Monday, May 26, 2008

The Spirit of Holiness--Sunday, June 1, 2008 Year A

June 1, 2008 Year A

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  The Spirit of Holiness

And then will I declare to them, 'I never new you; depart from me, you evildoers.'

Everyone has a reality check from time to time.  Today is one of those moments.  We reflect upon the truth that it is not enough to proclaim what we believe.  We are called to practice what we preach.  In his book Sober Intoxication of the Spirit:  Filled with the Fullness of God, Father Cantalamessa, the Pope's preacher describes what are true epiphanies of the Spirit.  That is, manifestations of the Spirit which bring light and life in us and to others.  

If one is seeking his own glory then the true light and holiness of the Spirit is absent.  Although 'many mighty works' are accomplished in his name, our Lord who cannot deny himself nor let his word return to him void will nevertheless say 'I never knew you.'  

Is this not where the rubber meets the road?  On the one hand there are those who deny that anything miraculous is to occur today but seek holiness of life.  Then on the other hand, I suppose there will always be those who can bring us near to the Lord but somehow fail to be close to him themselves.  And that is a tragedy that must be avoided.  At all costs we must be sure that our lives are built upon the 'rock and foundation of his words.' 

Following Jesus is to enter into the very holiness of the Lamb of God.  He being without spot or blemish has provided forever the way into the holy of holies.  It is this narrow way in which we must always examine ourselves. Such self-examination of conscience will keep our lives free from sin and our witness free from self-aggrandizement.  

Our Lord today is not denying the blessing of prophesying, exorcisms, or mighty works done in his name.  He is saying that there is more to knowing him, a closer relationship with him, a place where we pray 'not my will, but thy will be done.'  Then will even small things done with great love have great effect.

I think it is with this transparency I wrestle the most.  How might we be filled with overflowing love?  How will those we love most be persuaded of the perfect will of love?  How can we be truly delivered from ourselves, as we desire the demons to be cast out of others?  No doubt, the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, even the Spirit of holiness, will increase Christ in us.  It is this very Spirit of holiness that will form and shape us into a veritable witness of Jesus Christ.  This is our calling.  This is the foundation that the storms cannot destroy.  This the winds cannot blow away.  

Jesus invites us to be filled with the wisdom that is from above.  It is this wisdom that the Spirit of holiness imparts to us.  We can overcome the deception of this world.  We can overcome the world, our flesh and the devil by living in the Spirit of holiness.  And then will we hear by the grace of God, 'Enter into the joy of your Lord.'

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus fill me with knowledge of the will of the Father.  Animate my understanding of others and myself by the Spirit of holiness.  That I may be holy even as you are holy is my prayer. 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



Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

May 25, 2008 Year A

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  Signs and Associations

"I am the bread of life." (John 6:48)

I remember how one Bishop in the Charismatic Episcopal Church explained the Eucharist.  He was aware that some in his flock did not believe that Jesus was really present in the bread and wine given them.  

It was around Halloween and the good Bishop went to a local store looking for a Chalice.  He was looking for a Chalice that was engraved with the signs associated with the devil and his power.  And he found it.  You can imagine this Chalice bearing skull and bones and other references to death and the devil.

As the Bishop was teaching on the body and blood of Christ he pulled out this Chalice bearing the signs of Satan.  And then he asked, "If I filled this Chalice with wine and prayed to Satan to bless and fill it with his life, would you drink it?"  All the people were aghast!  In one collective shudder they were repelled by the notion.  The Bishop pushed on.  "Why?" he said.  "It's only wine.  It doesn't matter that it was offered to Satan.  It's just symbolism."  You are right.  The people got it.  And they got it that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist.  He is present body, blood, soul and divinity.  If things consecrated to Satan can convey Satan's power, how much more are we participants in the body and blood of Jesus?  It was not the Bishop's intention to show how present Satan can be.  The mystery of our faith is about how closely, directly and personally we are to Jesus in the cup of blessing and the bread which we break.  

In our religion we believe the sign becomes the thing it signifies.  Even food associated with idols through sacrifice was to be avoided in the early Church.  And so today we come to the celebration of our faith in the presence of Jesus in the bread which we break and the cup which we bless.  We have encountered the richness of our faith for several weeks.  First there was the Passion of our Lord.  Then, we rejoiced at his Resurrection from the dead.  For forty days he showed himself alive by many infallible proofs.  This was followed by his Ascension into heaven.  Ten days later the Holy Spirit was poured out without measure upon the praying Church.  Last Sunday we meditated upon the Most Holy Trinity.  And today we renew ourselves in our understanding of the Last Supper.  

Christianity is not a weak and anemic faith.  Always and forever the Lord calls us to himself.  His will is that we will live in him and he in us.  Jesus said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."  This is not a symbolic gesture of goodwill.  Holy Communion according to Jesus is a sign that becomes the very thing it signifies.  The Priest invokes the Holy Spirit to come upon our offering of the Bread and Wine that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus.  As temples of the Holy Spirit it is more than the ingestion of mere symbols.  It is an immediate encounter with the Lord whom we love.  We keep this feast because Jesus said to always do this in remembrance of him.  And the remembrance of which he speaks is a promise that he will commune with us if we will commune with him.

St. John Chrysostom reflecting on the Eucharist said, "Let us return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which he has shown us."  No, there was no anemic symbolism associated with the Eucharist by this Golden Tongued preacher.  Filled with the Holy Spirit he moved his parish to embrace the real meaning of Jesus' words.  

The manna served the needs of the natural life but conveyed no immediate encounter with divinity.  This is the demarcation point between the manna of the wilderness and the bread of life.  The bread of life is a person who seeks to impart his life to us.  It is to us he says today, "He who eats this bread will life forever."

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, you teach me to listen with spiritual ears.  Help me not to reason with my flesh but to receive you into my heart.  Open the eyes of my heart and strengthen me in the life only you can impart.  And when I come to your Table fill me with yourself.  May my body and blood become a living witness of the body and blood of Christ.  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



Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Fullness of Love--Most Holy Trinity May 18, 2008 Year A

May 18, 2008 Year A

Most Holy Trinity

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  The Fullness of Love

Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13:8)

Luther described John 3:16 as the 'Gospel in miniature.'  If you watch baseball on TV you have seen JOHN 3:16 displayed by someone sitting behind home plate.  It is by far the most popular verse of Holy Scripture.  Today we learn that the God of Moses and the God of John 3:16 is the same God.  He is the God who is 'merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.'  

God keeps steadfast love for 'thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.'  Yet for all this 'he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.'  To believe in Jesus is why we contemplate today the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  This contemplation is worthy of a lifetime of prayer and reflection.  

An icon of the Holy Trinity written by Andrew Rublev beautifully expresses the Trinitarian mystery.  In his book Behold the Beauty of the Lord-Praying with the Icons; Henri Nouwen gives a reflection on this icon.  Nouwen said, "For me the contemplation of this icon has increasingly become a way to enter more deeply into the mystery of divine life while remaining fully engaged in the struggles of our hate-and–fear-filled world."

Perhaps that is the best explanation of why we reflect on the Most Holy Trinity.  God gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  As we enter more deeply into this mystery of divine life we become more connected to this holy love.  But the way to this completeness is through surrender and sacrifice.  It would be more immediately pleasing to belong to the world.  But it is this world that Jesus overcame.  He overcame its sin, pride, and lust for power; he showed us 'a more excellent way.'  Through the will of the love that brought him to us he gave to us 'a holy kiss.'  Love found a way; love is the way.

Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of Chicago said, "I don't ever run out of love because the love I have comes from God, and his love is eternal.  If I die tomorrow, and I know that I loved, then I can die happy.  Its all about love."  

We are filled with happiness and bring happiness to all when we give ourselves up to the love of God.  This perfect love has the power to conquer every fear.  We find our way in this dark world of fear and hate and distrust through the dignity and power of the love that never ends.  This is the fullness of love to which we are called.  It beckons us from an old rugged cross teaching us that if we would find life we must give up our life.  It teaches us that we lift the burdens and cares of others when we take up our cross and follow Jesus.  It teaches us that it is more blessed to give than to receive; that faith the size of a mustard seed has the indomitable strength of eternal life.  We come to the contemplation of the Most Holy Trinity to discover again an abyss of love the never ends.

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, help me to beat my chest and not my drum.  I long to be lost in the wonder and power of your love.  Free me from my self-absorption, to be wrapped up in you and not in myself.  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