As is my custom when time allows, I arrived about half an hour early for Mass one Sunday. It wasn't my usual parish as I was away from home, but I found a pew close to the tabernacle and knelt to pray.
After a little while, two mature women, well past retirement age approached the votive stand near the tabernacle to light candles for their loved ones. I was noticing the shade of their hair — pure snowy-white — when I heard these words interiorly: "All the snow is at the summit."
I pondered this remembering again that God's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. In ages past, the elderly in our society were revered and respected. Today it is much different; so often the elderly are seen as being a burden. But, in our Lord's eyes, the reality is much different.
The episode reminded me of something that happened several years ago on Holy Thursday in my home parish. After Mass I stayed to adore our Lord in the adoration chapel.
Several other parishioners also stayed, among them a couple in their late eighties. Stiffly they walked, but reverently, bowing as much as they were able, to acknowledge the Lord's presence. They stayed about 15 minutes, then got up to leave, again bowing as much as they were able.
At that moment, I heard these words interiorly: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Beyond the words, I felt in my heart the Lord's absolute respect for the elder faithful. It brought me to tears and helped me see the elders with, not so much new eyes, but with a new heart.
Sometimes I think elders themselves feel that they have outlived their usefulness, but nothing could be further from the truth. For, as St. Paul tells us, "God's power is made perfect in weakness."
When we are young and able, much of the time we spend working for the Lord is done with whatever time we have to spare. There is the temptation to feel we are doing it in our own power and often we have our own agenda.
When we get older, he puts a belt around our waist and leads us to a place we would rather not go. It is in taking up this cross and following him that he is finally able to accomplish in us the greatest work of our lives — if we let him.
What is that work? St. Francis did not consider himself a friend of Christ unless he loved the souls that Christ loved. He used to say that nothing is more important than the salvation of souls. This is the work that elders must take up. Lighting votive candles is an outward sign of an inward attitude of prayer for souls.
When I heard the words, "All the snow is on the summit," our Lord was trying to tell me that these elders were accomplishing the greatest work of their lives — the salvation of souls.
This is a great spiritual battle. The weapons God provides to fight the battle — namely suffering and humiliation — are not those we would necessarily choose to take up.
But remember that these are the same weapons Christ himself used on the cross. These weapons are invincible, as Christ himself proved. A soul that offers every moment of ignominy, agony or abandonment to the Father is on the cross with Christ shedding blood for the salvation of souls. There is nothing more important or more urgent.
An elder faithful who makes a prayer of surrender each morning for the sake of souls can be confident that every indignity and medical treatment, every tear and pain, every moment of loneliness and feeling of abandonment is being used by God in a powerful way to save souls.
Everything on earth will fade away, and elders feel this more keenly than the rest of us, but what joy it will be to know forever the gratitude of the souls we have assisted with our prayers and sacrifices. What unimaginable joy it will give us to hear the Lord's words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Prayer: O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, and the purification of your Holy Bride, the Church. I accept all things from your loving hand for your kind and mysterious purpose. May your holy will be always accomplished in me and through me for your glory. Amen.
(Janet Klasson lives in Wainwright)