Sunday, June 22, 2008

If You Deny Me

June 22nd Year A

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  If You Deny Me

But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Frustration abounds whenever a Christian politician explains his pro-abortion views.  It goes something like this.  "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but a woman has a right to choose if she wishes not to give birth to her fetus."  "It's her body," he continues.  "And the government shouldn't tell a woman what she can do with her body," he concludes.  It reminds me of Pontius Pilate washing his hands before the crowd and saying, "I am innocent of this righteous man's blood."  Some would say Pilate was sensible, open minded, not given to persuading others of his personal beliefs.  Similar accolades have been heaped upon the 'open minded' politicians of our time.  And the shedding of innocent blood continues today.

The impartiality of the Father's love was revealed when Jesus ate with sinners and touched the lepers.  When Jesus fed the multitudes and turned the water into wine, this was love that exceeded the needs of the moment and revealed a love that is not of this world.  Jesus, the only Son of the Father, went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.  On Sunday, the Lord's Day, God's friends gather at the Lord's house, and feast at the Table of his Love.  And we beggars, who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, must tell the beggars outside where we found the bread.     

Our Holy Father's general prayer intention for June is:  That Christians may cultivate a deep and personal friendship with Christ so they are able to communicate the strength of his love to those they encounter.  We are first and always to have a deep and transforming encounter with Jesus.  Losing that friendship should be the preoccupying thought of our mind.  Jesus' love persuades us to persuade others of the loving will of our heavenly Father.  It may be convenient to accommodate the slippery slope of appeasement, but accommodation blurs our vision of him is the way, the truth and the life.  Christian witness becomes weak and anemic, when our personal friendship with Christ is lukewarm.  What several popes have described variously as a 'new Pentecost' and a 'new evangelization' is why His Holiness today asks us to pray for a vibrant, deeply held and growing friendship with Jesus.  Jesus said, "I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." 

Today's Gospel is part of the context where Jesus explains in verse 16, "…I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."  Jesus told his disciples they would be flogged in the synagogues, dragged before councils and governors for his name and for his cause.  But today the Gospel reminds us to 'have no fear of them.'  We must never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.  For our sake and for the life of the world we are to 'shout it from the housetops.'  Jesus promises that the Spirit of our Father will speak through us. 

The religious rulers in Acts chapter 4 were annoyed that Peter and John had healed a lame man and were proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.  They were arrested and upon examination it is stated when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. This boldness came from the Holy Spirit.  Speaking in Christ's name and healing the lame man in Christ's name, they were demonstrating the friendship of Christ.  The rulers said, "You can't do that anymore." But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." 

My daddy was a Pentecostal preacher.  But one day he received a call from an Arkansas District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church asking him to consider becoming a Pastor in the UMC.  When daddy met with the Board of Ordained Ministry, they knowing daddy's Pentecostal background, members of the Board inquired if he would be talking about the things Pentecostals talk about.  They were mostly concerned if my daddy would be encouraging Methodist folks to speak in tongues.  My daddy assured them he would not force anything on anybody, and then he added, "but I can't deny what God has done for me.  And I would recommend it to anyone!"  Daddy pastored 35 years in the UMC.

We belong to Christ.  He bought us with a price.  From the royal precinct of heaven he became incarnate in the holy womb of Mary.  On her breasts he received nourishment.  Her motherly love comforted him and at bedtime she leaned over and kissed the face of God.  It was a deep and personal friendship to which Mary gave herself.  This is a friendship that draws us to the same Jesus Mary held in her loving arms, reminding us that we are of more value than the sparrows and even the hairs of our head are numbered. 

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, may my friendship with you become deeper and personal so that it is in you and you alone I live and move and have my life.   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



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