When you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another
will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go
Today we commemorate St. Peter and St. Paul. This day honors the martyrdom of the two saints, sometime between AD 64 and 68. While the church recognizes that they may not have died on the same day, tradition says that this is the day that they were both martyred in Rome by Emperor Nero. Peter was the rock on which Christ formed His Church, and became the first Pope as the specialized Shepard of Christ’s Flock on Earth. Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament, with 13 letters ascribed to his name (most scholars agree that 7 are objectively his, yet the other 6 are of contested authorship). St. Paul (born as Saul) is often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity. His epistles (letters) have had enormous influence on Christian theology, especially on the relationship between God the Father and Jesus, and on the mystical human relationship with the divine. St. Peter and St. Paul had been imprisoned in the infamous Mamertine Prison of Rome and both had foreseen their approaching death. While I was reading today more information about apostles Peter and Paul I was inspired to talk about one thing from the Bible. I read John 21:15-19. In this chapter Jesus is talking to Peter and here is what it says:
”When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
While reading Bible for today I was very touched with this last sentence saying:” …when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” This sentence brought me back to some memories that I have experienced almost 13 years ago. In 2009, when I was preparing to become a novice in order to become an orthodox monk I was instructed by my spiritual father (abbot) that before moving to monastery I should serve the army and I was told to serve civil army in Gerontology Centre. This is how we call the nursing home for old and week people. I applied for the civil army and in that year I spent 9 months helping and serving people in need who were users of the services of the Centre and who lived there. There were more than 300 people mostly between 70 and 90. Many of them were left alone. Their children (if they had them) usually were living far away and there were no cousins or friends to help them in their daily needs. Such as preparing food for them, bringing medicines or accompanying them to the doctor. I remember that many of them were suffering on daily level. Few times I even witnessed some of them dying. At that time I was readying Bible every day and I was regularly attending prayers in the local church. While caring the old sometimes I used a chance to spontaneously mention Jesus. If they were eager to learn more about Jesus we kept the conversation in that direction. And I remember a very important thing that I was regularly noticing between old and sick who were atheists and those who were believers. Atheists were usually depressed and often unhappy. They were feeling that they are at the final period of their life. Left alone, sick and depending on the care of Gerontology Centre workers. With one word depressed and hopeless. And they were often complaining. Another group was a group of the people in the same position. Same old, same sick and same alone. But actually they were not alone. They were not complaining. They were thankful for having people around them, thankful for the rest of their life, thankful for everything. Their mindset was positive and the only thing that distinguished these two groups was faith in God. The happy group was alone, but actually not alone. They had God, they had joy and happiness. Today in readings I found another important sentence that I may bring into correlation to the story that I shared. We read in 1 Timothy 6:17-18:
”Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
The sentence that I would like to pay attention to advises us to put our hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment and in the other hand not to put our hope in wealth. Again I remember my experience from working and helping in nursing home for old people for nine months. There were people who were rich for the local Serbian standard. They could afford better service in the Gerontology center, with private nice equipped apartment and additional health care service. But still, they were not very happy. Additionally there were old people from poor background who could only afford a bed. They had shared bathroom, shared room and poor conditions. But those among them who were having Jesus were really happy, relaxed, grateful and complete. In the end of this sermon I would like to bring the message to all of you that as Jesus said. Maybe one day when we are older and sick another will dress us up and take care of us, maybe we would be alone or even feeling hopeless. But also let us then remember that God also says we should put our hope in God and surely our life will have much better quality and with Jesus we would be complete, happy and loved. Also, I would be happy if this sermon help you remember your neighbor who might be old and sick and might be needing help. Let us help to those in need and let us be blessed with prayers of the apostles Peter and Paul. Glory be to our God. Amen.