August 20, 2018

The Slow Path to Genuine Love

This is the title I would give to God’s lesson from the readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35). It is the path on which He wishes to walk with us.

For most women, perhaps the most agonizing aspect of falling in love is the complaint that “he doesn’t want to commit himself to a long lasting relationship.” The scariest part for most people attracted to each other is “the tying of the knot” because it is so….permanent! Obviously, what is missing from one or from both individuals is genuine love.

Throughout history, God has used this very same analogy to prove that His bride (Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament) is most wanting in genuine love for Him. Look at the Israelites: they were recently freed from the bitter Egyptian slavery, yet love for their Liberator faded quickly and they missed sitting by their fleshpots and their munching away at loaves of bread to their heart’s content. Freedom, which is always the most indispensable prerequisite for loving, can go unappreciated if love is weak. For as long as love is wanting, or barely existent, even something as prosaic as a full belly looms as preferable to living together with one’s beloved in the hardships of the desert.

Apparently, the presence of the beloved is not sufficient to keep the one wanting in love from complaining. It is only when love is genuine on both sides that it bears all things; it endures all things; it hopes all things (cf. 1 Cor. 13: 7).

In the New Testament, the Bride of Christ doesn’t fare much better. Yet, we should find ourselves close enough to Jesus to feel his sadness on account of our embarrassingly inadequate love for him. We claim to be his. We expect to be seen as his ________ (and here we can fill in any title we wish to give ourselves) “friends,” “disciples,” “devotees,’” “intimate companions,” yet, apart from that hour on the weekend, we work for food that perishes. And we do it as if our livelihood and the one of our family depended solely on it.

Thus, Jesus might remain outside of the framework of our life and of our family for most of those 168 hours of each week…. In spite of the countless homilies, instructions, scriptural readings, prayers, spiritual devotions and all the other nice things we Catholics do, we might seem incapable of committing ourselves wholeheartedly to him. We do not want to “tie the knot” with our God and risk seeing that our life undergoes a complete transformation.

“What signs can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?

We still think that we can fool other followers of Christ, besides, of course, all other people out there, by performing certain rituals every week. We even advance the thought that God should be pleased with what we scrape up for Him resulting in that hour spent in church on Sunday.

Is it any wonder, then, if the deepest part of our heart is restless? Is it surprising that there might be all-pervading dissatisfaction lurking just below the thin layer of our formal, exterior behavior? Would we find it improbable that our complaints seem to be getting more frequent and more insistent?

Today, for the umpteenth time, Jesus is inviting us to set ourselves free, to grow in genuine trust of him and to truly fall in love with him. All in the following order: Freedom from our hectic pace and from all anxieties about things that are beyond our control. Growing in trust: what else can he do for us? After looking at our crucified Lord in an existential way, can we seriously think that our God could do more than that for us? Falling in love: Jesus reveals himself as both the Giver of the real Bread from heaven and the Bread of life itself.

Why don’t we dwell on this call to genuine love? Why don’t we look at him straight in the eyes, if we can, and feel the burning heat of his love for us! Once we are truly in love with our Lord, we would continue to work for food that perishes, because this is what we ought to do in order to live and to support our families; but there won’t be any anxiety, any regret, any complaint….because we will feel that He is with us!

There won’t be any time in which we would ask for a sign of His love, of His power…because every moment of our life will be enjoyed in His presence. We won’t feel any hunger because we will have come into His embrace. And we won’t feel any thirst because, at long last, we will firmly believe in Him.

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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 August 1, 2017 he was appointed Administrator of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. He works five days a week at that parish and two days 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 unwinding in his woodshop.

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Written by Fr Dino Vanin