Pope Francis said Wednesday that it is “delusional” to try to stop the natural passage of time in pursuit of “eternal youth” and “unlimited wellbeing.”
Speaking at his live-streamed general audience on Aug. 10, the pope pointed out that from the Christian perspective, the passing of time “is not a threat, it is a promise.”
“The conceit of stopping time — of wanting eternal youth, unlimited wellbeing, absolute power — is not only impossible, it is delusional,” Pope Francis said in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.
“Our existence on earth is the time of the initiation of life; it is life, but one that leads you toward a fuller life … a life which finds fulfillment only in God.”
The pope underlined that life on earth is best understood as a “novitiate,” a preparation for an eternal life in heaven that will be “superior to the time of our mortal life.”
“We are apprentices of life, who — amid a thousand difficulties — learn to appreciate God’s gift, honoring the responsibility of sharing it and making it bear fruit for everyone,” he said.
“We are imperfect from the very beginning, and we remain imperfect up to the end,” Francis added.
He explained that life is not meant to “be wrapped up in itself in an imaginary earthly perfection.”
Life “is destined to go beyond, through the passage of death — because death is a passage. Indeed, … our destination is not here, it is beside the Lord, where he dwells forever,” the pope said.
For his final catechesis on old age, the pope walked slowly using a cane as he made his way onto the stage of the audience hall. He later greeted the crowd from a wheelchair.
Pope Francis underscored that old age should be a time of “expectation” that brings one closer to life’s fulfillment in God.
“In the fulfillment of God’s promise, the relationship is inverted: the space of God, which Jesus prepares for us with the utmost care, is superior to the time of our mortal life. Hence: old age brings closer the hope of this fulfillment,” Pope Francis said.
“Old age knows definitively, by now, the meaning of time and the limitations of the place in which we live our initiation. This is why old age is wise. God’s world is an infinite space, in which the passage of time no longer carries any weight,” he said.
At the end of the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Cuba, where a lightning strike at an oil facility set off multiple explosions of fuel storage tanks and caused a devastating fire.
The pope also expressed his continued concern for Ukraine, where people are “still suffering from this cruel war,” and for migrants.
In total, Pope Francis gave 16 reflections on the dignity of the elderly in his audiences this year. He has not yet said what will be the next topic for his weekly catecheses when he starts a new cycle next Wednesday morning.
“Old age is the phase in life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation to a final fulfillment. The elderly are a promise, a witness of promise. And the best is yet to come,” Pope Francis said.