Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Senior Side: evaluating wants versus needs

By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published August 8, 2019

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find that you get what you need.”

-The Rolling Stones

A boy raises his hand in class and asks, “Teacher, can I go to the restroom?” The teacher replies, “Yes, you probably can, but you may not. Recess is in a couple minutes.” The boy looks quizzically at the teacher and in that instance is introduced to the semantics of the English language.

There is a significant difference between “can” and “may.” The word “can” deals with the ability to do something while the word “may” deals with possibility or whether you have the freedom or permission to do it. We tend to use the words interchangeably.

The same is true for the words “want” and “need.” The dictionary defines “want” as the state of missing something that is desired, something that you don’t now have but would like to have. Need is defined as lacking a necessity like food, water, shelter, companionship, medicine or money.

One of the more important issues for seniors is to understand the difference between what you want to do in the second half of life versus what you need to do. For instance, you may want to take a world cruise, but you need to care for an aging parent. You may want to relocate to Florida, but you need to help your daughter, a single parent, care for your grandchildren.

All seniors should have both personal and spiritual goals. You can satisfy your personal goals by creating a “bucket list” of things you want or need to do before you die.

On the spiritual side, there is an overriding purpose and goal in this life and that is to receive the gift of eternal salvation. All other wants and needs are insignificant in comparison. The challenge is to make ourselves worthy to receive the gift.

Receiving the gift of salvation

When a Jewish legal scholar asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”  Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

This doesn’t imply that you have to put on a sack cloth and prostrate yourself in front of the altar every hour. The commandment provides us direction to help us strive for the ultimate gift of eternal life.

How can we love and serve God and neighbor better? First, you can attend Mass more frequently with the regular reception of the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. You can become more visible and proactive as the family role model for your children and grandchildren to help them become and remain strong lifelong Catholics. You can make prayer an important part of your daily routine.

Another way is to get involved in parish ministries like St. Vincent de Paul, a women’s guild, Respect Life or Knights of Columbus. One ministry that I find rewarding is serving as a eucharistic minister to the homebound. A eucharistic minister is a godsend. Bringing the Eucharist is a beautiful gift of love, rewarded tenfold by the appreciation that our fellow seniors give back to us.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity and challenge is to follow the mandate of Jesus to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Most seniors have the time, experience and wisdom to become disciples and role models for those who are seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ. You don’t have to stand on a corner and proclaim the Gospel. Start by praying to the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance.

What if our ticket to heaven will be measured in large part by how well we have made disciples for Christ? Many Catholics tend to think that evangelization is reserved for clergy and saints. Not so. All seniors can become effective evangelizers by getting involved in a parish renewal program (Alpha or Amazing Parish). For more information on renewal programs contact Monica Oppermann at

Or, you can volunteer in your RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) to help instill the principles of our faith or serve as a sponsor for adults who are seeking a new and stronger faith identity.

There is a powerful reason why all Catholics need to embrace the greatest commandment. It deals with heaven and eternity. In our temporal world, everything has a beginning and an end. In God’s world, there is an absence of time. Eternity endures forever.

We can’t take a chance on being left out of the gift of eternal salvation. We have to make effective use of our time, talent and treasure by living this greatest commandment.