Pope Francis has spoken many times about the value and gift of inter-generational relationships and on the meaning and value of old age as well as on the contribution of young people to our understanding of today’s world.
In his continuing catechesis on the meaning and value of old age in the light of God’s word, Pope Francis reflected on the figure of the widow Naomi as presented in the biblical Book of Ruth, which he called “a jewel of the Bible.”
He told those gathered at Wednesday’s General Audience in St Peter’s Square (26 April) that this beautiful story “sheds light on the beauty of family bonds,” and invited the faithful to “rediscover the Book of Ruth.”
Naomi, living in a foreign land, is left alone when her two sons die.
But despite her grief, she encourages her two daughters-in-law to remain among their own people as she returns to Bethlehem, her native town, a gesture Pope Francis described as an “act of love.”
Ruth makes the decision not to abandon Naomi, and accompanies her to Judah, telling her: “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
The Pope underlined that “Naomi, moved by Ruth’s devotion, will emerge from her pessimism and even take the initiative, opening up a new future for Ruth.”
Both women begin a new chapter in their lives with Ruth supporting Naomi, and Naomi, in turn, helping Ruth to find a new husband, Boaz, which will lead to the birth of a son Obed, who was the father of Jesse.
“Naomi, in her old age,” commented Pope Francis, “will know the joy of having a part in the generation of a new birth.”
A ‘beautiful bridge’
Pope Francis explained that the story of Naomi and Ruth demonstrates that in God’s providential plan, faith and love enable challenges to be overcome.
He went on to say that these bonds uniting the generations can prove enriching for our families and for the growth of a society that respects the dignity and gifts of each of its members, however young or old.
In conclusion, the Pope underlined:
“If the young open themselves to gratitude for what they have received, and the elderly take the initiative of relaunching their future, nothing can stop the flourishing of God’s blessings among peoples.”
He also recommended that young people talk to their grandparents and to their elders, and that old people talk to young people. This, he said, will foster harmony and forge that “beautiful bridge that we must guard and watch over.”
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves.
(From the encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ – Given in Assisi, at the tomb of Saint Francis, on 3 October, Vigil of the Feast of the Saint, in the year 2020, the eighth of my Pontificate of Pope Francis).