October 17, 2019

Misery Loves Company?

Sensational and/or bad news seems to sell better and get better coverage and, thus, higher ratings than good news.

Could it be because misery loves company? Could it be because, whatever sources of fear and apprehension we are exposed to, are more frequent and scary and, thus, generate in us a mental state of alertness for self-preservation? Could it be because we feel defenseless but for whatever protection we can scrape up ourselves?

Now, when fear turns to anxiety it has the power to arrest our life. Horizons narrow; mistrust generates suspicion; it becomes reasonable, then, to erect walls for protection.

Well, as believers , we ought to be heedful of the most frequent urging found in the Bible, from cover to cover, in many versions, which all boil down to this urging: “Do not be afraid!” The exact words of this urging are: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

We are living through difficult months, difficult years. We are living with heavy and anguished hearts. What is happening to our world, to our country? “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

The setting in which this advice was first given was much more unsettling than ours will ever be. Jesus’ betrayer had just left the upper room, thus setting in irreversible motion those events that were about to lead Jesus to horrific torture, cruel pain and shameful death on a cross. The eleven disciples were deeply troubled, scared and upset about the immediate future of their divine Master and theirs, too.

Hence, for the sake of the same discipleship which we share with them, why don’t we assess, now, the degree of apprehension with which we live through our average day? The amount of apprehension and anxiety that rules our lives is in reversed proportion to our faith and trust in God. Obviously our finding can be very embarrassing! Now and then, we believers get an inspiration and look toward heaven and sigh as if to tell the Lord that we are placing ourselves and our loved ones ever more firmly in his hands.

If, however, in those rare moments, God is not quick to come to our rescue our hope might fizzle and get replaced by fear. Yet, with the experience accumulated over 2000 years, by being immersed directly in horrors, persecutions and tragedies, Mother Church dares to offer us the picture of her splendor and glory.

The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

The Church knows that a part of her is suffering intense pain; that it is persecuted; that it is marked for extinction; that it is standing on the edge of an abyss. The Church feels that for a part of herself hope is crumbling as she cries tears of anguish. And we, too, might be that suffering Church!

So we are the Church who is invited to contemplate her future of glory as described by the Book of Revelation. And for this reason we need to focus on a monumental detail that we might have overlooked thus far.

I saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. Do you understand? Where is God Where is the Lamb?

Everywhere! God is everywhere but in a very special, unique way God is in his new Temple. We believers are the living stones of the new Temple and of the Lamb. We host God in our hearts. This is the astonishing good news that Holy Mother Church offers us on this Sixth Sunday of Easter.

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

Here is the secret which can sustain us through thick and thin and allow us to move forward even amid extreme trials and sorrows. It is not necessary to look up to heaven, to sigh, to clinch our fists, to put off any rejoicing and move on. It should now be sufficient to look inside our heart. There, we will find the Father and Jesus (the Lamb); there we will find the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

But, you would most certainly object: all this is just grand, and it is of great comfort to know that God dwells in our hearts; but there are so many heart-wrenching events, so worrisome issues that we can be easily swept away by what is happening to us and all around us.

Thus we lose sight and awareness of God’s presence. So, we get back to square one. How do we keep alive the thought of God’s presence that brings us comfort and courage?

Jesus gives us two suggestions: try to love him as best we can and to keep his Word. God never expects of us perfect, divine love. He would be pleased with a sincere love that is docile to his insights and willing to cooperate with his grace. Then there is the Word, his Word. It is crucial that we push aside or put off a few chores every morning, maybe on our way to work, as we eat breakfast, to read or to recall a Gospel passage that we like or we are intrigued by. We should etch it in our mind and, then, return to those images, to those words throughout the day, especially whenever we notice anguish and anxiety welling up inside.

We can also find other ways to remember the divine Guest in us. Actually, I am so certain of Jesus’ unfailing love that, surely, he will give us plenty of signs and reminders to bring us constant comfort throughout each day. The outcome of all this will be “FREEDOM.” Yes, freedom from anguish, from fear, from exhausting preoccupations because we will be always convinced that our life is completely safe in his hands. And, little by little, this freedom will bring about his peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”

Here, my dear brothers and sisters, is my wish for all of us: to discover God in his new Temple so that our hearts may never be troubled again and that we may never be afraid of what the future holds. The peace that the Risen Christ brings as soon as we find him nestled in our hearts is the same peace that was present when, in the very beginning of creation, God put order and goodness into our formless earth.

In addition, peace is the reassuring light and the soothing voice of the Holy Spirit reminding us about all that the Lord Jesus told us. Besides, peace is the realization that our Lord could not be any closer to us; and peace is also the previously unknown energy that compels us to dare to love more and more until we see Life beginning to blossom again.

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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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