Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Deep In Our Heart

April 27, 2008 Year A

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  Deep In Our Heart 

Jesus said,  "On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." (John 14:20)

The Holy Spirit makes Jesus present in our heart.

As we reflect on the Gospel in the light of Holy Easter, we continue to be drawn into closeness with Jesus.  Soon, he tells his disciples, that the world will see him no more but you will.  Jesus says the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  And then he adds, "You know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you."  

The same Spirit that overshadowed Mary and caused her to conceive Jesus in her womb makes Jesus present in our heart.  Mary kept the commandments because she loved the Lord from her heart.  Her fiat was possible because of the gift of grace that had always been alive in her.  If we believe that Mary is the first temple of the Holy Spirit, we can contemplate how we also can know the presence of the Lord deeply in our heart.  

If we love him it is only because he first loved us.  Humility requires us to understand that we did not choose him, but rather he chose us.  What manner of love is this that we should be called his sons and daughters?  

In his extraordinary promise of another Advocate, Jesus is emphasizing his abiding presence in the Church and in us through a reunited relationship with him and His Father by the Spirit of truth.  It is Jesus' desire that we be one in him even as He and the Father are one.  Jesus spoke often and deeply of his unity with the Father. And it is this depth of divine love Jesus bequeaths to us.  It is his to give because it is his prayer to the Father for us.  Jesus comes to us through the divine Spirit because He ever lives.  And we express our love for and to the Lord by reverencing him in our hearts by the keeping of his commandments.  

There is in our Lord's words today a revelation of what it means to be holy.  Holiness is not a passive thing.  We become holy as we reverence Jesus as Lord in our heart.  And speaking for myself, it is unholy attitudes, words and actions that come out of me when I stray in my heart from Him who is always faithful.  It is never Jesus who grows cold in his affection for me.  Always it is me who abandons the love I had at first.  Then I remember like a man awaken out of a deep slumber, Jesus has never left me nor forsaken me.  And then I long again for the familiar embrace.  The road back lies deep in my heart where the light of his love shines and by that light I find my way back to my Father's house.  Here is where the holy reunion takes place and where the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit greet me, while angels look on and rejoice.  Hallelujah!

By means of the Holy Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist we can keep our affections in check.  Through these we can truly grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  These Sacraments assist in the conversion of our heart, underscoring the truth that deep and lasting conversion is more like a journey than a moment in time.  Daily renewal of our heart and mind is possible as we remember that we are not our own, that we were bought with a price.  It is deep within our heart we must embrace our true vocation as children of God, which is Christ in us the hope of glory. 

Dear friends, it is for the sake of our salvation and of the world why we contemplate deeply on truly loving Him and abiding in His love.  Remembering the unity that was severed in the Garden, it is with unspeakable joy we find ourselves reunited to the Father in the Son of His love through the Holy Spirit.  This only possible by the fruit of another tree, where suspended between heaven and earth, the sacred heart of Jesus poured forth water and blood that broke the power of sin deep in our heart.

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, may it be that at last I will love you with my whole heart.  At the beginning Satan deceived Eve by his cunning.  I pray that in my thoughts I will not be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to you.  Take not your Spirit from me.  Create in me a clean heart.  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



Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Place Called Home

April 20, 2008 Year A

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  A Place Called Home

Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"

Within the house of the Father's heart, Jesus has prepared a place for you; so that where he is you may be also.

Today's Gospel is a discourse within the context of the Last Supper beginning with John 13:31 and ending at John 16:33. Although it is Jesus' farewell conversation about his impeding sacrificial death on the cross, we read the Gospel today with the illumination of the light of Easter.  

Jesus is speaking with the joy of a bridegroom contemplating the time of permanent union with his bride, the Church.  Like a bridegroom preparing a place for himself and his bride, Jesus by his death, burial and resurrection has prepared for us a place in the house of His Father's love; a place to call home.  

It is this place of permanent fellowship within the Father's love Jesus intends to prepare through the sacrifice of himself.  Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his beloved friends.  Jesus addresses the anxiety of both Thomas and Philip, emphasizing they already know the way.  Jesus then plainly says, " I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me."  Jesus then speaks of the love that is the unity of the Father and the Son.  Jesus says, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" No one had ever spoken of such closeness and intimacy with God.  Jesus is speaking of a new meaning of knowing God, a meaning that was not possible until the incarnation.  It was Mary who first experienced by the Grace of the Holy Spirit what Jesus intends for all who will say yes to his divine proposal.  

Today as we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, we become one with Him.  Far from being a ritual we observe, it is a communion of the very life of Jesus.  Within ourselves, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus will touch our blood and flesh.  In the Father's house, at the Table of the Lord, Jesus has prepared for us a place where we can know the embrace of the Father's love.  Through Jesus we receive a welcome in the Father's house.  It is a place called home for all who are weary and heavy laden.  Safe within the embrace of the bridegroom of our souls we find a haven of rest.  Within the hallowed place of our redemption, the story of love is recounted again and again, and our heart yields without reservation to the intentions of his love.  No harm befalls the heart that trusts in the safety of this place, a place called home.  

We can trust the lover of our souls.  It is with the conviction of a true bridegroom that Jesus says, "If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"  Our hearts need not be troubled.  It is Jesus the Christ who has shown us the love of the Father's heart.  And in that divine place, the house of the Father's heart, Jesus has prepared for you and for me a place we can call home.

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, sometimes I wander from the care and attention of your love.  Forgive me when my heart grows cold and I leave the house of your love.  Draw me back to the place where I belong, and show me again the embrace of your gentleness.  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



Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Shepherd and Guardian of our Soul--Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 13, 2008 Year A

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Reflection on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  The Shepherd and Guardian of our Soul

…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

To say, "The Lord is my shepherd is to mean my soul is under divine care.  

Without the divine care of Jesus the Shepherd we are as sheep without a shepherd. The call and message of today's readings invite us to return to the Shepherd of our souls. We are to cast our cares upon him because he cares for us.  So, if we are to come to the reality of our true self, then the restoration of our soul must come from Him whose image we bear.

It is this image, which all humankind bears, which calls for the understanding of the dignity of every soul. If my neighbor is a soul like I am a soul, then loving my neighbor as myself is the pathway to true fraternity among the nations.  Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI on the eve of his journey to the United States of America calls this the "law written on the human heart."  The full import of what this means is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1960:  The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately.  In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error."  The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God in accordance with the work of the Spirit.


In the community of the Church we discover the richness of the Father's inestimable love for all flesh.   Through our baptism, we partake of the divine nature.  As participants in the divine fellowship our soul is awakened to the loving care and guardianship of our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep. (Hebrews 13:20)  It is divine life in abundance that Jesus brings to our soul.  Never are possessions an indication of our divine connection.  Such an understanding only makes grace sound cheap and worldly.  It is not the gold and silver of this world which gives meaning to our soul.  It is the blood of the Lamb that teaches us the worth of every soul.  The healing of the soul is in the precious blood of Christ.  And through that same sacrifice does our soul find refuge from him who roams about seeking the ruin of souls.  

The care and guardianship of our soul is under the constant vigilance of Him who said I'll never leave you nor forsake you.  David the sweet singer of Israel described Him as the Lord, who is our shepherd.  And in the Gospel today Jesus says of himself, "I am the Good Shepherd."

He who is the true lover of souls will neither slumber nor sleep.  Even in the night our soul is under his divine watchfulness so that should we not rise in the morning light we would at last awake in His likeness.  Whether it is day or night, Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian of our soul.

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, in the depth of divine life may I resemble you in thought, word and deed. You have said it is possible to gain the whole world and lose my soul.  Precious Jesus, watch over my soul as a shepherd watches over his sheep. 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