Saturday, June 30, 2007

Responding to the Call

July 1, 2007 Year C
13th Sunday In Ordinary Time/5th Sunday After Pentecost
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins

I Kings 19:16b, 19-21
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62

Theme: Responding to the Call

To follow Jesus is to become a new creation.

Elisha’s response to his master’s call included burning the tools of his trade. Burning his oxen and feeding his people marked the beginning of a new time in Elisha’s life. Indeed, Elisha became a new man when Elijah put his cloak upon him.

Each of us, baptized into Christ, has put on Christ. Christ has cloaked us for himself. His life has made us a new man, a new creation. To wait until it is convenient to follow Jesus is to become unfit for the Kingdom of God.

Jesus calls us from the dead as it was, to proclaim the Kingdom of God. So there is no misunderstanding, this world is not our kingdom. Jesus says, the birds of the air have nests, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Jesus is not saying he is homeless, but rather, this world is not his homestead.

There is another kingdom where love is the rule of law. This is a new life where new people in Christ love their neighbor as themselves. Our relationship to one another in the Church is to build up one another. The devouring of one another, our brothers and sisters in Christ, is a worldly practice unworthy of the servants of Jesus. The parish is a community of life and love. We cannot fully commune with Jesus at his table when we barely know or care about one another. Our hearts touched and changed by the same Master makes us neighbors of one another. Such is the meaning of, and they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Perhaps there are three things to glean from today’s readings to help us to more fully respond to the call of Jesus to follow him.

First, the Lord is our inheritance. So complete is our life in him that only in him do we know the path to life. Outside of Christ, imperfect and defective, we become vulnerable to the wisdom of this age. But in Christ, the old is passed away, behold the new has come. It is in the Church, in which we grow in our understanding of this sacred truth. We are not settlers; we are not looking for a continuing city in this world. But we look for and give witness to new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness dwells. Let us therefore love one another for the life of the world.

Second, it is in this temporal world in which we proclaim the Kingdom of God. Our witness is not a neo-political order. The power of Christ’s Kingdom is such that He is not willing that any should perish. In the order of things outside of Christ nothing is permanent; no one is completely loved. But in the Church, we are no longer strangers and aliens to the mercy of Christ. The community of the local parish is a house of refuge; let us receive one another as Jesus himself.

Third, we are to be guided by the Spirit. The law of the flesh is impotent before the law of the Spirit and life of Christ Jesus. Guided by the Spirit is to live no longer for our selves. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit we grow in grace, in love, and faith. Let us say yes to be a people of Pentecost; to be a people guided by the Spirit of Jesus.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus I need thee every hour; every hour I need thee. I am so unlike thee; but in baptism I see who I am, I see who you are; I live because of thee. You have called me to follow you; when I take my eyes off you, blessed Jesus, hold my hand. I hear you calling me to follow you; in following you is fullness of joy for evermore. Amen.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins

Solemnity of The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

June 24, 2007 Year C

(12th Sunday In Ordinary Time/4th Sunday After Pentecost)

Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins

Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80

Theme: Embracing Your Destiny

Because of our baptism, we are called to embrace our faith in Jesus Christ.

Elizabeth had been barren all of her married life. It is little wonder then everyone expected her newly born son to be named after his father. In human history it is anticipated that the first-born son will extend the name, the beliefs and the destiny of the family. No one would have given a second thought to Zechariah's first-born son carrying forward both his father's name and his father's heart. Such is the legacy and destiny the friends and families of Zechariah and Elizabeth anticipated in the hill country of Judea.

Both mother and father of John knew their son was to embrace a greater destiny. Elizabeth, who was called barren, new in her heart the reason her son leaped in her womb in the presence of the Mother of her Lord. John's destiny was linked to the destiny of that one nestled just under Mary's heart. Elizabeth's son would declare, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Mary's son would be 'led away as a sheep to the slaughter.' Destiny. Each son embraced the calling they had from their mother's womb. John prepared the way of salvation; Jesus is the way of salvation.

In circumcision, John's future life and work were brought into focus. It was a destiny he learned to embrace growing up in the love and the tradition of the faith of his father's house.

Because of our baptism we are called to embrace our faith in Jesus Christ. Our baptism occurs usually within a few days to a few weeks after birth. So after our first birth we participate in a second birth. From the womb of the Church, through baptism, we enter into another kingdom that is not of this world. And because of the faith of mom and dad, we learn to embrace our calling as children of God growing up in the love and the tradition of our Father's house.

This makes our walk with the Lord very personal. No one can be a disciple of Jesus for us by way of substitution. No one can obey the Lord's calling on us for us. But personal discipleship can never mean private discipleship. Embracing the understanding of what it means to be in Christ because of baptism causes us to reflect on how we will in the world honor Christ in us. Such is the understanding found in Christ's own words, "He who denies me before men, him will I deny before my Father in heaven."

St. John the Baptist lived every moment aware that he had been called from birth. Every ounce of our being should shine with the love we received at Baptism. Our baptism was not about Mom or Dad, Grandmothers or Grandfathers or the dinner that followed or the party that was given. All of this is wonderful and such an event warrants great celebration. But first and always, our baptism witnessed our being brought out of Darkness and into marvelous Light. And the rest of our days should be spent in growing in the grace we have received and the knowledge we must have concerning Jesus the Christ.

As the result of Baptism, we must not allow ourselves to ever be content. Christian life and witness must flow out of our union with Christ. If we do not find ourselves freely giving what we have freely received, we are living below the meaning of Baptism. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven."

The meaning of the Church is defined by how each one us let's our light shine. There certainly wasn't any doubt about what St. John the Baptist thought about Jesus the Christ. May no one have cause to doubt who Jesus Christ is because we kept our faith in Jesus Christ to ourselves. Like St. John the Baptist, let us testify, 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.'

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, may I never be ashamed of you before those for whom you died. Enlarge my understanding that I may I embrace the wonder of your love given me in Baptism. Help me to complete with joy my calling and ministry by following you wherever you lead me. Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Reflections on the Readings for Sunday, June 17, 2007

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

3rd Sunday After Pentecost

Year C June 17, 2007 Father's Day

Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins

II Samuel 12:7-10, 13

Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11

Galatians 2:16, 19-21

Luke 7:36—8:3

Theme: Your Sins Are Forgiven

Who is this who even forgives sins?

The most amazing responses to Jesus' love are those which state complete disbelief that Jesus forgives sins. Of course the nature of His action in this regard highlights the fact that He is God. Since only God can forgive sins, and just ask King David, then this man must be God in the flesh. But if he is God incarnate, Simon's hospitality should have at least included water for the washing of Jesus' feet. Instead his feet were bathed in the hopeful tears of a woman seeking a new life through the forgiveness of her sins.

It is readings like today's that remind us that He who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (II Corinthians 5:21) In fact Jesus rubbed up against sin in all it's ugliness and never became tainted by it. Indeed, He was in contact with sinners to the extent He was accused of being one himself. The self-righteous Pharisees did not permit eating with sinners. But Jesus dined with them often, demonstrating that God is merciful and not willing that any should perish.

St. Paul's words to the Galatians emphasize that righteousness is based on a relationship with Jesus. The Law is good and helps us understand our helplessness under the law of sin and death. In fact, the law teaches us that no one is righteous, no not one.

The exception, of course is Jesus. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.(Galatians 4:4)

Circumcision only showed one's willingness to associate with God and follow His rules. But for the failures of living up to God's standard, there was no end to sacrificial offerings. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the sprinkling of heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14)

By faith in the eternal Lamb of God do we find righteousness. This relationship, though personal is not private. The Church, which is His Body, is the sanctuary of sinners saved by grace. It is in the Church, at each celebration of the Eucharist, where we sup with him who endured death for our salvation. It is in the Church where we learn that with each other we stand on level ground at the foot of the Cross and gaze upon him with thankful hearts.

Let us pray: Lamb of God, you have taken away my sin. At the foot of your cross, in love's shadow, help me to grow in love of you. Only you can heal the wounded heart. Only you can make the captive free. Only you can forgive sins. Only you can know why we must kiss not only your feet, but also your spear rent side, your nailed scarred hands, and your bleeding brow. Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

2nd Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins

Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:1-4

I Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 11:9-17

Theme: Jesus is the Bread of Life

Do this in remembrance of me.

There is an intimacy conveyed in St. Paul's teaching on the Body and Blood of Jesus. Note again the words 'I received from the Lord what I also handed over to you.' Is there any other religious leader who has left more of himself for the edification and strengthening of his followers than Jesus the Christ? Many of the founders of other religions have said and done great things. But in the institution of the Holy Eucharist we commune with our Founder and Lord as friends. And in so doing it is a remembrance not of one who used to be but of Him who will never leave us nor forsake us.

The receiving of His Body and Blood brings into our mortal bodies the power of an endless life. As often as we do this we embrace for our salvation and for the life of the world the Lords' death. How often and for how long should we receive this Holy Supper? Every Lord's day and daily if possible until He comes again! The message that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilot will never lose its power. What we do in the remembrance of that event makes that event present with all its power and salvation as though it were happening right now. Not that we crucify the Son of God anew. But renewed again are we in Him who is an ever present help. Our remembrance and proclamation is Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will come again!

I remember many years ago when the truth of eating our Lord's flesh and drinking His blood was revealed to my wife and me. (John 6:36-58) This was long before I became a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church and our reception into the Catholic Church. We had adapted a liturgical order of service in our little church where I was pastor. During one Sunday evening of praise and worship the song of the Lord rose up in us as we began to sing:

Eat My Flesh He Said.

Drink My Blood.

That there might be life in you;

My life I give to you.

Over and over we sang this then and afterwards as a profound change in my understanding of Holy Communion began to take place. We were receiving from the Lord what Peter and Paul and all of the Apostles and the early church had received and celebrated. A new closeness to our Lord was happening.

The readings today invite us to a new awareness and closeness of our Lord's presence in his Body and Blood. Our Lord comes to us under the appearance of Bread and Wine. In these consecrated gifts we receive the life and love of our Lord. By these the Holy Spirit reminds the world and us that Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Prayer: Precious Jesus, may I ever commune with you as friend with friend. Ever be my first love, my first thought. In what becomes your body and blood, may my reception of the same make me more like you in my relationship with my wife, my children, my church, my friends, my neighbor and the stranger. Amen.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Amazing Grace of God

1st Sunday After Pentecost

Year C

Most Holy Trinity

June 3, 2007

Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins

Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8:4-9

Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Theme: The Amazing Grace of God

This Grace in which we stand!

Before the earth, when there were no depths, no mountains in place, no springs of water, or before there was a clump of dirt, Grace was poured forth. This is confirmed for us in the Book of Revelation where we see a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. This Grace, in which we stand, is through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit and unto the Father almighty may there be glory and honor, forever and ever. Amen.

To say we are in Christ, is to say we are in Grace. May we never cease growing in Grace and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. St. Peter actually describes our reception of grace as a partaking of the divine nature.

In Baptism, we 'put on Christ.' Here the old passes away and a new man is created in Christ Jesus. It is here we enter into a new family. By virtue of Baptism, we have fellowship in the Most Holy Trinity for we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. As a result of Baptism we are made members of His Body, the Church. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand,

A daily way in which we may share in the divine nature is through the receiving of the body and blood of our Lord. Let us remember it is the Spirit that comes upon the gifts of wine and bread to make them holy. This is so they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Is this not Grace that is greater than our sins? Indeed, for this is Jesus who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven through the virginal womb of Mary.

Jesus reminds us that the Spirit of Truth will guide us to all truth. Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life. Therefore, the Holy Spirit will teach us the width and breadth and length of the love of God incarnated in Jesus Christ. It is the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God-- not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

O the magnitude and majesty of the Grace in which we stand! We, who had no standing before God are now clothed in the righteousness of Him who is the Father's eternal delight and the Holy Spirit's constant affection. Like Mary, we proclaim, my soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. He who is might has done for great things and holy is his name.

Come, Holy Spirit and enkindle in us the fire of your love!

Prayer: Dear Jesus, May I ever grow in who you are; in the amazing Grace you became for me. Keep far from me coldness of heart. Help me to not be afraid but ever grow more affectionate of your friendship and majesty. Allow me to ponder in my heart as Mary did in hers, the mystery of the three in One and the One in three and the One in the middle who died for me. Amen.