August 21, 2019

His “Little Flock”

World Youth Day- 2016

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock.

I love these words. I love especially the adjective “little.” It speaks of tenderness, of an irresistible urge to protect, to hold tight to one’s heart, to cherish most dearly.

And what makes this invitation to free ourselves of all fear and to enjoy life again so powerful and so compelling and so believable is that it is spoken to us by Jesus. In reality, if we are to take into consideration just the number of Catholics, this “little flock” is way over a billion strong. It is not little by any stretch of the imagination. It is actually even much larger than that, if we include all those who believe in Christ Jesus and consider him their Lord and Savior.

Yet, Jesus is correct in considering it a little flock because the one holding it in his most powerful hands is Almighty God himself. In his eyes of mercy and love we will be forever “his little children” and for us he reserves his best care along with all his tenderness and undivided attention.

We need to dwell at length and repeatedly on this invitation not to be afraid any longer, because at no time like nowadays, were we swamped by so many, real, menacing, maddening reasons to live in fear. And in addition to all the legitimate and established reasons that feed our fears, we realize that the western world has come unhinged.

Common sense has been replaced by political correctness, truth obscured by convenient relativism and reality trumped arrogantly by insane ideologies. Frankly, I do not know what it would take for us to heed Jesus’ invitation to cease to be apprehensive and to trust firmly in the power, love and mercy of our Father in heaven.

But try we must.

We have to renew our surrender into the Father’s most powerful hands every time our day or night is marred by anguish and darkened by disorientation.

Relief might last but a few minutes.

However, serenity and inner tranquility will last a bit longer every time we renew our trust in God and we abandon ourselves and our loved ones all confidently in his hands.

In the Gospel of Luke (12:32-48), the first suggestion that Jesus gives us as we attempt to quell the turmoil in our minds and the storms in our hearts is the selling of our belongings and the giving of alms. Jesus is not telling us to give everything away and become destitute; he is simply showing us a proven and tested way of generating long-lasting trust in God by relying much less on material possessions.

There is then a second suggestion closely related to the first: to focus on concrete acts of loving service to others without counting the personal cost involved. If we occupy our days in loving service of others we are bound to shift our attention from all that frightens us on earth and focus on what has everlasting value in heaven. It has been revealed to us that, in heaven, there is but one treasure. And that treasure is love. In heaven there cannot be anything but love. All that is commonly valued by an overwhelming majority of people and targeted by thieves or prone to decay will not find its way into heaven. To the extent that we learn to occupy our hearts with thoughts of heaven, they will be much less inclined to be restless and anguished.

The Book of Wisdom (18: 6-9) helps us by providing a fine degree of reassurance.

Unquestionably we are living in scary and insane times, but so did our ancestors in the faith as they were languishing miserably in Egypt for generation after generation. What sustained them, what gave them reasons to persevere, to keep trusting and hoping was knowledge of the mighty deeds of the Lord Yahweh and of his unfailing promises. It would have amounted to nothing if they had given up right before the night of their deliverance.

Now, most of us have already endured a great deal of trials and tribulations. In addition to the recollections of the mighty deeds of the Lord Yahweh in the Old Testament we have the most earthshaking event of history: we have the Resurrection as proof and reason for our trust in God. As Jesus allays our fears, he wants us to make sure that we gird our loins, light our lamps and be ready to welcome him when he calls us in death or the world ends. It is a clear invitation to industrious, active, operative vigilance evidenced by loving, reliable, accountable service of our brothers and sisters.

Our level of fear is bound to decrease as we learn humility from the Lord Jesus and devote ourselves to serving each other as he did.

In the course of the Last Supper, he served his Disciples his very flesh and blood and he introduced the Eucharist as the loftiest type of service designed to elicit all other types of service: I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:27)

Our level of fear is bound to decrease also as we enjoy the service that Jesus provides for us at the table of the Word and of the Sacrament every time we do Eucharist as his little flock.

Finally, our level of fear is bound to decrease as we think often of the great surprise awaiting us in the Father’s Kingdom: He will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. (Luke 12: 37)

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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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