Saturday, October 28, 2006

Jesus Is Calling You

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 126:1-6
Hebrews 5:1-6
Mark 10:46-52

Jesus is Calling You

Throw aside every hindrance and come to Jesus!

So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He who is a priest forever responds to the cry for pity. Other voices sought to silence Bartimaeus; but this blind man could not be silenced. His was a cry for help; a cry for mercy. Not only would blind Bartimaeus not be silenced, he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” What a difference it makes to be in Jesus’ presence.

The promise announced in Jeremiah is fulfilled in today’s Gospel. The weeping prophet wipes his tears long enough to announce the inclusion of the blind, the lame, the mothers and those with child. And Jesus and his entourage stop long enough to include blind Bartimaeus in their fellowship. Those who have known trials, tears and tribulation shall return to the Lord with rejoicing!

Those who hear the voice of Jesus understand the necessity to lay aside every weight and every besetting sin. Nothing is important enough to keep us from the saving arms of Jesus. We should not forsake our gathering together unto him each Lord’s Day. When I was a child in the Pentecostal church we would sing, “Lord, you are, more precious than silver; Lord, you are, more costly than gold; Lord, you are, more special than diamonds; And nothing I desire, compares to you.” This is the way I feel when I pray before the Lord in the Adoration Chapel. Nothing I desire, or think I need, compares with my Lord.

Today is the day of Salvation. The author of our salvation is still calling us. In the early church, the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them…(Acts 4:32-34a) A similar spirit of generosity and abandonment is necessary today. Instead of possessing our stuff, our stuff dominates us. Take courage! Set aside the stuff, set aside the time, set aside the Lord’s day and come to the Table of Plenty.

Jesus asked blind Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” It is in sanctified time when intimacy with our Lord is possible. And in such times some of our questions get answers, some of our weariness encounters rest, and more of our inner being resembles the Garden of Eden. It is in the Garden where God communed with man as friend with friend. It is in the deep recesses of our heart we meet with God and find all we need. How much we need this divinization deep within us. How near we are to the peace that surpasses all understanding. And what peace we often forfeit because we do not sanctify time or ourselves. Whether you pray the Rosary, or the Jesus Prayer, or sit in silence before the Lord, all are ways to hear our Lord say, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. You are the Pearl of Great Price, the Treasure hid in a field. Grant me the courage to seek you above all things and honor you above all others. Amen.

Friday, October 20, 2006

If There Be Humility

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 22, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm 33:4-5; 18-22
Hebrews 4:14-16
Mark 10:35-45

If There Be Humility

To be in this world and yet not of it is Christ’s call to us.

We are to resist arrogance. Our witness to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ is to be accompanied with an attitude of servant hood. After all ‘knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.’ (I Cor 8:1) There will be little notice or care about our belief in ‘the holy catholic church’ if our commitment is marred with arrogant sinful pride. Jesus addresses this attitude with these words: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

In a world filled with Cathedrals and Temples, and big budget church productions that rival Hollywood, it is difficult to remember it all started ‘on a hill faraway’ where there ‘stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.’ Jesus promised James and John a place in His kingdom through what the early church fathers understood as the ‘cup of crucifixion and the baptism of death (or martyrdom).’ These sons of thunder believed they were up to it. Of course we have the understanding of hindsight. But we can be just as off key as James and John and feel ourselves very important and indispensable.

Jesus teaches us that his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is a civilization of life and love. We resemble that heavenly kingdom best when we seek to be the servant of all and the master of none. Is it any wonder that men like Peter and Paul, James and John who served their Lord and His church left such an impact? These men loved not their lives unto death. None of these leaders sought such an end. Nor should we. However, they took Christ’s yoke upon themselves and learned from him who is meek and lowly and whose burden is light. As far as I can tell, this still is the way the Holy Spirit leads us in our walk in the Lord.

Isaiah states the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity. Jesus, who was disfigured because of the violence done to him, nonetheless laid down his life as a ransom for many. He could have called ten thousand angels to save him from his appointed hour, but instead he humbled himself to accept the obscurity and death of the cross for us men and for our salvation. The call we see in Christ’s humiliation is a calling to be in solidarity with others. Parishes need look no further for a church growth strategy. Leaven’s work is imperceptible, but powerful and effective. Leaven gets hidden in the dough and is in solidarity with it. The church’s work in the world is as when a little leaven leavens the entire dough. Some may think this process too cumbersome and unrewarding. St. Chrysostom said, “God wants for nothing and has need of nothing. Yet, when he humbled himself, he produced such great good, increased his household, and extended his kingdom. Why, then, are you afraid that you will become less if you humble yourself?”

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests yet you had nowhere to lay your head. In your poverty you bathed mankind in your love; yet too often we are unwilling to entertain angels disguised as strangers. May we be content with what we have and seek to know you and make you known. Amen.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

That Which Endures

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 15, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30

Theme: That Which Endures

We are to have full affection for him who give us eternal life.

The rich young man addressed Jesus as a good teacher. Jesus responded as the incarnate Word of God. Jesus the Word read the thoughts and intentions of this young man’s heart. Indeed, no creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

Words of a church song say All to Jesus, I surrender; all to him I freely give. According to today’s Gospel, nothing given or given up is ever lost. However, we can be worse off than the poor when we allow our possessions to possess us. Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man highlights the difference between knowing what is right and doing what is right. An enlightened mind thinks more clearly with an enkindled heart. Everything will be clearer and dearer to us when we have full affection for him who gives us eternal life.

We will give an account for everything we have said and done. Better to start getting the account settled now by embracing the truth, defending the helpless, and befriending the poor. And don’t forget, the poor are not fully clothed or fully fed until you have prayed for their eternal well-being. Poverty of Christian witness is as inexcusable as neglecting the cry of the poor.

By all definitions, the rich young man had an impeccable and respectable life. From his youth up he had kept all of the commandments. No one would have thought that he lacked anything. Any of us in his shoes would not have ever dreamed that we needed any spiritual improvement. But he who loves us and therefore knows us calls us to have undivided affection for him in the face of the hungry, the thirsty, and the naked.

The rich young man’s countenance dropped at the words he heard from Jesus. He left the presence of Jesus very sad. How close he was to eternal life! Only one thing he lacked. Let us not fail to take St. Paul’s words to heart: Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified. (2Corinthians 3:5)

It should always be our prayer: “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” Even after many years of following the Lord, these words are a reminder to not take grace for granted and communion with the Holy Trinity as a given. This is not an invitation to fear. Rather we are called to honest reflection and prayerful determination to do whatever He tells us to do. The holy mother of God experienced those words before she spoke them.

As long as we remain enamored with the accumulation of riches the true riches of eternal life will remain outside of our possessions. If power, prestige and prominence hold our heart’s affection, it is little wonder how powerless we are before magistrates, princes and Cesaer St. Augustine said, “One who gives up both what one owns and what one desires to own, gives up the whole world.”

We are reminded that one cannot serve God and Mammon.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, only you have the words of eternal life. Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart. Our Lord, you were born in a borrowed stable, buried in a borrowed tomb. Help us to be satisfied with what we have and give what we can. May we love you without dissimulation. Amen

DISSIMULATION, n. [L., to make like; like.] The act of dissembling; a hiding under a false appearance; a feigning; false pretension; hypocrisy. Dissimulation may be simply concealment of the opinions, sentiments or purpose; but it includes also the assuming of a false or counterfeit appearance which conceals the real opinions or purpose. Dissimulation among statesmen is sometimes regarded as a necessary vice, or as no vice at all. Romans 12 Let love be without dissimulation. From the 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

It Was True Love From the Beginning

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 8, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128:1-6
Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-12

It Was True Love from the Beginning

t is only hardness of heart that keeps us from God’s love for us.

Love is not measured by acquisition. Adam’s exclamation of joy upon seeing Eve is born out of feeling complete and entire and now lacking nothing. This is a mystery and too many fail to plumb its depths.

Included in this wedding ‘made in a garden’ is the picture of the future of humanity. Just as from Adam’s side, created from his rib, came Eve, so from Christ’s side born of blood and water, came the Church. A sense of divine life and order is heard in these words of Adam, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Just as there is to be only one wife for Adam, so Christ shall have only one bride. It is the Church, which Jesus in his incarnation espoused to himself. And as Adam and Eve were not ashamed in each other’s presence, the second Adam is not ashamed to call us his people.

The hardness of heart, which produced the opportunity of divorce, is the same hardness of heart that has given us 40,000 denominations and counting. But from the beginning of creation it was not so. Our separation from one another is not good for us nor good for the life of the world. To allow ourselves to be content with things as they are is not good either. He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. And in His high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and His Father are one. What a glorious hope! What a glorious mystery! What blessed contemplation!

Marriage has taken a terrible beating. Wrecked homes and ruined lives strewn along the path of life suggest a wasteland of despair. Far from the environs of the Garden of God, humanity imagines new definitions of marriage. Where does divorce, abortion on demand, and gay marriage come from? Laws are created to accommodate the hardness of our hearts. But the wounded side of Adam of the Garden of God testifies against our multiple lovers. Deep in the hollow caverns of our heart there is a faint memory of a time when love was exciting, rewarding, and loyal.

A measure of forgiveness would go a long way to heal our wounded hearts. When a husband leaves his father and mother to cleave to his wife ‘they are no longer two, but one flesh.’ If this is what God has joined together, then let not anything nor anyone separate us from one another. Grow old together and forsake bitterness. Marriage of this sort is a mystery, but I speak of Christ and his Church. Christ is human and divine. In his humanity he received our sufferings and became one with us. All of humanity is touched by his all-embracing love. On the cross Christ defeated the shame of our alienation from God. Through baptism we partake of his divine nature and exchange a heart of stone for a heart of flesh. This is joy unspeakable and full of Glory.

Let us return to our first love and to the love that first loved us.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, you invite us to your banqueting table and your banner over us is love. May we grow in our love of you and live in love with one another. Amen.