Old Age

Understanding How to Accept the Kingdom of God Like a Child
Photo of a baby holding a hand with their grandparent with the quote: "Let your old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom."—St Augustine, Exposition on the Book of Psalms
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"Let your old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom."—St Augustine, Exposition on the Book of Psalms

Original piece by Rod Long on Unsplash.

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Reflection

There are qualities of both the youth and the elderly that we are invited to take to heart. As we age, we grow in wisdom and yet it’s important to temper that with humility.

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.—Mark 10:15 (NABRE)

This passage explains a bit more about this verse:

“The idea of the child as a model to replicate in the Christian life is not easy to interpret. Children in ancient societies occupied a low status, and Mark reflects this cultural setting. The Reign of God is for those who are like children, the poor, the hungry, and the dispossessed—persons whose right and dignity were ignored. Followers of Jesus can only enter and be a part of God’s reign if we recognize our dependence on God for all we have and all we are; Jesus invites us to give up all claims to status and rights over others, a theme developed later in this same chapter. Only if disciples become like children can they be received by Jesus and become true followers of the Crucified One. The teaching is firmly in place within the context of the training in discipleship in these chapters.”—Konrad Schaefer, OSB, SSD, from Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word 2018 Year B

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, held a strong devotion to the childhood of Christ and is a model of this unabashed, childlike love.

In a society that idolizes the surface of youth while forcing its children into artificial adulthood, Saint Thérèse might seem foolishly childish, but in fact she teaches the real wisdom of the child: trustful willingness to be led, taught, and raised to true maturity according to God’s plan rather than her own.—Magnificat, October 1, 2018

That’s not to say we should 100% take on childlike habits. There is a lack of wisdom and immaturity that children can tend to have, and those aspects of a child I think are what Paul refers to in the popular Way of Love discourse of  1 Corinthians:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.—1 Corinthians 13:11 (RSVCE)

I spent my 20s rebelling and carving out my own path, apart from God, proudly thinking I knew what was best for me, based on what “felt good” or “felt right,” which were just squishy, loosely defined terms that I seemed to change with each day. In the aftermath, I realized I didn’t know a heck of a lot about what or who I was rebelling against.

Whatever someone’s age, I always encourage them to find answers to the big questions in life. Why am I here? Why do I suffer? Where am I going? This is the theme of my song Sherlock Holmesing (Real Questions).

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