August 21, 2019

We Are Driven by Hope

We are driven by hope. Whenever we pause to dwell on God’s Word, we open ourselves to the startling realization that our life as Christians, as disciples, is a life filled with paradoxes. Occasionally, we might even reach the conclusion that the more genuine our Faith is, the more acute the contrast between the normal way of thinking and acting of the world and the paradoxes proposed to us as the “normal way” of living for a genuine follower of Christ.

Well, today we are called to consider the crème de la crème of all Christian paradoxes: the Beatitudes!

As this passage of Matthew’s gospel (5:1-12) indicates, the very demeanor of Jesus conveys the impression that his finest paradoxes are meant for a selected elite. The crowds of those easily swayed by the foolish and superficial ways of the world are left behind on the plane, at least for now. But we dare to climb with him to the top of the mountain eager to learn from him, as docile disciples always do, once he sits down to teach. However, if we are convinced that his paradoxes begin to make sense for us, we should quickly resolve to sit as his feet as docile disciples not only on Sundays but around the clock, 24-7.

The reason should be obvious. If we sit at Jesus’ feet only on Sundays and do so perhaps without being 100% there, the foolish and superficial ways of the word will inevitably escort us down the mountain slope to join those left on the plane. In that sad case we would revert from belonging to the holy elite to being lost in the anonymity of a shapeless crowd because our wounded human nature feels naturally more at home living without confrontations, daunting tasks, trials and personal inconveniences.

The prophet Zephaniah (3:12) identifies the needed inner attitude that would keep us on the mountaintop at the feet of Jesus as humility. “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD.

Humility is the most indispensible “ingredient” of discipleship. It was first the disposition that prompted the “Son of God” to become “Son of Man” and come to earth to serve rather than to be served and to give his life in ransom of the many. Humility allows us to be better receptive of God’s wisdom rather than listening to Jesus halfheartedly as people already favoring the foolish and superficial ways of the world and sympathizing with what it proposes, relentlessly, as sure paths to fleeting blessedness and happiness. Humility enables us to see genuine blessedness as our being the “loving targets” of the Father’s generosity.

If, in the quiet of our inner room, we go over our life thus far and we let the Holy Spirit help us, we would picture blessedness as awareness that we live and move and have our being in the Father’s divine “spotlights.” Hence, blessedness would be seen as the Father’s uninterrupted pouring of his divine life on us to make us thoroughly blessed. Eventually, the more open our minds and hearts are to Jesus’ teachings, the more serene we would become and the more beneficial would be for us this knowledge of being blessed.

A true disciple doesn’t take in what Jesus teaches and then walks down the mountain to lead his/her own life in worldly lifestyle. A true disciple is enabled by the Holy Spirit to wait for the realization of the blessings which are part and parcel of the Beatitude that he/she happens to be living out on any given season of life. Once the paradoxes of the Beatitudes are interiorized and become the bedrock of his/her life, a disciple is well equipped to face any challenge, any test—filled with hope. All but the last Beatitude are preparing one for the future realization of a blessing; thus they are hope-filled to the brim.

Those who acknowledge their spiritual poverty; those who are devastated yet willing to ignore injustices perpetrated against them; those who insist on being fair no matter how often they got ripped off; those who refuse to rely on any worldly form of security and place their full trust in God; those who are willing to pay personally the price of working for peace and reconciliation; those who are willing to go to jail, to lose everything for a just cause like the pro-life movement, are all filled and driven by hope. They are sustained by hope and they can already picture, albeit in faded form, the endless joy that awaits them. Their humility reminds them that, although such joy is unmerited even if they were the holiest of saints because it is generated in them by the Holy Spirit, the Divine Comforter, the Father’s blessings will keep coming. They are certain that they will never be off the spotlights of the Father’s care.

Yes, the flesh of Jesus, his wounds and his resurrection provide more than enough evidence that in hope we were all saved. (Romans 8: 24) Hence, as we journey towards the Kingdom, pondering humbly Jesus’ paradoxical teachings, our hope becomes firmer. Eventually we will see also the ultimate paradox, which the cross is, as a blessing.

That realization will prepare us to face persecution, insults and every kind of evil utterance and falsehood as blessings to be endured on this earth, in love of Jesus, our Divine Teacher, until the glorious day in which our hope will be needed no more.

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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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