Bottom line: Today in our time of pandemic we look to our elderly - who like Abraham, Sarah, Simeon and Anna - place their trust in God. With them we say, "rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!"
Our readings today focus on elderly figures: Abraham, Sarah, Simeon and Anna. This is appropriate because the pandemic has made us more aware of the elderly. Of the deaths, over 80% were older than 65. This contrasts with the 1918-1919 pandemic that disproportionately killed the young. Our pandemic, by and large, spared children and young people - thanks be to God! But that very fact has made us more aware of the needs of our elderly and how much we owe to them.
To give a new start to human history, God chose an elderly man named Abram. He and his wife Sarah were childless. God told them to leave their country for a land he would show them. How did Abram respond? Here's what the Bible says, "Abram put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness." God then gave him a new name, Abraham! It means father of many nations. Abraham is considered the "father in faith" not only of the Jews, but also Christians and Moslems. In August, in the middle of our pandemic, we did receive some good news: The Abraham Peace Accords between the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The Abraham Accords now include Bahrain - and probably other Moslem countries will join. We all go back to Abraham.
The Letter to the Hebrews speaks about Abraham's faith: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance...By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son". God tested Abraham as he tests each one of us. Are we ready to give back to God everything he has given us? I mentioned Dale as an example of that kind of faith. I saw another example this week. A couple gave me a large check for the parish. They told me that because of the pandemic they were unable to take a vacation they planned. They decided to donate the money to St. Mary of the Valley. That is faith; that is trust. Are we willing to place complete trust in God? Abraham did.
The example of Abraham gives me encouragement. I'm not as old as he was. I'm not even old enough to be first in line for the coronavirus vaccine. That is, I'm not 75, only 74! I'm convinced that God has a plan for seniors like me.
In addition to Abraham and Sarah, our Gospel shows two other elderly people who put their faith in God. The first is Simeon: "righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him". When he held the child Jesus in his arms, he said, "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples". Along with Simeon was a prophetess named Anna: "She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." I've know women like Anna. They are the backbone of our Church.
St. Luke notes that Anna was 84 years old. Interesting that is the same age as Pope Francis. Say what you might about him, he has tremendous stamina. Back in March he spoke to the people and the world. He used the image of Jesus and the apostles tossed by a stormy sea: "We are in the same boat," he said, "all of us fragile and disoriented." He asked us to focus on Jesus - the only one who can save us from life's storms.
Pope Francis - along with Pope Benedict - joins the ranks of elderly who put their trust in God. They personify our Psalm: "rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!"
Next Sunday we will see some famous seekers: the Magi or Wise Men. They are early astronomers who followed a star and came to adore Jesus. Before Epiphany Sunday we have New Years when we honor Mary the Mother of God. Today in our time of pandemic we look to our elderly - who like Abraham, Sarah, Simeon and Anna - place their trust in God. With them we say, "rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!" Amen
Spanish Version (Word document)
From the archives (Holy Family Sunday homily):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru