Mar 28 2017
In this time of recuperation ( I am now six months into various rehab modalities from the immobility caused by Guillian Barre Syndrome), I find myself rereading books that were previously meaningful for me. I’m currently rereading Henri Nouwen’s book Here and Now: Living in the Spirit. In his chapter on conversion he introduces the concept of “reverse mission.” Reverse mission came to him when he was working with the poor in Lima, Peru. He came to realize that is was indeed these people, these poverty stricken people, who had so much to teach their wealthy neighbors to the north…the wealthy neighbors who lived in the United States. On page 76 he says,
“The reversal is the sign of God’s spirit. The poor have a mission to the rich, the blacks have a mission to the whites, the handicapped have a mission to the ‘normal’, the gay have a mission to the straight, the dying have a mission to the living. Those whom the world has made into victim’s God has chosen to be bearers of good news.”
When Nouwen talks about mission what he means is conversion. God has long given me the insight that it is we elders (65 and over) who have a convertive mission to our chronological juniors.
As poverty teaches a pure humility and feeling maligned as in prejudice teaches insightful patience and bearing the burden of a “physical handicap” teaches strength and courage, and those in hospice teach us true wisdom…in a like manner the very process of aging is truly a master teacher of the entire spectrum of virtue. All of the above mentioned virtues and many more are at the very essential base of the curriculum of the master teacher of aging. When we can truly embrace this potent fact then not only is the very concept of aging transformed but indeed our life journey to this point on which we now stand in our elder years is likewise transformed.
Aging IS our master teacher and all that it teaches becomes our curriculum which we are called to teach to others. We as elders have a clear mission which we need to embrace with evangelical fervor. That mission is nothing short of the mission of the original apostles, the disciples down through the centuries and the same mission resident in our hearts now.
How do we carry out this grand mission? The first requisite is for us to redefine what it means to be an elder and then go on to embrace the mission of evangelizing our juniors. We need to prepare ourselves so we can see through a new lens and realize our essential agelessness.