Saturday, March 29, 2008

We Have Seen the Lord--March 30, 2008

March 30, 2008 Year A

Divine Mercy Sunday

Reflection on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  We Have Seen the Lord

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord."

We are not told why Thomas was missing from that first meeting with the Resurrected Lord.  But we do know that the disciples were huddled together behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Perhaps Thomas was scurrying about in the shadows buying some food for the haggard disciples.  

The last few days have been eventful in which the disciples have seen their Lord and Master arrested, put on trial and finally crucified.  And it is on this special evening of the first day of the week when Jesus shows himself to the ten disciples.  Judas is no more.  Thomas is out and about. And Jesus stands among them and says, "Peace be with you."  

In fact, twice on this fear filled evening and again eight days later Jesus says to his disciples, "Peace be with you."  

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  On this very first appearance our Lord shows them the glory of his suffering.  Even in his resurrected body his hands were nailed scarred and his side sword pierced.  Jesus desired the disciples to know him as the one wounded for their salvation, bruised for their iniquity.  

Why do we have a crucifix in our Church?  It certainly isn't because we believe the Lord still hangs from an old rugged cross!  Then why?  In the hymn O Sacred Head Now Wounded there is this verse:  

What language shall I borrow 

To thank thee, dearest friend, 

For this thy dying sorrow, 

Thy pity without end? 

         O make me thine forever; 

And should I fainting be, 

Lord, let me never, never 

Outlive my love for thee.

Our Lord made himself known by the wounds of his suffering.  And it is to his suffering side to which we are drawn; on his nailed scarred hands and feet let us ever gaze.  But instead of thorns that did pierce his brow now a royal diadem; in resurrection power does he now himself display the trophies of his suffering.  It is his cross that still reminds us of his mercy for the guilty and his love for the miserable. And in this first resurrection appearance to his disciples he showed them his hands and his side! What love! What redeeming love!  In the words of Fanny Crosby the Church sings:

Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,

      To the cross where Thou hast died.

      Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,

      To Thy precious, bleeding side. 

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,

And it told Thy love to me;

But I long to rise in the arms of faith

And be closer drawn to Thee.

That very evening our Lord says again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."  The words of absolution in the Rite of Reconciliation are: God the Father of mercies has reconciled the world to Himself through the death and resurrection of His Son, and has poured forth the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. May He grant you pardon and peace through the ministry of the Church. And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

In the Church we find grace that is greater than our sins.  As persona Christi the priest brings to the penitent the mercy of Jesus.  In the confessional we remember that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  And in the confessional we are reminded that the gift of God is eternal life. In Confession we hear our Lord Jesus through the priest say, "Peace be with you."

On the eighth day Thomas was present with the other disciples.  The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you."  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; and be not faithless but believing."  Thomas answered him, "My Lord and My God."  

All of these occurrences have been recorded that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in his name.  

We have a supernatural life because He has been given a name that is above every name.  There is no other name given among men by which we can be saved.  It is the precious name of Jesus that is the hope and joy of heaven and earth.

The peace we have in Jesus is because He is our Lord and our God.  Let us not be slow to love him and serve him in the poor we embrace, in the lonely we befriend, or in the hungry we feed.  It is in this mercy we share in Jesus' name through which we shall obtain Mercy.

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, in mercy you came and searched for me as a shepherd for his sheep.  When you found me I saw you, the Lord of Glory, as a Lamb who takes away my sin.  Great is your peace and mercy.  Amen. 

``O Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the the Name of Jesus...Renew Thy Wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost!!''  Pope John XXIII



Friday, March 21, 2008

The First Day of the Week--Easter Sunday

March 23, 2008 Year A

Easter Sunday

Reflection on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  The First Day of the Week

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

It was a busy morning preparing to attend to my duties as pastor of a United Methodist Church Circuit of three parishes.  I was not yet ready to go out the door and the parsonage phone rang.  It was Easter morning.  "He is RISEN!" as the voice of Naomi Phillips rang out with victory.  

Ever since that first Easter Sunday, the first day of the week has been known as the Lord's Day.  It is the day of the week that brings order and purpose to the rest of the week. We are to remember that every day is a day in which we honor our Lord.  But the first day of the week is the day, which commemorates the resurrection of the Lord.  He who reigns in heaven and in us does so from the power of an indestructible life1.  

And on Sunday is when from the altar before us is given to us that life and nourishment for our life in the Spirit.  No mere symbol will suffice.  The new creation, which we are in the Son of the Father's love, is a supernatural life.  Only the body and blood of Jesus will sustain and enlarge our life in the fellowship of the Most Holy Trinity.  So the victory of the crucifixion is inextricably related to the triumph of the resurrection and the Kingdom that is yet to come.  In the Sacrifice of the Mass do we give witness to Christ crucified, Christ raised, and Christ as coming again.

Ours is a life in the Spirit because it is the work of the Holy Spirit that inaugurates in us the life of Jesus.  Jesus' life in the flesh began in Mary by the Holy Spirit.  And if the Spirit, who initiated the incarnation, mediated the crucifixion and instigated the resurrection dwell in us, then is our life in Jesus in, by and through the same Spirit. 

And the first day of the week is the day in which the Spirit of truth renews in us the life of Jesus.  It is the Spirit who teaches us all things, that is, all things pertaining to our redemption.  It was Christ who on the cross, offered himself without blemish to God through the eternal Spirit2.  Through the same eternal Spirit do we offer our worship and submit our supplications in the only name by which we can be saved3. 

Ours is a spiritual worship because it is by the invocation of the Spirit upon the gifts we bring to the altar that return to us as food for the journey, the very body and blood of our crucified and risen Savior. In the Book of Revelation we read that the beloved disciple John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day4.  And in that revelatory Spirit did John see the power of worship in Spirit and in Truth.  It is the same worship we enter into when to the exhortation of 'Lift up your hearts to the Lord' we respond 'We lift them up to the Lord.'  And the first day of the week happens all over again!  

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is Risen Indeed!

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, may my constant affection be of your indestructible life.  In your life is fullness of joy; may I be a true and faithful witness of the same. And if my life is hidden in you, may it please my Lord some day to change my vile body into a glorious body like unto your own glorious body.  Amen

``O Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the the Name of Jesus...Renew Thy Wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost!!''  Pope John XXIII



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It is Finished--A Good Friday Reflection

March 21, 2008 Year A

Good Friday

A Good Friday Reflection

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  It is Finished

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

The church of my youth was Pentecostal.  But Southern Indiana, where I am from, is predominately Catholic.  I have vivid childhood memories of Good Friday.  All of the stores in our small downtown would close at noon on Good Friday and reopen at 3 p.m.  Even though I was not Catholic and did not fully understand this ritual of closing for business for 3 hours, I was deeply touched by the environment in which I grew up.  I knew there was something really significant about this day called Good Friday and these 3 hours specifically.  

Of course in time I came to know the why behind all of this.  And the years have brought me closer to that fuller understanding of this extraordinary day called Good Friday.  But I am still moved by this day with a sense of awe mingled with bewilderment such as filled my youthful imagination those many years ago.  I often wonder out loud about how the stores in my town closed for 3 hours on this day.  Then I imagine what it would be like if businesses and banks would do this today.  Of course this is not likely to happen in our day.  Everything now stays open, and if not 24/7, then at least every day no matter what day it is.  In fact folks complain if Mass breaches the unwritten 60 minute rule.  This is because Sunday has been scheduled to accommodate soccer games, baseball games, basketball games, and this bazaar and that flea market.  

More than ever we need to visit the day of our Salvation.  There, do you dare look?  Please, just one glimpse of unconditional love suspended on that cross on the brow of that hill, which is called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.  

Dear friends, it is Jesus the Lord on that very cruel and crude cross.  For our sake and for Barabbas' sake and for the sake of the two thieves on either side of him, for every sinner, Christ is crucified.  Then the centurion pierced his side, and culminating this Holy day is the flow of water and blood from his riven side.  And with the first splatters on the ground of this life giving flow the earth quakes and the veil in the temple is torn from top to bottom; the graves of the saints were open.  

The scope and reach of redemption is complete, entire and lacks nothing.  All that is necessary to be reconciled to God and to one another is finished.  He who came not into the world to condemn the world lays down his life for the life of the world.  It is the story of unmatched love; a love that is the very essence of who Jesus is.  

To enter more fully into our inheritance is the call of this Good Friday.  If we draw near to him he will draw near to us.  And in the humility of our desire to be like him, we have confidence in our Lord's words from the cross, "It is finished."  In our participation in the mystery of life in the Holy Trinity we have faith in our Lord's words from the cross, "It is finished."  As we seek the ministry of reconciliation in the confessional we have hope in the words of Jesus from the cross, "It is finished."  

This is Good Friday.  

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, you endured the cross for me. Amen.   

``O Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the the Name of Jesus...Renew Thy Wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost!!''  Pope John XXIII