their memory and their traditional wisdom.”
At the conclusion of the Mass and just before the final blessing, Pope Francis offered some brief reflections ahead of the recitation of the Angelus prayer.
Recalling Saturday's beatification of Opus Dei prelate, Álvaro del Portillo in Madrid, Pope Francis reflected on the new Blessed's “exemplary Christian and priestly witness,” which can “arouse in many the desire to adhere always more to Jesus and to the Gospel.”
The Pope also noted that next Sunday marks the opening Mass for the Synod on the family, and invited everyone to pray to Mary Salus Populi Romani for this event. He asked that the faithful also pray for Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, as he prepares for this event.
Finally, before the leading the Angelus prayer in Latin, Pope Francis invoked Mary's protection for “the elderly of the entire world, especially for those who live in situations of great difficulty.”