“To be born from on high” is to allow oneself to be “restored” to the love of God, Pope explains-ZENIT

“This life is precious in the eyes of God: it identifies us as creatures whom He loves with tenderness”, explains Pope Francis.

Pope Francis gave his thirteenth catechesis on the theme of old age, this Wednesday, June 8, 2022, Place Saint-Pierre. He comments on the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, in the Gospel according to St. John, where Jesus later explains what it means to “be born from above” to “see the kingdom of God”.

“This life is precious in the eyes of God: it identifies us as creatures whom He loves with tenderness,” Pope Francis emphasized. “The‘ birth from on high ’, which enables us to‘ enter ’into the kingdom of God, is a generation in the Spirit, a passage through the water to the promised land of a creature ordained- back to God. love of God. It is a rebirth from above, with the grace of God. It’s not about being physically born again at another time ”.

Here is the full translation of Pope Francis’ catechesis:

Catechesis of old age (13)

Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

Among the most remarkable old characters in the Gospels is Nicodemus – a prominent figure among the Jews – who, eager to get to know Jesus, but secretly went to his house at night (cf. Jn 3, 1-21). In Jesus ’conversation with Nicodemus, the heart was aroused by Jesus’ revelation and his mission of redemption, when he said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. all who trust in him will not perish, but have eternity. life ”(v. 16).

Jesus told Nicodemus that to “see the kingdom of God” one must be “born from above” (cf. v. 3). It is not a question of being born again, of repeating our coming into the world, hoping that a new reincarnation will reopen us to the possibility of a better life. This repetition is meaningless. Instead, it will erode the life we ​​live in all its meaning, erase it as if it were a failed experience, an old value, a wasted emptiness. No, that’s not it, this new birth that Jesus is talking about: it’s something else. This life is precious in the eyes of God: it identifies us as creatures whom He loves with tenderness. The “birth from on high”, which allows us to “enter” into the kingdom of God, is a generation in the Spirit, a passage through the water to the promised land of a creature restored by love.of God. It is a rebirth from above, with the grace of God. It’s not about being physically born again another time.

Nicodemus misunderstood this birth, and called old age into question as obvious proof of its impossibility: man inevitably grows old, the dream of eternal youth disappears completely, the dress and tearing is the harbor of the arrival of all time beings. How can one imagine fate in the form of birth? Nicodemus thought like this and could not find a way to understand the words of Jesus. This rebirth, what is it?

Nicodemus’ opposition is very instructive for us. In fact, we can turn it around, in the light of Jesus ’word, so that it discovers a mission specific to aging. In fact, old age is not only a barrier to being born from the heights of which Jesus spoke, but it has become the right time to enlighten it, freeing it from the misunderstanding of a lost hope. Our time and our culture, which reveals a disturbing tendency to think of the birth of a child as a simple matter of human production and biological reproduction, then fosters the myth of eternal existence. youth as obsession – desperate – with incorruptible flesh. Why is old age – in many ways – degraded? Because it brings irrefutable proof that challenges this myth, that we want to return to the mother’s bosom, to be eternally young in body.

The technique is tempted by this myth in all respects: while waiting to overcome death, we can keep the body alive thanks to drugs and cosmetics, which slow down, hide, cancel aging. Of course, one thing is health, the other is dietary myths. It cannot be denied, however, that the confusion between the two causes our mental confusion. Confusing benefits with food for the myth of eternal youth. We did so much to bring back this youth: so much makeup, so much surgery to look young. I remember the words of a wise Italian actress, Magnani, when she was told that she had to remove the wrinkles and she replied: “No, don’t touch! It takes many years to get it: don’t touch them! “. Like this: the wrinkles are a symbol of experience, a symbol of life, a symbol of maturity, a symbol of the path taken. Do not touch them to be young, but young in the face: the important thing is the whole personality, the important is the heart, and the heart will remain with this youth in good wine, when it grows old, it will be better.

The life of mortal flesh is a very beautiful “unfinished” thing: like some works of art that, precisely in their incompleteness, have a unique beauty. Because life on earth is a “beginning”, not a success: we come into the world as that, as real people, as people who grow old, but always remain real. But the life of mortal flesh is very easily a place and an hour to go on unceasingly and complete the most precious part of our life in the time of the world. Faith, which welcomes the proclamation of the Gospel of the kingdom of God to which we are destined, has a remarkable first effect, Jesus says. It allows us to “see” God’s kingdom. We are able to actually see many signs of our hope in fulfillment for which our lives bear the sign of God’s eternal destiny.

These are signs of evangelical love, illuminated in many ways by Jesus. And when we “see” them, we too can “enter” the kingdom, with the passage of the Spirit through the renewing water.

Aging is the condition, given to most of us, by which the miracle of this birth from on high can be deeply absorbed and become credible for the human community: it does not herald the nostalgia of the birth of time, but love for the final destination. . . In this perspective, old age has a unique beauty: we are walking towards Eternity. No one can re-enter the mother’s womb, not even her technological and consumer surrogate. It does not impart wisdom, it does not lead a complete path, it is artificial. It’s sad, even if it can be. The old man walks forward, the old man walks towards the destination, towards the heaven of God, the old man walks with the wisdom of a lifetime. So old age is a privileged opportunity to free the future from the technocratic illusion of biological and robotic survival, but above all because it opens up the tenderness of the creative and produces God’s bosom. Here, I want to emphasize this word: the gentleness of the elderly. Observe a grandfather or grandmother, how they look after their grandchildren, how they take care of their grandchildren: this gentleness, free from all human trials, overcoming human trials and that free to give love, the loving intimacy of one to. the other. This meekness opens the door to understanding God’s meekness. Let us not forget that the Spirit of God is nearness, mercy and gentleness. As God is, he knows how to breathe. And aging can help us understand this dimension of God which is meekness. Old age is the privileged opportunity to free the future from technocratic illusion, it is the moment of the gentleness of God who created, paves a path for all of us. May the Spirit grant us to reopen this spiritual-and cultural-mission of aging, restoring us to being born from above. If we think of old age in this way, then we say to ourselves: how has this culture of the past decided to dismiss the elderly, considering them useless? The elderly are the messengers of the future, the elderly are the messengers of gentleness, the elderly are the messengers of the wisdom of a supposed life. Let’s go ahead and show consideration for the elderly.


I happily greet the French -speaking pilgrims who are in this audience, especially the pilgrims from France and Reunion, from Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon.

May the Holy Spirit, following Nicodemus, grant us the rediscovery of this spiritual mission of old age that restores us to the “birth from above”.

May the Holy Spirit of Comforter bless you!

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