Pope: Belief is not 'just for old people'
At the general audience, Francis addresses the theme of witness in old age: "Young people look to us and our consistency can open a beautiful path for them. The opposite instead can do so much harm." In his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida, the wish for "a world free of nuclear weapons."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Hypocrisy and consistency of faith: these are the themes addressed in the catechesis by Pope Francis during this morning's general audience in St. Peter's Square. Continuing his reflections on old age, the pontiff focused on "Eleazar, consistency of faith, legacy of honor." Living at the time of the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, Eleazar was an elderly man highly esteemed by all.
According to the biblical account, when the Jews were forced by a decree of the king to eat meat sacrificed to idols, Eleazar refused. He did not even yield to the advice of the king's officials, who suggested that he pretend to do so in order to save himself. "There is so much religious hypocrisy, there is so much clerical hypocrisy," the Holy Father said. Eleazar, on the other hand, chooses not to dishonor the faith in old age, in order to gain a handful of days, because that is not comparable with the legacy he must leave to the young, for entire generations to come.
It is precisely old age that appears to be the decisive and irreplaceable place for bearing witness, the pontiff continues. "An elderly person who, because of his vulnerability, would agree to consider the practice of faith irrelevant, would make young people believe that faith has no real relationship with life," as if it were a set of behaviors that, if necessary, can be simulated or concealed.
"The ancient heterodox gnosis theorized precisely this: that faith is a spirituality, not a practice; a force of the mind, not a form of life." Yet," the pope said, "faith can never be reduced to a set of dietary rules or social practices, and that Gnostic radicalization of this truth risks thwarting the realism of the Christian faith. "The Christian faith is realistic: it is not just saying the Creed, but feeling and fulfilling the Creed."
Unfortunately, even today the Gnostic temptation remains relevant: the practice of faith suffers a negative representation and "is considered as a useless and even harmful exterior, as an outdated residue, as a disguised superstition. In short, a thing for old men".
In the face of the strong pressure that this indiscriminate criticism exerts on the younger generations, we must also be on our guard against the danger of faith becoming a soulless exteriority. Here then is an important mission that it is up to the elderly to accomplish: to restore to the faith its honor, to make it consistent, as recounted in the testimony of Eleazar.
"The practice of faith is not the symbol of our weakness, but rather the sign of its strength. We are no longer boys - Francis said - We did not joke when we set out on the path of the Lord. Faith deserves respect and honor: it has changed our lives, purified our minds, taught us adoration of God and love of neighbor. It is a blessing to all. We will not trade faith for a handful of quiet days. We will demonstrate, in all humility and firmness, right in our old age, that believing is not for old men."
He then made a heartfelt appeal to the elderly and asked them to be a good example for the new generations: "Young people are watching us and our consistency can open up a beautiful path for them. The opposite, on the other hand, can do so much harm."
Greeting the pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father wanted to recall, in this first audience of May, that this is the month traditionally dedicated to the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Speaking to the Polish pilgrims, he mentioned the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Poland, celebrated yesterday: "At Jasna Góra you remembered Blessed Cardinal Wyszyński, who taught you to trust in Mary in the most difficult moments of your history. Following her example, entrust to the Blessed Virgin the fate of your homeland and peace in Europe."
Also this morning, Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, in audience at the Vatican. During the conversation - explains a statement released by the Vatican Press Office - "international issues were addressed, with particular attention to the war in Ukraine, stressing the urgency of dialogue and peace and hoping, to this end, a world free of nuclear weapons."