December 26, 2014
Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr
Gospel Mt 10:17-22
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.” Who are the wisest Americans? Well, according to Dr. Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist, they are the elderly. In my homily this past Sunday, I recommended his book: 30 Lessons for Living – Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. Dr. Pillemer wanted to find out what older people know about life that the rest of us don’t. What he discovered “changed his life”. His book is the fruit of more than a thousand interviews with Americans over the age of sixty-five.
I personally found his book to be insightful, colorful and meaningful. Well, after giving my homily, I heard from a few parishioners that the book sold out within hours of my recommendation. Wow! That was impressive!
I hope that when I finally write my book, the response will be the same! Why ask old folks for advice? Because most of them have seen it, been there and done it before us. Their ahead of us! And, practically speaking, they’re further down the road than most of us. Some, maybe forty or fifty years ahead, right? So they can see a little better down the road than we can. They can give us a heads up while we are boggled down with the now. I think it’s great that some modern scientists have rediscovered the elderly and are doing some good research on them, especially given the fact we cast them aside as useless long ago.
One great question Dr. Pillemer asked was the following: “Do you have any regrets?” That’s a fair question, given their proximity towards permanent retirement. But talk about opening up a can of wisdom! I got to thinking about why the book sold out so quickly. I have my theories, but what’s apparent to me is that many of us are starving for some tried and true advice these days. So why isn’t it given? Maybe it’s because people are scared. Are you? Are you scared your advice could come back to haunt you? Are you afraid it could be used against you? I’m not surprised that hardly anyone with a brain ever opens up their mouth anymore. Aren’t you scared of offending someone or being blamed for having given bad advice? Who wants to be accused of being “intolerant” or “insensitive” or labeled “politically incorrect”? Who wants to be sued by a friend for having given some free advice to a friend? Are you “qualified” to do so? Are you???
Believe me! I’m not making this stuff up. At one of our priestly gatherings, we were told not to give any type of family or marriage “counseling” (advice), since we are not “professional” counselors. One priest made the comment: “But that’s what ‘Father’s do. They give free advice!” Not anymore! Good advice is hard to come by these days. “Do whatever makes you happy!” or “Hey, I’m happy if you’re happy” is what most of us have to settle with these days. Yep! Good advice is hard to get, especially when half the population has been written off as useless! So many people have turned a deaf ear to the elderly and the religious. It seems like everyone has a right to say something as long as you’re not one of them!
Today, far too many Christians are afraid to open their mouths and suffer the consequences. But didn’t the Lord give us (his disciples) the heads up when he said: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you…”? Didn’t he warn us? So why are we afraid? I fear the consequences. The Lord fears that we won’t open our mouths! What’s His advice? Do not be afraid. “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of you Father speaking through you.” Those who speak well have the right words to say. Those who speak well of the Lord, know the Word. Let’s make sure we know how to speak. Let’s have no regrets!