© Imelda Maurer, cdp
Not long ago during a conversation with another Sister, she mentioned a Congregational meeting she had recently attended. The agenda was around aging and retirement needs. Included in the meeting were statements from her Congregation’s Constitutions. Her comment to me was, “I never realized there was so much in our documents that was so relevant to the topics we were discussing.”
That observation brought one of my own learnings to mind: If we read our Congregational documents – our Constitutions, Chapter statements, and mission statements – with new eyes, we will find riches there never before imagined. When we read our Congregational documents through the lens of serving our elders, we will discover a new world of meaning in the work to which our own and every Congregation is called. Such a re-reading has the potential to stir a new vision of what life could be like in our “infirmaries”. The subsequent new vision and new understanding of this ministry to our own, through the lens of our Congregational documents and values has the potential to shift our mindset about aging, aging services and retirement needs. When the subsequent insights that such a shift in mindset brings, with its mandate for a new intentionality in how things are done, there is born the potential of our being led to a new place of prophetic witness, a witness to which we are called to be and to provide today in an aging and ageist society.
I was reminded of all of this earlier today as I read the first reading for today’s Eucharistic liturgy. The reading is an exhortation about ministry and the attitudes we should bring to it. Be aware of the new understandings of the ministry of service to our own possible when we read this Scripture through that lens?
(The translation I use here is from The Inclusive Bible. That translation uses the word ‘elder’ in place of ‘presbyter’, but perhaps apt for us.)
1 Peter 5:1-4
I send a word of advice to the elders among you. I, too, am an elder, as well as a witness to the sufferings of Christ and a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Shepherd the flock entrusted to you. Shepherd it, not just out of duty, but eagerly, as God would have. Don't do it for money, but do it freely. Don't be pompous or domineering, but set an example for the whole community to follow. Then when the chief Shepherd comes, you will receive the crown of unfading glory. Let the young among you respect the leadership of the elders. Let all of you clothe yourselves in humility toward each other, for "God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble."