Homily for Friday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle II
Theme: THE SPIRITUALITY OF OLD AGE VS RETIREMENT!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Friday July 17 2020
*Is 38 :1-22, Matt 12 :1-8.
How long must a man work and be due for retirement? How long should a man live and be due for death? ‘Tot homines quot sententia’ – As many men as there are many opinions. I once told a priest of about 65 that I do not desire and pray for old age. He hushed me immediately when he asked my concept of old age and I told him the biblical age of 70 and 80 for those who are strong. I came to sympathize with him seeing that he was still equipping his newly built house in his village yet I couldn’t leave without wondering about this thing called longevity and the spirituality of retirement and death.
Watching Hezekiah crying in today’s 1st reading and corroborating it with the stress call I got yesterday from an aunty to come and pray for her aging husband who cries every night at the fear of going blind (his one eye was gone and the remaining one is threatened by glycoma). I just felt we need to reflect this morning on the spirituality of old age. I don’t know how old Hezekiah was but from this biblical account, he may not have reached 70 when he took ill and was told by the man of God, Isaiah, to set his house in order because he was not likely to recover from the sickness. He was already down perhaps with some andropause health conditions ( like prostrate cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or other cardiovascular diseases). He prayed fervently, using his charismatic ‘gift of tears’ and leaning spiritually on his little efforts of faithfulness to God when he was a Youth, he got extra 15 years ; implying that if he was about 65 years old then and he was now scheduled to die at 80. That must have been a perfect bargain for Hezekiah because at 80 perhaps he may likely be getting tired of life.
Permit me therefore to make the following random reflections on Spiritual Immunity. Immunity is one thing we dearly need for longevity. 3 things will guarantee our spiritual immunity for old age;
1. Parental blessing ; The Bible makes it clear that we should honour our father and mother so that we may live long and prosper in the land that God has given us, Ex 20 :12.
2. Righteous life ; The Bible also makes it clear that righteousness exalts a nation and implicitly also, an individual, Prov 14 :34. Hezekiah had to make recourse in prayer with God to his past life of righteousness. St Paul speaks of the ‘breastplate of righteousness’, Eph 6 :14 as one of the 6 essential weapons of warfare which believers must put on. Your life of chastity and charity are veritable armaments that guarantee your longevity when the chips are down. Those who are wicked, those who drink, smoke, flirt and womanize should better not expect a happy old age, all things being equal.
3. Prayer life ; A prayerful man has better chances of blissful longevity than a wayward man. When our energies begin to wane, then shall we see the value of contemplative prayers like the Rosary. We would no longer have the energy for the ‘gbu gbu ya ya’ type of charismatic prayer. We cannot even talk about fasting because we would need multivites to even have the appetite to eat. We may no longer have the strength for liturgical prayer, Divine office and the sacrifice of the mass. Only your life of mercy would count. Then will you realize why Jesus said in today’s gospel that ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. If we don’t acquire the spirituality of retirement and rest, we cannot prepare for old age sicknesses and ultimately for death. If you doubt what I have said, go now and interview people like Bishop Okobo and you will be wiser. May God bless you today!