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












Saturday, June 13, 2015

Kingdom Seed

Reflections on the Readings

June 14, 2015 - Year B
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time



Kingdom Seed

And he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

What is seed? A seed, a single seed, is an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering called the seed coat, usually with some food. Properly planted and watered a seed will reproduce after its kind. Watermelon seeds reproduce watermelons. Corn on the cob comes from seed corn. Those bright, juicy tomatoes started from a seed. The green beans you preserve to eat like fresh picked green beans at Thanksgiving started with a…well, you get the point!

So seeds are important. They are vital for the sustaining of life and the provision of healthy life giving food. We get important nutrients from fresh vegetables and fruits all of which come from seeds containing the likeness and nutrition of the mother plant. Therefore we can say with great confidence that the mission of every seed sown is to reproduce after its kind. 

Jesus compares the growth and reproduction of the kingdom of God with seed that is sown by a farmer that will reproduce after its kind. The DNA of the kingdom of God is in every baptized follower of Jesus Christ. We carry the seed of the kingdom of God. Our mission is to plant the seed of the kingdom of God in our families, our neighborhoods, at work, or wherever we may be. 

St. Paul described the effort of planting the Kingship of God as a cooperative effort. Together, in a parish, we collaborate to make the kingdom of God known and understood and felt. Sometimes we are planting kingdom seed, sometimes we are watering it, and God gives the increase. In a family a husband and wife work together to make God's Kingship palpable to their kids. They do all they can to extend God's kingship in their family by praying together, worshipping together, laughing and crying together as together they grow in faith and in the knowledge of the saving work of Christ.

Kingdom seed doesn't grow unless it is planted. All of its good news and power to forgive sins remains anonymous until it's shared. The great mercy that each seed of the kingdom carries within itself remains unfelt unless we fulfill our mission to sow kingdom seed entrusted to us. Just imagine how much God is waiting to burst out with new life and light and love for all who are languishing in the kingdom of darkness. God gives us opportunities and moments when he wants us to plant some seeds of the kingdom. He wants the great mystery of his life to be sown so that his kingdom will grow. 

Like a farmer we have to be patient and persistent. We have to trust the process and believe that what is sown in faith will grow and make new servants of God's benevolent work and kingdom. Our mission is to live and to share the good news of God's love and forgiveness and mercy by faith. We aren't ruled by what we see, we give witness and live out our mission by faith. And we do so with the understanding that we must one day give an account of our faithfulness to the mission of sowing kingdom seed. 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, May 30, 2015

The Living God

Reflections on the Readings

May 31, 2015 - Year B
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity




The Living God

 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. (Romans 8:14-15)

Today we ponder anew the God who gives life to all things and to us, his most reluctant of creatures, the breath of life. I say reluctant because from the beginning we regrettably are prone to wander from the God of love. You will recall the great work of God in forming man from the dust of of the earth. "Let us make man in our image," said God, revealing a conversation within himself because there was no one else with whom to converse. But it was not a conversation like we have on occasion of talking to oneself. This was a conversation involving God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When God said let us make man in our image, that conversation concluded with Adam formed from the dust of the earth with God bending over him and breathing into him the breath of life and thus Adam became a living soul. That, my friend, is worthy of our deepest reflection.

The apostle Paul ministered in Athens, a city full of idols including an altar with the inscription, 'to an unknown god.' Paul's response to this spiritual confusion is clear and confident: 

What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'(Acts 17:23-28)

Paul's evangelical witness is as relevant today as it was in his own day. We must begin a new and clear conversation with the children of this age about the Living God who gives to all the sons and daughters of Adam life and breath, and that He is not far from each one of us. Our generation needs to hear about the God who shows his mercy in appointing the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, and how his watchful eye is on the sparrow, and that like a shepherd he watches over us. These truths help us understand the worth and destiny of every soul as seen in the light of the indiscriminate love of the Author of life.

The beginning of faith and rebirth for each of us is Christian baptism. It is the turning around point for every repentant follower of Christ. At the Trinitarian invocation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we become new sons and daughters of the Father through the Son of his love, and the infusion of the Spirit, the Breath of the Living God.

In this intimate reunion we cry, "Abba! Father!" 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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Like The Rush of a Mighty Wind

Reflections on the Readings

May 24, 2015 - Year B
Pentecost Sunday



Like The Rush of a Mighty Wind

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)


I was raised in the faith and experience of the Pentecostal church. I'm still Pentecostal - a Catholic Pentecostal! My Pentecostal and Catholic readers will have something in common in reading that last statement. Both will say, "How can that be"?

Thank you for asking!

I can't imagine that Jesus wants less for his Church today. No where do I know of a prayer that says give us less of your Spirit. I don't believe that any of you get up some mornings and say, "Just go light on the Spirit today. I'll try it in my own strength for a while." If we are not filled and animated by the Spirit of Christ, we aren't really a Christian. As St. Paul reminds us, anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)

Pope Francis stated in his first Pentecost Sunday homily as Bishop of Rome: The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. 

In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, our Lord speaks of the wind blowing wherever it wills - "you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or wither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Sprit."(John 3:8-9) The Spirit draws us into the mystery of the life and love of God. In that deep fellowship of the Trinity every heavy and burdened soul finds rest. It's not a rest from something but rather a rest in Someone. It's the friendship of leaning on Jesus much like Adam and Eve snuggled up to God in the cool of the evening in the Garden. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to restore our soul, to renew our heart, to refresh our spirit with the friendship of Jesus.

Jesus charged his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "You have heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4) At 9 a.m. on the Day of Pentecost, about 120 were gathered in prayer including the apostles, several brethren and women and Mary the mother of Jesus. And a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Tongues of fire appeared to them and came to rest upon each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles of similar outpourings of the Holy Spirit in Samaria (Acts 8:14-20), and on Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-44), and at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). St Paul writes about the richness of the gifts of the Spirit which build up the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12 - 14). Peter saw the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. Peter said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…" And before he finished his Pentecost sermon, Peter assured his listeners and us that the 'promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off.' (Acts 2:39) 

St. Pope John XXIII prayed in 1962 for a new Pentecost. Let's claim the promise of the Spirit for ourselves and our children and pray for a new Pentecost in 2015 by making the prayer of St. Pope John XXIII our own: 

"Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. 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, May 9, 2015


Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis S. Hankins

6th Sunday in Easter -Year B
May 10, 2015

Let Us Love One Another


Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

Beloved, let us love one another! 

It is John who speaks most intimately more than 25 times in his epistles. In the Gospel bearing his name he refers to himself five times as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” This is from a man who learned a thing or two about love after he had led the chorus to call fire down out of heaven on the inhospitable Samaritans. (Luke 9:54) He learned as we must that the love that is from above is a consuming fire of a different sort; a fire that blazes a trail of forgiveness and reconciliation.

I think that the power of this kind of love is immeasurable. Like faith the size of a grain of mustard seed can move mountains, love this big moves the sun and other stars as Dante suggests. Too often it is untapped and untried. It is my hope that we will leave here today to let a little more love in our living. 

I have that hope because the Easter season continues and because Jesus lives, God’s love remains. God’s love is alive. It can fill us with the sweet aroma of the risen Jesus whose love never fails to lift, to inspire, to make better, to mend, to heal, to restore — to feed, to clothe, to give a drink of water, to say, “I forgive you.”

Some may think God is too extravagant, too indiscriminate, maybe even wasteful in the way he loves the world. Jesus forgave the penitent thief and welcomed him into Paradise in the last hours, perhaps, minutes of his life. Unfair? Wasteful? Perhaps we should ask Dismas. Or let's ask Angela. 

Chesterton registered the indictment that the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. Although I think I understand what the good apostle of common sense meant I don’t entirely agree. For example, Calvary Hospital is located in the Bronx, NY.  It is here where Dr. Michael Brescia has for many years assisted those in their last days and hours of terminal illness where every patient is approached, loved and cared for as if Jesus was the patient. The staff genuflects upon entering the patient's room, because the folks at Calvary Hospital believe the words of Jesus, "I was sick and you visited me.” One such patient was Angela.  She was brought to Calvary Hospital because the other hospital said they couldn't take care of her. Angela could not speak had no immediate family with her nor anyone of authority who could speak for her.  Dr. Brescia described her as having matted hair, rotten teeth and effusing from every orifice of her body. He volunteered to be her Physician.  

Protruding from the side of  Angela’s neck was a large tumor and she was consumed by AIDS and lung cancer.  

After Angela was admitted and bathed and made comfortable in her room, Dr. Michael Brescia made his first visit. Taking her by the hand he tenderly spoke to her from a heart filled with the love of Christ and said to her, " I hope you had a daddy who loved you. I hope you have had people in your life who valued you and cherished you."  With these and similar words he poured the healing love of Jesus into this emaciated, tormented woman.  

About 8 O'clock one Sunday night, Dr. Brescia made his last visit to Angela.  When he walked into her room he realized she was dying. As he had done in the past, he put down the bed rails and took Angela by the hand. Again he spoke with the love of a man who believed he was holding the very hand of Jesus. About 90 minutes passed and Angela, who had never spoken, said, "Dr. Michael."  Startled, Dr. Brescia heard Angela again say, "Dr. Michael." Standing closer to her so he could cradle her head in his hands she said, "In a few hours I'm going to see God and I'm going to mention your name."

Doctor Michael Brescia stated that every one who dies at Calvary Hospital dies in an ocean of love because Calvary Hospital is a hospital love has built.

I understand we spend about a billion dollars a day to keep terror in check.  One billion dollars could help with the costs associated with the kind of care Calvary Hospital provides for the terminally ill and their families for the next 50 years. 

I also think that a mother's love is also a remarkable example of the love of Christ. I think of the love of Mother Teresa and the sisters of Mercy in Calcutta. Their effort to bring faith and hope and love to the lowest of the low in the streets of Calcutta has brought Christ and his exorbitant love with a mother’s affection. This beautiful saint, Mother Theresa left us this advice: "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." You’ve heard it said that dynamite comes in some packages. It that is true, imagine what love the size of a fire cracker may accomplish.

There is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, "Little children, love one another!” After awhile his disciples grew tired at always hearing the same words and ask, "Master, why do you always say this?" 

"It is the Lord's command," was his reply. "And if this alone be done, it is enough!"


Beloved, let us love one another! Amen.