Saturday, October 18, 2008

In the Image of God--Sunday, October 19, 2008

October 19, 2008 Year A

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

World Mission Sunday

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  In the Image of God

So God created man in his own image.

Whose image do you see when you look into a mirror?  

Whose image do you see upon the face of your spouse?   

What image does a war criminal bear or serial killer wear?  Do the hungry, the naked, or the sick and the lonely have an image?  

A baby is left in the garbage outside of Planned Parenthood.  Is he imageless?  

How about the man or woman emaciated by HIV, left with an empty body and soul, and their emotions strewn among a thousand liaisons?  Are they faceless?

The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians have a common enemy in Jesus.  To rid themselves of Jesus is their common goal.  Pretending to value Jesus as a Teacher, they question him whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not.  The Jews see Jesus as a religious threat and the Herodians regard Jesus as a political threat.  This is the context for Jesus asking whose image is on the coin minted for taxes to be paid to Caesar.

Caesar serves himself in the coins he mints for monetary exchange.  Placing his own image on the coins, he elicits homage to his authority through the imposition of taxes.  Imprinting his image on the coins he hopes to impress all with his authority and maybe his good looks.  One can only wonder how tedious the task for those who struck the coins with his image!  The ego of a politician is easily offended.

Jesus states to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's to draw attention to a greater image!  God, whose image is upon everyone and whose imprint is upon everything, is greater than Caesar.  It is this greater image to which Jesus draws the attention of all.  

The injunction to render unto God what belongs to God is not a call to share with Caesar and God equally.  Some miss this point.   The Incarnation, the event that put King Herod into full alert and rage, demonstrates the truth that God and Government are quite unequal.  

Christians make wonderful citizens.  They are the salt of the earth. Many serve in functions of Government.  They bring a good head and warm heart to the exercise of their authority.  We want and need good citizens to lead us and to deliberate for us.  Although we regard the separation of Church and State, we should never require the separation of soul and leadership.  And voters should not separate their soul from their vote.  Let us remember the primary function of government is to foster the protection of life, liberty and peace.  


Jesus tells us to render unto God what belongs to God.  This is a matter of our heart and the heart of questions such as, "What must I do to be saved?"    

When we look into our own hearts, there we see the face of God indelibly imprinted there.  Our lives do not consist of the goods and treasures we may accumulate reminding us we are made of better things than silver or gold.  These things are perishable, but we are not.  

If in our hearts we neglect the plight of the poor or the cause of the widow, do we deny the image of God exists in the least of these?  If my brother asks me for a cold glass of water and I give him a cold shoulder, do I deny that Christ died also for him?  If my sister is the victim of misinformation and cruel abortuary procedures and I say, "She should have known better! She was raised right and everything!"  Am I acting like one who sees in her the image of God, an image needing the compassionate response that says, "The Lord is compassionate and full of mercy?"

Government can print money, but only God can make the soul sing again.  Government can make impositions and laws and taxes, but only God can say to my soul, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."  Government can mandate and extract, but only God will say to our soul, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, what a wonder you are.  You who brought us the good news of our salvation, died to bring salvation's hope to our soul.  Anchored in this hope I rest in your love.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Responding to a Personal Invitation--Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 12, 2008 Year A
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflections on the Readings

Theme:  Responding to a Personal Invitation

Many are called but few are chosen.

Jesus' parables of the Kingdom of heaven convey the importance of our response to the invitation to rejoice in the Son of the Father's love.  Some reject this to their own peril.  Jesus came to his own home, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who received him, who believed on his name, he gave power to become the children of God.  The family of God is not defined by geneology or bloodlines; those born of God are born not according to the flesh but by the Spirit, by the will God. 

It is not the will of the Father that any should perish.  The love that is from above is not coercive or demanding.  A proposal is given to each of us to become one with the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit.  The marriage feast is given to facilitate this union of our hearts with the divine nature.  

The chief priests and elders of the people again are highlighted as invited to the fulness of the Kingdom.  Making light of Jesus and his teachings they finally will call for his crucifixion.  

The opening of the Kingdom of God to the whole world began from the cross.  At Jesus' last breath, the veil in the temple tore in two from top to bottom.  And to the outcasts of the world goes out a call to participate in the divine nature. Come into the holy of holies and eat.  Come to the feast.  Isaiah proclaims it this way today:  On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all the nations, he will destory death forever.  

Jesus climbed Mount Calvary to wipe away the tears from every face.  Today we can look at the crucifix and say with the prophet, "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!  This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!" For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.

An unworthy response to the marriage feast of the King's Son includes neglecting the proper adornment of our heart.  The King came in to look at the guests.  There he saw a man who had no wedding garment on.  And said to him, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?"  The question of the King is about an improper and disrepectful attention to the things that matter to enter fully into the feast.  

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the opportunity to be properly disposed to come to the feast; to receive the body and blood of our Lord.  An examination of our heart reveals how deceptive and manipulative the heart can be.  Knowing the Lord looks on the heart, it is the garment of holiness we desire.  Out of the heart comes evil thoughts, adultery and murder.  These and other ailments of the heart soil our garment and keep us from entering fully into Jesus who is our Passover.  

A personal invitation to the feast of the Lord's Supper includes an examination to ensure we are properly disposed.  For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.  This is why St. Paul concludes that many in the Church at Corinth were weak and ill.  If nothing else this should help us understand that the bread we eat and the cup we drink are not just symbols.  It is the body and blood of Jesus.  

Let us come with the proper adornment and adoration.    

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, clothe me in the pureness of your heart.  Adorn me with the garments of salvation.  Help me to put off the old man.  I ask that the Father will find in me what He finds in His Son.  At last may I hear, "Enter into the joys of your Lord."  Amen.   

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Producing the Fruit of the Kingdom--Sunday, October 5, 2008 Year A

October 5, 2008, Year A

Twenty-Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time

Respect Life Sunday

Reflection on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme: Producing the Fruit of the Kingdom

In every seed of faith lives the mystery of our redemption.

Jesus gives us a picture of the kingdom in the parable of the vineyard. Every landowner who plants a vineyard does so with the expectation of a harvest of grapes. A winepress is installed nearby to facilitate the creation of wine. Such an agricultural enterprise was commonplace in the area of Palestine. Jesus uses this occasion to again emphasize to the chief priests and elders of the people that he will reveal the power of his kingdom to those who produce the fruit of the kingdom.  Vintage time in the vineyard fills the air with the sweet aroma of grapes ready for harvest and wine making. The vintage of the kingdom fills the air with the sweet aroma of Christ. 

Through us the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is spread everywhere. Our faith calls and enables us to release the life giving fragrance of Christ into a culture consumed with the stench of the wages of sin: death.

St. Paul, in todays second reading, instructs us to reject anxiety and, by prayer, petition and thanksgiving, make our requests known to God. In troublesome times it is difficult to lift our hearts up to the Lord. The foul odor of sin wafts over our souls like an unending nightmare.  However, in everything, through everything, in spite of everything, lift your heart up to the Lord. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  

Let your soul encounter the sweet breezes of the Holy Spirit. The wind of the Spirit blows from a place where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal.And it brings the aroma of a heavenly vintage: the blessed intoxication of the Spirit that inspires without inebriating.

The kingdom that Jesus gives is a vintage of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. St. Paul echoes the same as he outlines what our hearts should muse about. "If it is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and worthy of praise, then think on these things," says Paul. The true aroma and fruit of the kingdom resides in these special attributes listed by St. Paul. So, for the sake of understanding the true nature and purpose of the vineyard kingdom let's try a little interior examination.

Today is Respect Life Sunday. Yet we live in a world where life and human dignity is anything but respected.  There is a noticeable absence of the fragrance of Christ.

Our world is full of violence. There is violence in the womb, violence in the streets, violence overseas; violence infects our hearts, our words and our attitudes toward our fellow humans.  

Our world is full of vengeance.  Courtrooms abandon justice in favor of vengeance, filling death row and crowding prisons to the breaking point.  Vengeance is the motivation behind holocausts, massacres, and tribal warfare.  Divorce and child custody are more about vengeance than equity.  Vengeance is a two-edged sword waiting within our hearts to strike the killing blow.   

Our world is overflowing with violations – violations of trust,  broken vows, ill-kept oaths, and betrayal of goodwill. Lies are the currency of politics. And Machiavellian attempts to get ahead are business as usual in the cubicle jungle of our workaday lives. Friendships, marriages and, yes, even, parishes come to ruin in the name of the violation of human dignity and vainglorious self addiction. How many times have we violated our sacred duty to respect the dignity of all people, whether friend or foe, as we tear others down in the harbor of our hearts?

Can a world of violence, vengeance and violations simultaneously be just, pure, lovely, gracious and worthy of praise?  Those who love this present world do not think about those things St. Paul says we should think about.  They revel in what they can get away with and in how close to the fire they can live without getting burned. This is a ploy of Satan to keep the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from once again breathing the cool evening air of Eden's ancient wind. 

Dear ones, it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. But Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom is given on his terms, not ours. We shouldn't be conformed to the spirit of this age, but transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This is only possible when, by faith, we desire to produce the fruit of another kingdom; and let the fragrance of that heavenly fruit fill us.  

In every one of us is a measure of faith. And in that deposit of faith lives the mystery of our redemption and the redemption of the whole world. It is a kingdom that is not of this world as our Lord clearly taught. In the Church resides this kingdom.  The vintage of this kingdom is the sweet aroma of Christ.

The vineyard has been planted to change us, to change the world. And a seed, a small part of the vineyard kingdom, lives in each and every one of us. Today the Master of this vineyard desires that we bear much fruit.  

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, allow the fragrance of your eternal kingdom to fill my heart, my thoughts, my deeds. May the sweet aroma of your presence permeate all that I do, all that I am. Anything less is the stench of selfishness and vainglory.  Amen