Friday, February 13, 2015

At the Feet of Jesus - Sunday, February 15, 2015

Reflections on the Readings

February 15, 2015 - Year B
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 



At the Feet of Jesus

And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

He was an outcast everywhere except at the feet of Jesus. His skin disease, possibly Hansen's Disease, required him to be separated from the community. Dwelling outside of the comfort of his family and friends, this leper warned others of his presence by crying out, "Unclean! Unclean!" All of this while wearing torn clothes and walking about with a shaved head. All of this mattered except at the feet of Jesus. At the feet of Jesus he mattered.

Everyone matters who kneel at the feet of Jesus. I remember kneeling at an old fashion Pentecostal altar when I was nine years old. That was fifty years ago. Kneeling there it seemed as if Jesus was right there. It seemed that Jesus was right there, receiving me at his feet, bathing me in his mercy. Such times grow richer in my memory as the years go by. But anyone who has ever knelt before the Lord can say the same thing.

Meditating before the crucifix is another way I have found myself in his presence. Looking up at that image of Christ, it's Jesus and me all over again, and me struggling to understand such love. Like the soldier who pierced his side, I place myself in his presence at his feet and bathe again in the water and the blood from his Sacred Heart. 

Prayer before the Tabernacle is also a place where kneeling before the Lord brings me to the same Jesus from whom the leper received pity. Here I bring the wounds of life, my burdens, my family, my friends, the prayer requests others have asked of me. And all of it matters to him, for we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. 

Do you know that in the Gospels we find people just like us coming to Christ? They came to find help and healing for body and soul. We are no different than the folks in the time when Jesus walked in Galilee. And Jesus certainly hasn't changed. For scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) So there's no reason whatsoever to imagine that we cannot find at the feet of Jesus the bodily and spiritual graces we seek. Jesus certainly does not have less compassion after all of these centuries since he ascended into heaven. In fact it could be that since his ascension into heaven and with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there is more, more, more! More than we could ever imagine. 

I don't know of a better way to enter into the mystery of our redemption than beginning Lent with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Lent is a time for some real important and necessary spiritual spring cleaning. Past experience reminds us that confession is good for the soul. It brings us into a deeper relationship with Christ and restores our relationship with others. There is always room to love God more, and to love one another better. 

So as we anticipate Lent let's begin it by placing ourselves at the feet of Jesus. And do not forget that he is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or think for mercy is without measure at the feet of our Lord. In his presence there is help for every need we bring. My dear friend, Jesus promised that he who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and he who knocks, to him the door is open. Just ask the leper Jesus healed in today's Gospel. And just like the leper, may I suggest that we boldly throw ourselves at his feet and ask for the bathing of mercy and forgiveness we need. I promise you that he is not willing that any should perish and that he will answer you with the touch of his hand, "I will; be clean!" Amen.

Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, 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, January 31, 2015

Deliver Us From Evil - Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reflections on the Readings

February 1, 2015 - Year B
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 



Deliver Us From Evil

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."

Have you ever taken time to meditate on this line in the 'Our Father,' "…but deliver us from evil?" I've used that line in my prayers linking it to other scriptures like, "and take not your holy spirit from me; create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." 

Especially reflecting in prayer to be delivered from evil I include, "and every evil thought, every evil desire, and every evil word." Here it's good to take some time and get it all out; whatever evil is lurking at the door of my heart. Then, falling on the heels of that heart searching and praying I like praying, "O, my Jesus, forgive me my sins. Save me from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy. And then I like finishing that off praying three times, "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner, Amen." 

Prayerfully listen to today's gospel. Jesus acts with strength — with authority never before seen — remaining unmoved by the presence of the evil one. Important to us is to note that the unclean spirit had no doubt who Jesus was and said so — "I know who you are, the Holy One of God." And we should not doubt who he is either. For the very mention of his name makes demons shudder and believe that he is the Son of God. As we reflect on Jesus helping this poor soul in whom resided an unclean spirit, does it not cause us to remember that it is Jesus who came to destroy the work of the devil; how that he was anointed by the Holy Spirit and went everywhere doing good and healing all who were held somehow by the power of evil? (1 John 3:8; Acts 10:38)

What a mighty Savior Jesus is! It is Jesus Moses speaks of in the first reading stating that He will speak with authority. From his mouth will come the word of the Lord and those who do not listen to him will answer for it. Like those who hear his words but do not embrace his teaching. They are like the person who built his house on sand and the winds and the rain beat against his new house. And it fell, because it was built on sand. Such are those who prefer the words of soothsayers and evil oracles including Tarot Cards, Ouija board, and Palm Reading. Satan is deceptive, attempting to appear as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Many are they who testify how the mighty power and authority of Jesus set them free from the snare of the devil. There's you and me for sure. And let us not forget the folks at the synagogue who were among the first who understood and exclaimed, "With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." 

For whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Amen.





Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Gospel of God - Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reflections on the Readings

January 25, 2015 - Year B
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 



The Gospel of God

 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."

In John's baptism was the promise that the best was yet to come. And it was that promise that John pointed to when he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." How did John know that Jesus was the one who would bring his ministry to its completion? He saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and by that sign knew Jesus to be the Savior of the world. 

In captivity John spent his days and nights alone. No longer in his comfortable wilderness surroundings with the heavens as his cathedral ceiling, John, in solitary confinement, had only his memories of his last baptism to sustain him. And so he sent a message to Jesus by way of his disciples asking, "Are you the One we are looking for, or do we look for another?" Maybe it was a low moment. Or perhaps he just wanted to be sure that he was about to lose his head for the right reason. Even John's community of followers may have pressed him for more insight about Jesus. But no worries. The answer came back loud and clear: The lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, and to the poor the gospel is preached.

The Jordan River is filled with more than water. Within its ebb and flow resides the memories of great things. For example, a few centuries before John the Baptist, a new generation of Jacob's children, entering a new land, to be a new nation began at the Jordan River. The priests bearing the ark of the covenant led the way as the waters of the Jordan rolled back on either side and the people walked through the Jordan on dry ground. On its banks, John the Baptizer, preached that One greater than himself was soon to come. And when Jesus left the waters of the Jordan He announced that the fulness of time had come; that everyone was invited into this new era called the kingdom of God.

With news that everyone is welcome to come and begin a new life if only they repent and believe in the gospel, Jesus, anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. (Acts 10:38) Turn around and come back to your Father was the message of Jesus. 

Today that message is still the same. It's an important and urgent message as we hear St. Paul say today for the world in its present form is passing away and the time is running out. For the life of the world we are called to be focused on what is above. And we have the best calling in all the world. Pointing to Jesus like John did and telling everyone the good news, that Jesus can take away your sin and give you a new life and a new community called the kingdom of heaven. He's got outlets all over the world where the gospel of God is still the message of hope and promise and of a new day that is soon to come.

The message never changes, because Jesus never changes. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. So let's keep the doors open. Go out into the neighborhood and into the hood, and invite all you meet to come back home to God. For long before Tom Bodett promised to leave the light on at his Motel 6 chain, the Church has kept the light of Christ shining in the darkness so that all may find their way back into the embrace of a loving God and hear his gospel of mercy and love and the promise of rest for their soul - your soul. Amen.

  

Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, 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, January 17, 2015

How Will We Respond?

Reflections on the Readings

January 18, 2015 - Year B
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time 



How Will We Respond?

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

Does the Lord speak to us sophisticated 21st century folks? I think he does. Why? Because he really does want us to 'hear' his voice. I've heard it. Please don't think me weird or arrogant. It's humbling, if not frightening, but always liberating. Sometimes he speaks in that 'still small voice' in the depth of our soul and we know, that we know, that we know, that we've heard something we needed to hear.

There are many ways in which we may hear the Lord speak to us. For example, we can hear the voice of Jesus when we read the Scriptures. We can stand beside Mary and Martha and listen to Jesus say to us as he said to them, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he is dead, yet shall he live." We can take our place among the multitude and listen to Jesus say to us, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And as we stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross, we can hear for ourselves the holy and sacred words of Jesus, "Father, forgive them." And he does. 

Sometimes God speaks to us in the simplicity and faith of a little child. For those who insist that children should be seen and not heard, please read this: 

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant; and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise'? (Matthew 21:14-16)

Sometimes the children get it even when we don't. 

John the Baptist announced Jesus as the Lamb of God two days in a row. On the second day two of his disciples finally 'hear' it. Andrew and John, the Beloved, then seek to live for and with Jesus. And in the process, Andrew finds his brother, Simon Peter, and enthusiastically explains, "We have found the Messiah!" 

So, how will we respond to the voice of Christ calling us to himself and his Church? Do we recognize the voice of Christ? We can, you know! We hear his voice in the teachings of the Church, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in the Scriptures, particularly in the four Gospels. Therefore let us pray that we will have the grace to respond like young Samuel. Let us hear him who calls us by name and be courageous and quick to say, "Here I am. Speak, for your servant is listening." 

Amen. 

Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, 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, January 11, 2015

The Sign of Faith - Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reflections on the Readings

The Baptism of the Lord - January 11, 2015 - Year B



The Sign of Faith

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." (Mark 1: 9-11)


Jesus is baptized in order to say that he is one with us and invites us to be one with him in baptism. In doing so, Jesus shows the truth of John's words, "One mightier than I is coming!" John preached the greatness of Christ and invited all to prepare for his coming by repenting and receiving his baptism. As Jesus walks into the waters to John the fulness of communion with God is revealed as Jesus embraces the baptismal waters and sanctifies them as the new and living way to know the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Christian baptism is that sign of faith that marks us as a son and daughter of God. Its a date to remember and to celebrate every year and to think about what Christian baptism speaks of and ask ourselves if we are living up to our baptism. Allow me to ask you a question. Does the glory of Christ's life that this sacrament of faith gives us capture your imagination? Think about it. Through this divine initiative, this sacrament bring us into a living relationship with God. We encounter the living God, Father, Son, and Spirit! We are a new creation! A once barren sinner now drenched with the life giving waters of Christ and his Spirit. 

After the good Deacon Philip explained the meaning of the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading the prince of Ethiopia asked, "Here's some water. Why can't I be baptized right now?" And he was and he went home a brand new Christian. The old was gone and the new and living Way, even Christ, now possessed his heart. In this conversion we see three things happening. The eunuch who is searching for Christ. A Deacon who brings understanding about Christ and his love. Then the desire to be baptized is expressed. Forever marked as one with Christ, the Ethiopian eunuch brought home more than he left with.

For those who were baptized when a baby let me say something to you. First, thank God for those who brought you into the womb of the Church and gave you the greatest gift anyone can give another person. Nothing short of something miraculous happened on that day. Prayers for you and your future in Christ were prayed and vows were made by parents and god-parents to accept their responsibility to teach you about Christ and his Church. In fact the whole community promised to be an example of what it means to be a Christian. So from day one you have had family and friends and people you may never meet this side of heaven praying for you and trying their best not to be an obstacle to your life in Jesus. Second, if you don't know the exact date of your baptism then celebrate it the whole month in which it took place. Third, cultivate the relationship that is yours through the sign of faith we call Christian baptism. Come to Christ again and thank him for the gift of new life in the Spirit. Give praise to the Father for the love with which he loved the world in giving us his Son, his only Son! Ask for more of this life in Christ. Invite the Holy Spirit to take you further and deeper into the faith. Stay open and docile. Let the Lord lead you and help you to be his hands and his feet and his voice. For this sign of faith that marks you brings to you an energy able to make you courageous and valiant for Christ who embraced you when you were baptized.

Now love him back!

Amen.

Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, 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, January 3, 2015

Thy Perfect Light

Reflections on the Readings

The Epiphany of the Lord - January 4 - Year B



Thy Perfect Light

When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

King Herod was not as thrilled about the Star of Wonder as the Magi. For the Magi, the Star in the heavens was a guiding light. To Herod it was frightful news and prompted him to ask the religious authorities where the Christ was to be born. Herod was a ruthless leader and power hungry enough to kill members of his own family including his wife whom he suspected were undermining his throne. So he was not happy about the Star in the heavens nor the Morning Star born in a manger in Bethlehem.

Light is important. Any room or space is improved when adequate lighting is installed. I remember my daddy saying that when I was trying to update some lighting in a little Assemblies of God church I pastored many years ago in Greensburg, Indiana. Outdated lighting in the classrooms, fellowship, and worship areas made those spaces feel gloomy and uninviting. What a difference the new and improved lighting made. When people are coming in from a world of temptation and trial, the last thing they need is the inside of the house of worship dull and drab.

In our modern way of living, we mostly take light for granted. Flip a switch here or point a remote there, and Voila! Headlights, automatic lights, motion lights, lights on timers, everywhere we go we have the light we need to function wherever we need it. 
Even the light named the "greater light" to rule the day, comes up and on every morning. We give little thought to it, if any, and never have to ask or wonder if it is not going to work tomorrow when we go to bed at night. But did you know that it takes about 8 minutes and 20 seconds for the light of the sun to reach us? That means that if the sun were to turn off as it were, it would be about 500 seconds later before we would grab a sweater and a flashlight. The Light of Christ, that Perfect Light, has been shining in our world now some 2,000 years, and many do not yet know that it's not dark anymore!

Gifts of love have been given and received this Christmas season. Today we celebrate the greatness of that Perfect Light that drew the Magi to himself - for in Him is life, and his life is the light of all mankind - the greatest gift of all. (John 1:4) The mystery of that Perfect Light is that it is the gift with a name tag on which we may find the name of every person, regardless of race, age, creed, color, sexual orientation, or gender - for we all have sinned and need a Savior. St. Paul speaks of the mystery and stewardship of grace entrusted to the holy apostles and prophets. He explains the mystery to mean that all may partake of the promise of Christ, and all are welcome in the same body of Christ.

With devotion like that of the Magi, may we also come to that Perfect Light, and worship Jesus with gifts of ardent love and faith, and the sweet aroma of the sacrifice of praise. Amen.  

Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, 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