Fruitful old age

By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy

“ This old man asking an invitation for his burial?” But then he tried to explain in not so many words what is to happen – of which reasons we are now here.”

4I am your God and will take care of you
until you are old and your hair is gray.
I made you and will care for you;
I will give you help and rescue you. Isaiah 64:4
The other Saturday (September 7) I had the rare opportunity to deliver the homily to a quadruple anniversary celebration in the life of the Reverend Jose Nead Bangao II. He’s one of the oldest retired priest of the Episcopal Diocese of North Central Philippines. I am sharing excerpts of my homily to honor him and all persons of old age yet still active in serving in various capacities. This is a prelude to the Senior Citizens’ month which is next month.
Let me start this homily with a piece about old age from the devotional book Our Daily Bread.
“Old age is dreaded by almost everyone because it usually means loneliness, physical decline, and a retreat to inactivity. Some people tend to lose their enthusiasm for life and spend too much time in fruitless reminiscing and self-pity. They feel like “Old Jimmy”, an elderly gentleman George Mueller often told about. When this man was asked what he did all day since he had retired, he replied, “I just sit and think, and sit and think,…and sometimes I just sit!” That’s getting old in the worst way — ceasing to live before we die. God never intends for us to retire from spiritual activity. The Bible says we can “still bring forth fruit in old age.” Even as Jesus kept the “best wine” for the last at the wedding in Cana (John 2:10), so He seeks to gather the most luscious clusters of the fruit of the Spirit from the fully ripened harvest of our lives. You may be sure God wouldn’t keep you on this earth if He didn’t have a worthwhile ministry for you to accomplish. So keep on serving the Lord!”
We gather today as a wider family of this church to celebrate life in old age – that is the Reverend Father Jose Nead Bangao, II. Padi Jose came to me a month ago with an unusual request. He asked me to make an invitation for the celebration of his life. I had goose bumps and told myself, “This old man asking an invitation for his burial?” But then he tried to explain in not so many words what is to happen – of which reasons we are now here. So I drafted and laid out the invitation letter that says, “Anniversary Invitation” which is a misnomer because we are here celebrating four anniversaries. But the inside cover title somehow covers and explain the occasion, “Celebration of the Long Life and Ministry of Padi Jose Bangao,” which are: 57th year anniversary of his Ordination to the Sacred Order of Priests; 58th year anniversary of his Ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons; September 4th 1928 Birthdate – this was not mentioned in the invitation but we can now compute: 2019 minus 1928? That would be 91?; 64th Wedding Anniversary.
Indeed, to homilize (not eulogize) to a person who is almost twice my age is overwhelming and gives the feeling of inadequacy… or even incompetence. I feel such uneasiness because the celebrator was ordained priest when I was not even two years old and twenty-four years after my ordination to the priesthood. (And in our culture we often hear the saying, kurang pay ti nainum mo nga danum, wenno nakan mo nga innapuy tapno maawatam ken maaramidan wenno maartapan ti inna nagapuanan). With this trepidation let me take off from the point of view of our Ordination Vows – part of the reason why we are gathered this morning in celebration of the life and ministry of Padi Jose. He has lived more than half of his life as an ordained minister in this church.
Part of the priestly ordination examination states, “As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you.”
This, in the earlier examination and subsequent question and answer in the Liturgy of Ordination, Padi Jose vowed or promised to do. Looking at the deputations or assignments of various places and congregation of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines particularly then in one diocese of Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines which later give birth to another diocese now known as EDNL and later another diocese came to be the Episcopal Diocese of Santiago, I can say that Padi Jose has been faithful to his vows and promises. I am not saying here that he is a perfect priest, but his ministry as a priest even beyond retirement is a testimony of such dedication and faithfulness which are expected from an ordained minister.
Date of Birth: September 4, 1928; Place of Birth: Mt Data, Sabangan, Mt Province;
Saint Andrew’s Theological Seminary Graduation: 1961 Bachelors in Theology; 1989 Conferred Masters in Divinity; Ordination to Diaconate: 24 June 1961 by Bishop Lyman C Ogilby; Ordination to Priesthood: 14 February 1962 by Bishop Lyman C Ogilby.
Deputations (Assignments):1961-1962 – Assistant, St Michael & All Angels, Tadian, Mt Province;
1962-1963 – Priest-in-Charge, Holy Family Mission, Zambales; 1963-1969 – St Anthony Mission, Alaminos, Pangasinan; 1971-1974 – Priest-in-Charge, St Paul’s Church, Balbalasang & St Thomas, Dagupan, Tabuk; 1972-1973 – Member, Prayer BookTranslator Committee; 1975 – Priest-in-Charge, Holy Trinity Church, Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga; 1978-1984 – Vicar, Epiphany Church, Mapaco-Kamalig, Kalinga; 1980’s – Director of Igorot Mutual ADDC (ICAP); 1985 – Director, Acupan Elementary School; 1985 – Priest-in-Charge (until retirement), St Elizabeth’s Aided Parish, Acupan (Balatoc and Virac), Itogon, Benguet; His partner-in-mission (spouse): Juanita Wad-asen.
To actively serve the Lord as a priest even beyond retirement is quite unimaginable and I pray that I too, can do that. Even after retirement, Padi Jose has been actively involved in various commission of the church and during convention actively involved in the legislative works of the church particularly on canonical concerns (he has the distinction as a consistent Canon authority – hence given the title “Kinonist” (Canonist)… until his ears started to fail him. This is also to mention that he contributed much of the translation of the Holy Mass into Iluko… hoping it to be printed before the year ends. I feel challenged since I shall be canonically and lawfully retired by next year, God willing. And I believe that in order to do such accomplishment – dedication and passion should always be in the heart, mind and soul of a priest.
Indeed, there are more reasons to celebrate. We praise the Lord for the many years that He has been faithful to Padi Jose anointing and blessings of serving the Lord and His people. With passion and dedication Padi Jose might have enjoyed praying for people and sharing in their joys and in their sorrows. For sure, as in most clergy here present- Padi Jose has had great challenges and difficulties through the years as priest: Balancing ministry of full time job and family. So it is also appropriate at this time to express our gratitude to the wife, children and family of Padi Jose who have shown their full support in his ministry and standing with him in all circumstance.
It is without doubt that Padi Jose has had many sleepless nights over the tensions between family and families – the church is the whole family of a priest. Passion and dedication are the sustaining fuel to survive all the challenges and difficulties that are inherent in the life of pastor of God’s people and sharing His Word to all.
The closing years of life can be peaceful, happy, and productive. A man or woman of God doesn’t need to escape them by dwelling on past glories; nor does he need to make them miserable by developing a bitter, complaining spirit. God gives the whole of life to live, and the psalmist suggests that even our later years can be fruitful and flourishing. But we must begin by being happy now!
The well-known Christian psychiatrist Paul Tournier gives insight on this subject in his book The Seasons of Life. He writes, “True happiness is always linked with deep, inner harmony. It therefore always implies an acceptance of one’s age; the acceptance of no longer being a child when one has reached the age of adulthood, and the giving up of the goals of active life when one is advance in years. This is the age of retirement, which for some men can be a meaningful experience, while for others it is a cruel trial. Why such differences? Partly, undoubtedly, this comes from differences in temperament. Yet more so from something else. Those who complain about their retirement are usually the same ones as those who used to complain about their work and longed to be set free from it!”
If we have faith and faithfulness in Him, we can claim the God’s promises even in Old Age.Top of FormBottom of Form‘
What should we look for in our Christian walk with the Lord when we age?
I. He will never leave or forsake us.
Isaiah 46:4
v4I am your God and will take care of you
until you are old and your hair is gray.
I made you and will care for you;
I will give you help and rescue you.
2. God will supply our needs.
Philippians 4:19 (KJV) But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
3. God can and will use us even when we are old.
Psalm 92:14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
Be with me while I proclaim your power and might
to all generations to come. Psalm 71:17-18. What Moses could not do at age 40, God called him at age 80 and look what he did. I am turning 60 years young in April 1st next year and I am asking God to do for me what He did for Moses at age 80… and to Padi Jose at age 92 – celebrate triple anniversaries. In our early years we learned a nursery song entitled, “Jesus Loves me, this I know” yet, we can still sing it in our old age with the revised lyrics:
Jesus loves me, this I know, Though my hair is white as snow;
Though my sight is growing dim, Still He bids me trust in Him.
Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.
Though my steps are, oh, so slow, With my hand in His I’ll go
On through life; let come what may, He’ll be there to lead the way.
Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.
When the nights are dark and long, In my heart He puts a song,
Telling me in words so clear, “Have no fear for I am near.”
Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.
When my work on earth is done, And life’s victories ‘been won
He will take me home above,To the fullness of His love.
Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.
(C.D. Frey, Tennessee, in The Bible Friend)
Here’s also an inspiring verses patterned from the famous Beatitudes of the Bible.
Beatitudes for Friends of the Aged
Blessed are they who understand, My faltering step and palsied hand.
Blessed are they who know that my ears today, Must strain to catch the things they say.
Blessed are they who seem to know, That my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.
Blessed are they who looked away, When coffee spilled at table today.
Blessed are they with a cheery smile, Who stop to chat for a little while.
Blessed are they who never say, “You’ve told that story twice today.”
Blessed are they who know the ways, To bring back memories of yesterdays.
Blessed are they who make it known, That I’m loved, respected and not alone.
Blessed are they who know I’m at a loss, To find the strength to carry the Cross.
Blessed are they who ease the days, On my journey Home in loving ways.
(by Esther Mary Walker)
Loving Father, bless the years ahead with the love that has been unfailing in the years that have passed. Grant to Padi Jose health of mind and body, light to discern new ways of your guiding and the grace to follow them. May all that remains of life be a faithful journey in this world towards eternal life in you presence. Amen. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world!’

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