After journeying through the first two “acts” of discipleship (dependent and independent) we arrive at the third and final act (assisted), where increasing amounts of assistance become necessary to successfully complete the last leg of the voyage that is life on Earth. Moving from the dependence of childhood through the independence of adulthood, the last stage of life can be very rewarding and challenging at the same time. This period of our lives is often referred to as retirement, which by definition means withdrawing from active full-time employment. Social Security, pensions, retirement savings and health care can augment assisted living. Together they form the foundational support for the “golden years” of life.
Even to your old age I am he, even when your hair is gray I will carry you; I have done this, and I will lift you up, I will carry you to safety. (Isaiah 46:4 )
Discipleship, which has no franchise fees or operating expenses, only requires old-fashioned “sweat equity” and time. Hours, days and weeks, once extremely scarce, are now available to serve God and neighbor in these latter years. The irony of time becoming more available as physical and mental ability lessens is, on the surface, troublesome. It is only when the assistance of other persons and entities are factored into the equation that service to the church and society can be effective and fruitful.
Remember the days of old,consider the years of generations past. Ask your father, he will inform you, your elders, they will tell you. (Deuteronomy 32:7)
The same person that formerly shunned getting directions on a trip in earlier years might very well embrace the assistance that a GPS device provides. As driving, in general, becomes increasingly more difficult, the “senior disciple” has a variety of choices to accomplish getting from point A to point B. Children, grandchildren, family, and friends can assist with (and eventually take over) transportation needs. With more time to concentrate on what awaits at point B, assistance begins to take on a new meaning. There was a commercial in the sixties that gave us “I’d rather do it myself”. As more and more children of the fifties and sixties enter into retirement, a new tagline might be “I’d rather do it with assistance!”
Staying involved in community and parish life is an essential part of discipleship in the senior years. The ongoing mission of the church, to bring Christ to others, can be realized effectively in as many spheres as are available. From the confines of the home or facility to the four corners of the world, discipleship is always available for the task at hand.
So with old age is wisdom, and with length of days understanding. (Job 12:12 )
In many ways, the parish has assumed the role that small towns and neighborhoods used to play in our culture. In previous generations, the elders of the family would often live with their children and grandchildren. Assisting with household chores and care of the younger members of the family were something grandma and grandpa could readily do while their basic needs were taken care of. The parish, which serves multiple generations, provides an excellent opportunity to serve and be served. Basic spiritual needs, provided throughout life, take on special significance in the communion and collaboration of parish life. Seniors are a welcome addition to the vineyard of ministry and catechesis. Just as many social programs pair seniors and children, ministry can benefit greatly from the wisdom and experience that mature discipleship provides.
You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:3)
I am young and you are very old; therefore I held back and was afraid to declare to you my knowledge.I thought, days should speak,and many years teach wisdom!( Job 32:6-7)
Discipleship and living in the retirement years, at first blush, might seem to be mutually exclusive efforts. It is only when these two are viewed in light of kenotic self-emptying and receptivity to Divine Providence, that the premise of “Acts of the Disciples: Discipleship and Assisted Living” can begin to be seen as mutually beneficial.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Timothy 4:7-8 )
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Deacon Greg Lambert was ordained in 1997, in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and served as a deacon at St. Paul Church in Tampa for 10 years before transferring to St. Lawrence, Tampa in 2007, where he and his wife Kathy currently serve. Deacon Greg assists in the areas of RCIA, Adult Faith Formation, and Sacramental Preparation. In addition to his service at the parish level, Deacon Greg is a staff member of Diakonia newsletter for the diaconal community of the diocese, and is a member of the Focus 11 committee for vocations. He is also part of the teaching faculty for the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute in the diocese of St. Petersburg. His articles have been published in Deacon Digest Magazine as well as Diakonia.He has a BA in Religious Studies and an MA in Theology from St. Leo University.