When it comes to doing the Lord’s work, all are called to do their part. There are several examples in the Bible of people being “advanced in years” (Luke 2: 36) when they were called to serve.
“It’s pretty amazing when you look at the Scriptures, coming to the senior citizen age doesn’t mean you’re off the hook in doing things for the kingdom,” explained Ben Akers, former director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School.
Below are a few examples of biblical seniors who ministered well into their golden years.
Abraham and Sarah
Abraham was 75 years old when he was called from his hometown, friends, family—his whole life in Ur of the Chaldeans to travel to the Holy Land (Gen 12:4).
“He’s called by God to leave all that for a land he hadn’t seen,” Akers said.
Abraham trusted God and headed out with his wife Sarah, 65.
“The couple is barren,” Akers explained. “(And God said) I’m going to make you a father, and you, Sarah, a mother.”
Twenty-five years later Isaac was born.
“It’s a long time before he actually receives what God will bless him with,” he said.
Abraham was 100 when God’s promise was fulfilled, and Sarah was 90 when she became a mother.
“God oftentimes makes us wait,” he said. “But God is never late; it’s not always according to our method of reckoning time. In God’s providence, he’s always on time.”
Moses spent 40 years being raised in Egypt in the house of Pharaoh. After murdering an Egyptian, he spent 40 years in exile as a shepherd in the desert (Acts 7:23). He was 80 when he heard God speak to him through the bush at Sinai (Acts 7:30).
“Maybe he’s thinking about retirement when God says: ‘I want you to go back to Egypt and bring all the people out,’” Akers said. “Then think of all the things that happened: 10 plagues, parting of the Red Sea, the manna, wandering in the desert.”
For 40 years, Moses had been educated in Egypt learning the language and the laws; then for another 40 years he received a different type of education.
“In Egypt he received the best education you could receive at the time, that’s why he was able to write the first five books of the Old Testament,” said Akers. “Then he spends 40 years in the desert where they’ll end up wandering, so he knows all the water holes, all the places to go.
“After 80 years of preparation, God said: ‘Now you’re ready.’”
Moses served till he was 120 (Deut 34: 7).
Simeon and Anna
Simeon was first introduced when Jesus was presented in the temple 40 days after his birth (Luke 2: 22-28). According to Scripture he was “righteous and devout” and it had been revealed to him “that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
“It actually doesn’t tell us how old he is, but tradition has always told us he was an elderly man,” Akers said. “He’s in the temple, he’s praying, he’s righteous, devout … it was a beautiful gift that he would see the consolation of Israel.”
Simeon immediately recognized the Holy Family when they entered the temple.
“He recognizes Christ in this little baby, with this young couple,” Akers said. “I mean, how many young couples were there? This was what the Jewish people did according to the law—and he recognized him as the promised Messiah.”
A prophetess Anna was praying in the temple as well.
“Anna is old we know for sure,” Akers said, quoting “she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four (Luke 2:36-38).”
There are different translations of her age, according to Akers.
“She’s either 84 years old,” he said. “Or she was a widow for 84 years; either way she’s old.”
Anna never departed from the temple “worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”
“She dedicated her whole life after her marriage to prayer,” he said. “It’s a beautiful witness of an elderly couple witnessing to the Christ child.”
There are a lot of beautiful things the elderly can do to build their faith and share it with others, Akers said.
“No matter what age you are, there’s always a chance to rededicate and reorient yourself to Christ in a deeper way,” he said. “Ask God: What can I do now? What are you asking me to do? What from my past has prepared me to serve the Church in a particular way?”
Ways to build the kingdom as a senior citizen
Teach in a parish
Support missions financially
Encourage young parents at Mass
Teach life skills
Model the commitment of married love
Unite physical suffering with the cross
Mentor young people
Spend time with family and friends