Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

December 2, 2007 Year A

First Sunday of Advent

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-9

Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

Theme:  Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Today begins the Liturgical New Year for the Church. This season is called Advent.  Advent cultivates in us an attitude of expectation, if not urgency.  Just as we are heading into the shortest days of the year, the Church asks us to be alert, aware and expectant.  It is the hour to awake from sleep.  The scripture readings call our attention to our new life in Christ as putting on the armor of light.  Having cast off the "works of darkness" we now walk in the light of the Lord!  

Because we will always need to guard against the desires of the flesh, we enter into Advent with a call to penance.  It has been called and really is a Little Lent.  For the sake of our souls, we seek solace and consolation from the Lord.  Darkness seeks to encroach upon everything good and holy.  This New Year of the Church asks us to embrace the conduct that is proper to those who are of the Light.  WE are of the DAY.  Faithfulness, sobriety, brotherly love and respect are manifestations of life lived in the light of the Lord.  

So we literally begin this season with an eye toward spiritual renewal.  Just as we are in the midst of falling leaves, brown grass, shorter days and cooler weather, we are called to be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  The culture of our day marks these days before Christmas as festive.  Just as in those days before the flood, there is eating and drinking, going to parties and giving parties.  It is Advent that calls us to enter the Ark.  Noah's ark was the place of safety, refuge and a new time.  Our Ark is Jesus, it is in Him we live and move and have our being.  

Some popular preachers of our day describe those who are taken as better off than those who were left behind.  However, the truly blessed in Jesus' estimation are in the ark, the one left in the field, the one remaining at the mill.  Being Left Behind is to be among those who expectantly and watchfully prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord.  This is what Advent is; this is why a Star shines in the east to lead us to heaven's Daystar.

It is a time to prepare our hearts to make room for the Lord.  At the end of this season we will embrace again the first coming of the Lord, for whom there was no room in the Inn, while we rightly and expectantly look forward to His Second coming. So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

Our salvation is nearer than we first believed.  Soon and very soon we shall see the King. Let us walk in the Light of the Lord!

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, keep me free from the extravagance and excesses of the flesh.  Fill my being with your heavenly light so that righteousness will flourish in me.  Help me in the hour of temptation not to hide the light of your countenance nor be ashamed of the revelation of your divine life.  Amen.




Monday, November 19, 2007

The Blood of His Cross

November 25, 2007 Year C

The Solemnity of Christ the King

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-5

Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35:43

Theme:  The Blood of His Cross

Who am I that a King would bleed and die for?

Like King David before, King Jesus came to Jerusalem to make a covenant with us.  But unlike David, He would make His covenant with us through the blood of His Cross.  

Not all were aware of Jesus' mission.  Not all were convinced of His intentions.  Not all were able to grasp the depth of His love.

The rulers scoffed Him saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!"

The soldiers also mocked Him saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

And lastly one of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!"  

Today we hope to be like the other criminal who said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."

The hallmark of this Solemnity is marked by betrayal and death and what appears to be defeat.  Other Kings conquered and ruled over their newly acquired citizenry with royalty and majesty.  But this King, our King, rules not with a sword.  From His majestic position hanging between heaven and earth, his heart poured forth both blood and water.  He procured for us a place in his Kingdom by the blood of His Cross. 

It is the blood of His Cross that delivers us from the dominion of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of Jesus.  In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.  In the words of the Song written by Andrea Crouch, "The blood that Jesus shed will never lose its power!"  In the reception of the Eucharist we rejoice again that our King has kept back nothing of himself so that we may be the sons and daughters of God.  It is in the Sacrifice of the Mass we again taste and see the power of our salvation.  

Some reject the crucifix.  Such rejection is understandable.  It is not a pretty site.  The crucifixion was a bloody mess.  From the moment they laid stripes upon our Lord, he shed forth the blood of His cross.  But the crucifix is not a denial of the resurrection.  But like the resurrection, it is indispensable to our salvation.  You might say they each occupy both sides of one effort.  That effort being Christ's sacrificial offering to reconcile all things to himself. The same power by which He opened up a new and living way is the power that raised him from the dead.  But it all was made possible by the blood of His Cross.

Many in our world remain captives of the dominion of darkness.  Some call good, evil and evil, good.  Such defiance of truth is the controlling principle of the culture of death.  The only remedy for anyone held in sins dread sway is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  When Jesus' cousin preached those words, it was the end being seen from the beginning.  Only the blood of heaven's spotless Lamb can snatch us from the snare of the devil.

It is St. Peter who reminds us again, "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." (I Peter 1:19)  Into the vast and dark mystery of sin, came Jesus for us men and for our salvation, to ransom us by the sacrifice of His indestructible life.  

Who am I that a King would bleed and die for?

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, Again remind me that your kingdom is not of this world.  All authority is given to you, in heaven and in earth.  Where sin abounded, grace has abounded much more.  I ask that your love, sacrificially bestowed in behalf of the whole world, teach me the way of forgiving love.  Amen.   



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

For My Name's Sake

November 18, 2007 Year C

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time/25th Sunday after Pentecost

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Malachi 3:19-20; Psalm 98:5-9

2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

Theme:  For My Name's Sake

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.

What's in a name?  To be known as a follower of Christ, i.e. to be called by his name, can incite both praise and persecution.  The earliest affirmation of our faith declares allegiance to only one Lord and Master.  

In Acts chapter 4 the rulers of the synagogue interrogated Peter and John concerning the cripple healed by Jesus through their ministry to him.  "By what power or by what name did you do this?" they asked.  

Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit answered them.  Peter did not respond from prepared remarks.  He had heard Jesus say, "Settle it therefore in you minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict."  Such was the promise Jesus has made to all who would be quarantined or imprisoned for His name's sake.  

Peter declared that day that it was by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth the crippled man stood before them no longer crippled. "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," said Peter.

It is Jesus himself who has given us His name.  And all that we do and believe should give honor and glory to His Glorious Name.  On our road to perfection may we in our hearts reverence the precious name of Jesus.  He who came in His Father's name and hallowed it tells us that we in His name should receive children, that we gathered in His name will have his presence and that the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus' name who will bring the teachings of Jesus to our remembrance.

If in our hearts we hallow the name of Jesus we will ever be made in His image.  If in our hearts we cherish the name of Jesus we will know the fellowship of the Father and the Holy Spirit.  If in our hearts we embrace the name of Jesus we will ever rejoice over the fruit of Mary's womb, Jesus.

Whatever ridicule or persecution we incur for His name's sake is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is our destiny.  At the mention of His name we bow our hearts and our heads in reverence.  And at the last day, at the mention of his name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess He is the Lord.  All of this and more for His name's sake.  

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, in your name is my refuge.  And in your name I enter into that worship that is worthy of your name.  In this life may I learn to live in the power of your Holy Name and with it bless all whom I meet.  Amen