October 18, 2019

Where is the Glory?

The following should be a very important question: what is our reaction to what Paul and Barnabas tell us in the Acts of the Apostles (14:21-27)? 

It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

Before we answer that question and react to those inspired words, let me remind all of us that our God is the God of the living. Being the God of the living, today, He uses our brothers Paul and Barnabas, who are living in Him as glorious parts of the Mystical Body, to bring to us His message of love and life.

It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

A common reaction could be: “Oh, how I wish it weren’t true!” “Maybe I can find a way to keep it from happening to me.”

As it is, all must suffer: obviously the poor, those who struggle to make ends meet suffer; so do the weak, the sick, the aged, the marginalized, the defenseless; but also those who, at first sight, should be happy and care-free because, at least on paper, they have got all that one needs to be happy.

All, including the innocent, suffer. 

Even the good ones, the honest ones, even those who go by the book, those who are law-abiding, religious, pious people, including those with a very strong faith.

But why is it so? Because this world is ailing; the world is fading away; the world is wounded by sin; and sin unleashes evil in all directions. And evil is blind; and evil strikes anyone, anywhere, anyhow, anytime.

It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

There is no way around it. We could be fortunate, lucky for a while, even for a long stretch but, eventually, it will be our turn to suffer. In this case, can we face trials and tribulations on our own? If we are realists, if we are people with their feet firmly on the ground, we can give our answer immediately. We would already know that it is impossible. However, what about we working with God’s grace? Certainly, but with a lot of doing and with plenty of good will on our part. 

In the Gospel of John (13:31-33, 34-35), we find both a strange type of good news and the reason why even with God on our side, handling suffering and trials is so hard.

It sounds very odd that Jesus says: “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” Odd but right: Judas’ exit from the upper room has set in irreversible motion the final hours of Jesus on this earth; He considers Himself GLORIFIED!

But, where is the glory? Judas’ betrayal sends Jesus to unspeakable torture, to an excruciating passion, to a shameful death on the cross. Where is the glory? Who would be so insane as to lead us to believe that glory begins with terrible sufferings? Well, it is Jesus Himself, Jesus, the sacrificial Paschal Lamb who is making this proposal.

It is as if the template of God’s Word is summarized in these words: “It is necessary for us to share fully in the Paschal Mystery of the passion, death and resurrection, of Christ in order to enter the Kingdom of God.” 

More precisely, this is the unalterable plan: passion, death, resurrection AND glorification. This divine plan for us is such that we cannot go it alone.

What about with God’s help? Ideally, it is with God’s help within a community of faith. In that Upper Room Jesus creates His first community of faith. He doesn’t call us servants; He calls us His friends. Actually, now, He calls us His “children.” So much tenderness, so much closeness, so much intimacy!

Paul and Barnabas understand the full impact of this term of endearment “my children” and because of such appreciation, on the way back from a new Lystra, a new Iconium, a new Antioch, and stopping at our parish, they encourage us and exhort us to persevere in the faith. It is the faith of believing in the folly of all follies: that our glory in God’s Kingdom ought to begin with trials and tribulations.

Right after calling us “my children” Jesus gives us the new commandment of loving each other as He loved us on the cross. Then, immediately after issuing such daunting order, realizing the human impossibility that it entails, He gives us His Flesh and Blood to eat and to drink.

Thus we become truly “His children,” His community, His family. Still weak, still fragile, still prone to relapses, still easily frightened, yet driven toward accomplishing what is possible only in Him within our Community of faith.

Hence, we must find the necessary amount of time, on this very day, to see how our trials and tribulations, which are so well defined, so immediate, so personal, so real to us, so etched in our minds and so engraved in our hearts, are also so common, so ordinary, so plain, so well-known to scores of people. Well, precisely those trials and tribulations cannot overwhelm us anymore.

Beyond the circle of our loved ones, beyond any form of loneliness and isolation, we find our parishes. Within them, we will find examples of: Christian living, prayer, support, closeness, and help. At the same time, we need to pledge to do the same for others who are in need of our help.

We need to do it with humility, with anticipation, with the certainty of the glory that the Lord has already assigned to each one of us in which we stand with hope; and in which we persevere.

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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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