October 17, 2019

Do Not Be Afraid

The Word that the Lord wishes to do with us and unto us today deals with the saddest challenges of life: pain, suffering and death itself. If only we could, we would rather not think about these realities and live instead, from day to day, hoping that pain, suffering and death will never touch us. Of course, we know that such hope is not realistic and today Holy Mother Church invites us to tackle these scary aspects of life and reflect on them while keeping our eyes fixed on our Lord Jesus Christ.

The starting point is this: God did not make death. Nor did He make pain and suffering or anything else that distresses and hurts us. As I have written many times before, for the Bible, evil is the result of one of two realities or a combination of the two.

They are: 1) the natural limits of any creature, of any entity created by God. Everything and everyone grows old, wears out and breaks down with consequences that can be very dreadful for many people, and 2) the abuse of human freedom, which is another way of saying sin.

Actually, sin has more devastating consequences (even on people far away and totally innocent) than those which are the result of natural limits in creatures. Sin is the “monkey wrench” thrown into God’s wonderful and glorious plan for the whole created world. Yet, since (as Wisdom 1:13-15 and 2:23-24 assures us) God, who is love, created man to be imperishable, to achieve this end, He became flesh. He became one of the lower elements of the created world so that we could be rescued from the impact of pain, suffering and death and share in His divine nature. Jesus is therefore God’s answer to our earthly plight marked also by pain, suffering and death.

And the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time are designed to generate intense hope, firm assurance, and quality courage in us because, as we see, Jesus is God, who deliberately wants to be “contaminated” by our miseries and by death itself.

That is indeed the message that the passage from the Gospel of Mark (5:21-43) shouts in our ears today. According to the Mosaic Law, any woman with a loss of blood was “impure” and was strictly forbidden to let people touch her, for her impurity would contaminate them.

So, here is the good news: In the context of the presence of God made flesh (Jesus Christ), He (God) generates in the hemorrhaging woman the irresistible desire to touch Jesus, to “contaminate” Him with her affliction. On the other hand, Jesus, who is made, so to speak, “hypersensitive” to human miseries, senses that He has been touched directly by human sufferings and finds in it confirmation that this is precisely the reason why the Father had sent Him to earth to relieve them.

But there is even more, greater good news: Jesus desires to be contaminated by the dead themselves. He picks up the lifeless girl by her hand and gives her back to life by uttering His Word of life.

My dear friends in Christ, you must admit that there are many reasons for us to be joyous today and filled with hope, but let me try to raise our level of joy and hope by pointing out something else related to what we have been contemplating together thus far. It is the knowledge that our God made flesh is always in the little details of our daily life. God loves every single one of us with the tenderest love. In fact, it seems to me that I find Jesus in more common aspects of my life as I grow older. And it is tremendously reassuring and quite comforting.

I would like to leave you with this spiritual project to carry out. Ask the Lord to help you hone your spiritual eyes and spiritual senses to notice the healing and reassuring presence of the Lord even in the prosaic aspects of your daily life. The more you find evidence of this in your life, the more these “presences” will seem to multiply. I am confident that, by the end of your life, you will have been sustained almost continuously by these detailed presences of Jesus in you and around you. And this might eventually make the difference between being able to weather the worst storms and most devastating tragedies in life or succumbing to them.

By noticing these presences of the Lord in the details of life we can become so strong, so hopeful, and so confident that we would be ready to listen to Jesus whenever He tells us: Do not be afraid; just have faith.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin

REVEREND DINO VANIN, PIME was born in Cendon di Silea, Province of Treviso, Italy in 1946. He entered the PIME Seminary at Treviso at the tender age of eleven. He came to the U.S. in 1968, studying Theology at Darlington Major Seminary in New Jersey. He has an MA in Secondary School Administration from Seton Hall University. Ordained in 1972, he served as an administrator, teacher, rector and principal at the PIME High School Seminary in Newark, Ohio before being sent to the missions of Thailand, where he served for six years. He is currently the Treasurer of the U.S. Region of PIME in Detroit. On December 16, 2018 he was installed as Pastor of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. Every week he takes some time off from his parish ministry to do some administrative work at PIME headquarters in Detroit. Due to his increased workload at the parish while continuing as Treasurer of the U. S. Region of PIME and as counselor and spiritual director, he spends any time left doing a little woodworking.

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Written by Fr Dino Vanin
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