Saturday, August 29, 2015

Heart Trouble

Reflections on the Readings

August 30, 2015 - Year B
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time



Heart Trouble

 And he said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man."

Life is more than just how diligent we are in dotting our 'i's and crossing our t's. A lot more! We don't need spiritual brownie points, we need a heart that is free from the tyranny of sin. A good prayer to pray is, "Lord search me and examine me and see if there be any evil in me.That prayer helps us to point the finger at the right person. It is so easy to name the sins of the other person. But today we are challenged to ask ourselves, "Am I just a hearer of the word of Christ or am I an example of his life, his love, his teaching." If the word of truth grips our heart, feeds our imagination, then we are a first fruit of what will one day be what we expect the new heavens and new earth to be like. For nothing unclean or defiled can be there. And if we expect to be there then we should pay attention to any heart trouble of the sort Jesus describes. 

I like the song that says: It's me, It's me, O' Lord, standing in the need of payer. David prayed for a new heart and a right spirit after his sin of adultery and murder found him out. God knows the thoughts and intentions of our heart. We are only fooling ourselves when we think we are hiding anything from him. Yet He extends to us and to all grace we don't deserve and love that we cannot earn. The invitation that still has no small print says, "Come unto me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

When we come to confession, there is nothing hidden, and what we hide is not invisible. It is more important to be forgiven rather than deceived. For if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1John 1:8)

What comes through today's readings is that the Father offers us a personal relationship. And certainly our heart should be his and his alone. For it is in the deepness of the God who is love where our own heart is made new and fresh in his love. With a new heart comes a new way of relating to others, especially those nearest and dearest to us. For everyone we meet bears the same image of God. So let us have a generous heart for all - with a heart free from evil thoughts, envy, slander, and pride. For our heart is meant to be the throne of the King. May we greet each other with the humility that resembles the King and receive each other as brothers and sisters in Christ So, Take my heart Lord. Come and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above. Amen.


Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: dennishankins@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com



Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Special Request





Dear Friends, 

As you already know, because of my requests for prayer, our daughter, Melissa, was unexpectedly hospitalized for seven days. She was admitted with chest pain, and was diagnosed as having a blood clot that led to a stress heart attack. The cardiac physician also discovered an anomaly in her heart in the electrical side of things that required a procedure that completely cured her of that anomaly. However, Melissa was also diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. All of this came on the heels of just having major surgery one week prior to this crisis. 

As you can imagine, this hospital stay comes with tremendous expense. In addition to the medical bills, Melissa has been unable to work for the duration of her hospital stay as well as many days after she was released. She is, at this point, only able to work limited hours as she recovers and learns to live with diabetes. 

We are asking for help for our daughter in dealing with the financial devastation that has come from this unexpected health crisis. Our son, Reverend Timothy Hankins, has set up a link for this purpose. Any amount you can contribute will help a wonderful young woman recover from a horrible circumstance. Thank you for your generosity and for your continued prayers and support. Here's the link:  http://www.gofundme.com/melissahankinsmed



With grateful hearts,


Dennis & Debbie Hankins

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Life in the Great Mystery

Reflections on the Readings

August 23, 2015 - Year B
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time



Life in the Great Mystery

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.


My wife and I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. How did we stay together all these years? With lots of love and forgiveness! As the first reading reveals, life is filled with choices and decisions. I was 20 and my bride was 17 when we pledged our lives and love to each other. I boastingly say that our children got their good looks from me because their mother obviously still has her's. I also enjoy telling folks how smart my wife is. You see, she graduated from High School as a junior with honors. What prepared Debbie for High School?  It was her four years at a country school in Merriam, Illinois where 5 and 6th grade and 7th and 8th grade were in the same room. So yes, I married up. 

Mutual love and respect and a shared faith in the grace and love of God is the stuff of romance. A few years ago I hit a brick wall while in pastoral ministry. I was devastated. Physically and emotionally  exhausted my days were dark and the nights were darker. I needed help. I needed someone to tell me that somewhere, somehow, the fog would lift and life would return again to my weary body and mind. A physician laughed at me and said, "What do you know. A paranoid preacher. No, it didn't help. But one day, my bride said to me, "One day you will be as strong as you ever felt weak! It was a word from God! I felt something hit my chest with a thud and liquid strength began to pour into me.From that moment I began to walk out of the hurt, the despair, and the darkness. A few months later I became a 9-1-1 Medical, Fire, Police Dispatcher, a position I held for 10 1/2 Years. 

The teaching of Jesus is filled with Spirit and life. Throughout his ministry Jesus invited his listeners to pay close attention. He said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" Jesus explained that a wise person should take his teaching to heart and build his life on what he learned. Then when the storms of life come, and winds of betrayal and fear howl about, and doubt and accusation beat like an unrelenting rain storm on your mind and soul,the teaching and life of Christ will nourish and protect you until the storm passes by. For Christ loves us and nourishes us with his own life, with his own body and blood. And in the Sacrament of marriage, the holy mystery is that a wife and husband cherish and nourish each other in the gift of each to the other - a picture of Christ and his Church. 


Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: dennishankins@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Truth is in Jesus

Reflections on the Readings

August 2, 2015 - Year B
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time



The Truth is in Jesus

Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. (Ephesians 4:17-20)

Brutal! Barbaric! Unthinkable! Depraved! These words passed the lips of many as the revelatory videos of undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood surfaced. From those interviews we've learned that PP not only facilitates abortions but also markets to the highest bidders the body parts of aborted babies. As the father of four children, I can only say that this news more than turned my stomach. I wonder how many of these precious aborted babies are friends that my children and yours will never meet? 

These revelations remind us why Jesus explains that his followers, although in the world, we are not of the world. As followers of Jesus, we can not, we must not, live and think like the world. We are to have the mind of Christ, not the hollow, empty and impotent thinking of the world. President Obama lectures us and recently Kenya, that we need to give up the values that we have because of faith in Christ. Christians are viewed as archaic, out of step, and threatening to the ideals of progressive thinking. So the Little Sisters of the Poor, no matter the good they provide in the care of the indigent, are ordered to provide birth control in their insurance policies for their employees, no matter that it violates their conscience and beliefs. 

It is tempting to be angry about the diminution of marriage as the sacred exchange of vows between a man and a woman recently promulgated by the Supreme Court, about the wholesale slaughter of babies in the womb facilitating the harvesting of their body parts, and about forced participation in Obamacare even when its required birth control provision violates the beliefs of Christian employers and religious communities. 

Let us never forget that the Good News is always good news! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is after two thousand years no less real. So our mission is still a mission of mercy. We are still about the saving power of grace. Going into the darkness wherever it is with the light of the gospel of Christ remains our calling, our mission, and our responsibility. For you see, if the Good News is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. But God in his mercy has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. So please, for the sake of Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again on the third day, let the light of Christ shine. ( 2 Corinthians 4:3-6) For the truth that sets free is in Jesus! Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: dennishankins@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Picnic With Jesus

Reflections on the Readings

July 26, 2015 - Year B
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time



A Picnic With Jesus

Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

I hope you are having a good summer. This summer I reconnected with family and friends in southern Indiana and our family vacation included visits to historic Williamsburg and Yorktown walking in the footsteps of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. At Virginia Beach the waves of the Atlantic Ocean licked our feet while the vibrant sound of wave after wave coming to shore reminded me of the words of John the Revelator: …and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 

So my roots, deeply entrenched in Hoosier soil, got an overdue visit. Our visit to historic Virginia reminded me that the great ideas that birthed this nation should never be surrendered. And while my feet sank into the sand at Virginia Beach my soul was soothed by the sound of the waves chasing each other to see which one would reach the shoreline first.

Summertime activities also include cooking out and having picnics. Well, today, the gospel is about a really big summertime picnic. Just the number of hungry men was about five thousand. Counting women and children the number attending this picnic is several thousand. I personally would panic, but not Jesus. He knew what he would do. The ministry of hospitality went into full speed. The disciples invited the huge crowd to get comfortable and find a place to sit down. Everyone was invited to stay. Isn't that just like Jesus? After all, hospitality is the very heart of Christianity. As scripture reminds us, we are encouraged to not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)

A little boy offered his lunch of two fish portions and five barley loaves. We all do well to have more of the kind of faith that child demonstrated. Didn't Jesus say, "Except you have the faith of a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven?" I'm too often reserved; too often reluctant to let Jesus in and have his way in me and with me and with my stuff. I want to have more of the faith of that little boy who didn't wonder if he would have anything to eat if he gave his lunch to Jesus. Maybe what we are supposed to learn here is that little is much in the hands of Jesus. Also, nothing given to Jesus is ever wasted. 

Any way, Jesus gave the best picnic ever. And from this demonstration of hospitality of food and fellowship we should learn that a church community should be more like a picnic, a community of sharing with one another, where the common language is the love of Christ and the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace is evident. For together we embrace one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all through all and in all. Amen. 


Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: dennishankins@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Real Message of the Rainbow

Reflections on the Readings

June 28, 2015 - Year B
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time




The Real Message of the Rainbow

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls; 
for God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, (or nature) 
but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it. (Wisdom 2:21-24)

This past Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States of America struck down any state laws banning same-sex marriage. News reports stated that SCOTUS had made same-sex marriage the law of the land. No such thing happened given that the Supreme court is not a legislative body. What the majority opinion did was strike down state laws banning same-sex marriages. 


President Obama stated that on the question of same-sex marriage, "Justice arrived like a thunderbolt." In recent years the President has been vocal on how his view of marriage has evolved. And he believes that everyone should evolve with him even though as recently as four years ago he said that his Christian faith informed him when he stated that marriage is between one man and one woman. In celebration of the decision of the Supreme court, the President had the White House bathed in lights depicting the colors of the rainbow Friday evening. 

We must remember that SCOTUS is not a modern day Mount Sinai, even given the President's 'thunderbolt' comment. However, Moses, upon ascending Mount Sinai did encounter a Holy God descending upon the Mount in fire and smoke. Trumpet blast, thunder and lightening shook the Mount as God wrote on stone tablets with his finger the Ten Commandments. 

Although I am not surprised by the Supreme Court's decision, I am appalled. The fundamental unit of any society is the family. That understanding has been the bedrock, the very foundation of every civilization since the Garden of Eden. And I say that without any animus toward those who identify as LGBTQ. My list of friends, teachers, acquaintances, and colleagues include individuals on this list. My entire life I've tried to be a bridge builder in the hope that I might be the face of Jesus to everyone I meet and know. They have included adulterers, drunkards, liars, homosexuals, thieves, idolaters, and robbers. In fact, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that the Church in Corinth included such as these whom St. Paul now describes as washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. ( 1Corinthians 6:9-11)

We can rejoice about the parish at Corinth as we can about every Christian church filled with sinners saved by grace because:

- The Bible says that Jesus is a friend of sinners and that he ate and drank with them. (Luke 7:34)

- The Bible says that God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

 

 - God doesn't hold grudges for the Bible says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us. (2 Corinthians 5:19) God is not mad at us or anyone. God loves us and everyone. Nor can we be angry or hostile toward our neighbor whom God loves.

 -The Bible says that God has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

 -The Bible says that now is the acceptable time; now, is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

- The Bible says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away.(2 Corinthians 5:17)


The SCOTUS decision does not change one thing about what we believe about marriage and what has always been true about marriage. Especially now, however, as the Bible says, we must not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. (Romans 1:16)

The real meaning of the rainbow is how God remembers his covenant with Noah every time he sees the bow in the cloud. What is that covenant? It's that God loves us; that he will never allow a flood to cover the whole earth again. The message of God's rainbow is about a loving God who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: dennishankins@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com






Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ransomed, Healed, Restored, Forgiven!

Reflections on the Readings

June 21, 2015 - Year B
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time



Ransomed, Healed, Restored, Forgiven!

Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

My title comes from the first verse of one of my favorite hymns: Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven… "To his feet thy tribute bring; Ransomed, healed, restored forgiven, Who like thee His praise should sing?"

Grace is not cheap. The violence Christ endured reminds us that grace is not cheap, that no one is excluded from his outstretched arms, that we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. Even for Dylan Roof, who massacred nine persons this past Wednesday night at Emmanuel African Methodist Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, there is room at the cross. Here's the bottom line. At the foot of the cross, none of us get to point fingers of contempt and accusation at one another and our common prayer is, "Deliver us from evil." For we were all dead in trespasses and sins, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that continues to work in the sons and daughters of disobedience, among whom we once lived. (Ephesians 2:2-3)

At the Easter Vigil we hear the Good News:

"O happy fault, 
O necessary sin of Adam
which gained for us 
so great a Redeemer!" 

If any one is in Christ, he is a new creature, a new creation, a new Adam, a new Eve. Ransomed! Healed! Restored! Forgiven! That's the Good News! Why? Because through the first human family sin entered the world. And because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve we all enter this world as sinners. The theological term for this is original sin. Even little Johnny and Susie born this afternoon entered the human race in need of a  Savior which means that original sin is a state and not an act. In union with the whole human race Johnny and Susie and Juan and Maria need to know that while we were yet sinners, born and unborn, Christ died for us! And that's the Great and Good News and the reason we bring our children to Jesus in Christian baptism.

In Christ our past no longer defines us. The old is passed away and the new has come. We still wrestle with temptations and the allure of the past, and the glamour of sin, but no longer in our weakness, but in the strength of Christ's love for us. This is why St. Paul can explain to the Church at Corinth that no matter your past, "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Christ filled the raging waves and blowing winds with his peace. He fills us with his love and peace and breaks the tormenting and debilitating power of sin in us so that we can shout: "Ransomed! Healed! Restored! Forgiven!" Because everyone who is in Christ is a new person! 

Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: dennishankins@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com