Pope Francis had much good to say about the first Mass reading for September 30, 2019, from the 8th Chapter of Zechariah:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women,
each with staff in hand because of old age,
shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.
The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Even if this should seem impossible
in the eyes of the remnant of this people,
shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also,
says the LORD of hosts?
In this First Reading, the Pope noted, the “signs of the presence of the Lord” with his people are clear. They are made evident by an abundance of life in families and in society: old men and women sitting in the streets, boys and girls playing, reported Vatican News.
When there is respect, care, and love for life, the Pope explained, this is a sign of God’s presence in our communities.
The presence of the elderly, he continued, is a sign of maturity. This is beautiful: “Old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.”
And so many children too, he continued, who bring with them a swarm of activity.
“The abundance of elderly people and children. This is the sign that when a people care for the old and for the young and consider them a treasure, there is the presence of God, a promise of future,” he said.
The Pope also warned against a culture of waste that fails to value the young and the old. He mentioned a story his grandmother told about a family in which the father decided to move the grandfather to the kitchen during meal times because he would spill his soup and soil his clothes.
“One day,” the Pope said, “the father came home to find his son building himself a little table because he assumed that sooner or later he too would be a victim of that same kind of isolation.”
When you neglect children and the elderly, he said, you end up being part of those modern societies who have given life to a demographic winter.
“When a country grows old and there are no children, when you don’t see children’s prams on the streets and you don’t see pregnant women (…), when you read that in that country there are more pensioners than workers, it’s tragic!” he said.
It’s tragic also to lose the traditions passed down by the elder generations, the Pope said, describing traditions “not as museums,” but as lessons for the future: “the lymph of the roots that make the tree grow and bear flowers and fruits”