July 19, 2019

Pondering Sacrifice

This past week we honored the birth of our nation, as One Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We have reasons to celebrate, but also reasons to be deeply concerned about.  Anyone who is not a fool or lives as a hermit, cut off from the rest of the world, knows that the nation we are entrusting to our next generation is a very troubled and bitterly divided one.

We believers know that the real reason lies with the fact that influential people in our nation are trying and, indeed, have partially succeeded, in shaping a nation which is no longer under God, but under a new order which is thoroughly secular. Until recently, people on the Left had the decency to consider faith in God and obedience to His laws a matter of strictly personal choice. But now, any display of religiosity, any mention of God and His laws is met with ridicule, derision, and, in an ever- increasing way, with hostility and violence.

Praise God that the readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time offer us a wonderful opportunity to find out what our contribution to our nation should be, for our own sake as citizens of America and as citizens of the Kingdom of Christ.

The prophet Isaiah (66:10-14) shows us what would happen to the citizens of God’s Kingdom, including the citizens of America, if we succeed in bringing it back to be UNDER GOD once again: “I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent…As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bodies flourish like the grass…

Well, we have at least economic prosperity in our country, right? Economically, things are looking up for a larger number of people, including minorities. Yet, there are still people that call my rectory and ask to be helped to pay their rent or to buy groceries, many having to go without needed medications for lack of money.

Yes, there is plenty to be done by us to ready ourselves for Judgment Day. On that day we will be asked, individually, what we did concretely to relieve hunger, thirst, nakedness, homelessness, loneliness, and sickness from the lives of our brothers and sisters nearby and also in distant mission lands. The prosperity of some, even of most, cannot make us sit on our laurels because we have mounting evidence that economic prosperity might hide spiritual and moral decay.  

Speaking of moral decay, a few weeks ago, I attended a seminar on the devastation brought about by pornography on our young people and on marriages. Dear parents, do you know that, if your children have an electronic device like a smart phone or tablet, they might have been exposed to pornography by age 9? What makes you sure that your kids were spared? How closely do you monitor what they watch in secret? By the time they become legally adults they might already be planning which violent sexual fantasy they might act out.

Some parents might give to their children the best things money can buy, instead of giving them quality time, undivided attention, loving discipline, encouragement along with lasting values, especially self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is a most precious gift we adults should embrace joyfully and hand over to the next generation as the litmus test that separates genuine love from infatuation and/or lust.

We cannot be only part of a cheerful mass of Americans in a celebratory mode but people who must reshape our nation at the cost of considerable personal sacrifice. In his Letter to the Galatians (6:14-18), St. Paul wrote: “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ…Through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.

The personal sacrifice we ought to make for future generations of Americans is similar to the one of Christ on the cross. Borrowing from Paul’s inspired words, we can say that all that matters is that one is a new creation.

Peace and mercy are bestowed by God on all who follow this rule of life. Do we want peace and mercy and justice and liberty for our families and nation? The situation has deteriorated so much that nothing short of an all-encompassing personal sacrifice would do.

The terms of our being re-created, of our being made anew, are spelled out in the Gospel of Luke (10:1-12, 17-20). Our mission starts at home or close to home, but should, somehow, extend to the entire world.   

Jesus appointed 72 disciples, which many believe was the number of nations in the world at that time. Hence, I believe that he desires Americans to assume the duty of taking the lead in morality, justice, liberty, aid to the poor, education, pursuit of happiness and in the sharing of all those blessings that make our country unique. However, this does not mean that we have to shoulder all the problems afflicting humankind and provide for all the poor in the world.

Given the challenges and the needs of our own families, we should start our mission with them and extend it outward as much as our means, inner disposition and circumstances allow it. Let the following advice from the First Letter to Timothy (5:8) be our guide: “And whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

In addition to the crucial spirit of self-sacrifice, what the Lord expects of us as his disciples is a generous, compassionate heart, and reliance on Him, not on our human resources (money bag, sack, sandals). We also ought to have courage in facing adversities: at times we might be going among wolves; thus going out in pairs can give us additional support. We go to our families, our neighbor, our townwith our Christian lifestyle, our choices of what is of value, the stands we take, the commitments we adhere to, the sacrifices we make.

This mission on our part will prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the lives of people close to us and also in faraway places where we cannot go, but we can inspire others to do so. If we do not hold back in any way; if we rely on the power of the Gospel and are joyous in our self-sacrifice, we can return to the Lord rejoicing and be assured that our names are written in heaven.

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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