Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Advent - December 6, 2009 Year C
By Dennis Hankins
..."And all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:6 RSV)
Today we light the candle of Peace. How humanity needs it. How improbable it seems. Yet there it is, piercing the darkness within and without, announcing that, "All flesh shall see the salvation of God."
It is John the Baptist's mission to prepare a people worthy to receive the One he proclaimed. He did so by inviting his listeners to receive the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of their sins. He lived out his mission filled with humility toward the coming Prince of Peace explaining, "I am not worthy to unloose the straps from his sandals." (Mark 1:7)
We today, as John's followers did, must prepare ourselves if we are to receive him when he comes. In the Eastern Church Advent is known as the Little Lent. A time of Penance is encouraged during Advent in the parishes of the Roman Rite as well. It is because the King is coming. And if there is to be room in our hearts for him when he comes, we must prepare the way of the Lord; that we may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
Upon self examination, all of us would agree, there exists in each of us crooked paths that need to be made straight. Valley's needing to be filled up. Mountains of self exaltation, deceptive pride, and manipulative high handedness that needs to be brought low. And the rough spots, for we are all diamonds in the rough, must be made smooth. You see, the King is coming, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Every ounce of our being cries out to be filled with the fulness of God's salvation.
What about the inequity that is all around us? Matters of justice for the poor, the vulnerable, the forgotten. The distance between the haves and the have nots that screams for attention. The high mountains of bloated inconsideration for the multitudes living below, down in the valleys of inadequate housing, malnutrition, or not enough kerosene to keep warm during the cold winters. Every ounce of our being cries out with the prophet, make his paths straight, stop complicating things, fill up the valleys and bring down the mountains, the King is coming and all flesh deserves to see the salvation of God!
It is a beautiful thing when the crooked is made straight and the rough ways made smooth. Are we not called to bring peace and justice? The whole world yearns for the morning dew of peace and safety. Yet poverty and hunger, injustice and chaos prevails in too much of the world. But let us not give in to the status quo. With all that is within us let us proclaim the King who leads his Church in joy by the light of his glory with his mercy and justice for company; for God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship. (See Baruch Chapter 5)
How peace should radiate from deep within our heart, be visible upon our face. The nature and dignity of this peace is that it befriends the fatherless and the widow, embraces the orphan, protects and defends the amputee, regards the dignity and image of God in the riddled body of the AIDS patient. Witness the smile that spreads across the face of a weary soul, all because of the peace we shared out of the treasure of our heart. All because we chose to let nothing hinder us being the face of Jesus to that one who has never seen him.
This Sunday in Advent we learn that God's peace and justice is not stagnant, unmoved or detached. It is rather a drama filled with the inspiration of God's command that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground. This is the way the Kingdom advances and advances securely in the glory of God.
In ancient times much ado was made to welcome the king. Every effort was expended to make the processional route amiable to the occasion. How much more must we renew our commitment to removing every barrier to the King of Peace so that all may see him and receive him who is the very salvation of God.
Let us probe the bottomless depths of the meaning of Advent. Rather than Advent being an interlude to enable a jump start to Christmas, it is an opportunity to rid ourselves of every obstacle to the peace of God. Not hoarding this rich treasure for ourselves, but rather letting it have every conceivable entrance into our world. For this peace which passes understanding wills to capture the hearts and minds of each of us and our neighbor for Christ Jesus, until the glory of the Lord and his salvation shall cover the earth and all flesh see it together! (Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 40:5
Let us pray: Dear Father, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, that we all may become evangelists of the Prince of Peace, until the whole world is crowned with the great salvation of God. Through Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Reflections on the Readings
First Sunday of Advent - November 29, 2009 Year C
By Dennis Hankins
..Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ... (Titus 2:13)
The Advent wreath is in place. Three purple candles and one rose colored candle stand erect and stately, as if paying homage to the white candle in their midst. Their enduring message of hope, peace, joy, and love, inspire us to be vigilant and expectant. They glow with a patience seemingly wanting to remind us that the joy of Christmas will come in the fulness of time, and not a day sooner. So will the end of the age.
So how do we conduct ourselves as we contemplate the reason for this season? Perhaps the question from today's readings would be how do we approach the meaning of time in general? That is, what manner of persons ought we to be when the powers of heaven are shaken and nations are in distress and men's hearts faint with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world (see Luke 21:26)?
Let's review again what is meant by signs in the sun and moon and stars, the roaring of the sea and waves. These are not literal events just as we know that the presence of the Lord does not literally cause the mountains to melt and the valleys to cleft (see Micah 4). What does happen is that nations foment like a roaring sea with its waves. And the Lord will judge the nations and uncover their godless foundations. Such is the poetic and prophetic language of holy writ.
We use similar language, don't we? For example, we might say, "One day this nation is going to stand before God, naked and bare." Does that mean one day every body within the boundaries of this country are going to become immediately disrobed in the twinkling of an eye and at the last trumpet? You laugh! Why? Because in this context we should not press the words naked and bare to be taken literally. What we should think is that we will not be able to hide anything from our all-knowing Father.
I do not mean to imply that the prophetic language of scripture is not important. Just the opposite. It is so important that we need to get it right rather than wrong. To get it right is to know how we are to approach the meaning of time in general; the meaning of Advent in particular.
What will dissolve hope in our hearts is careless living. Jesus called it 'hearts weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness' (Luke 21:31 RSV). We must be diligent and watchful so that the enticements of this world do not crowd out the hope, the blessed hope we have of standing before the Son of man, with strength and integrity.
When the pagan Roman armies destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem about A.D. 70, it was a day of darkness, a day of foreboding fear. The end of the age of the Old Covenant was over. For the community Luke addresses they had the hope of the New Covenant to carry them through and into all the world. Today, in our own country, great darkness is engulfing us like an insatiable dark hole waiting to devour us. This darkness is encroaching upon our religious liberties, and the true meaning of marriage, as well as the most fragile and vulnerable among us. How do we approach such times? With hope! We of all people must not allow ourselves to become weighed down with the cares of this life, to become hopeless.
Advent begins just as the days are getting shorter and colder. It is just as this occurs that we are called to be watchful, engaged, and in prayer. We want to wake up every day during Advent ready to let the light of hope radiate from our lives, our words, our face. Such light is important when the darkness would want to diminish all hope. If we let the light of hope shine from us, it will be as if the sun is shining brighter and longer.
The critters of the darkness scatter whenever a light is turned on. Likewise the enemy's of hope cannot long endure the patiently glowing light of hope. Let your face glow with the message of what is our blessed hope...the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you give us the unfailing light of hope, even Jesus our Savior who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Reflections on the Readings
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost - November 15, 2009
By Dennis Hankins
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him... (Revelation 1:7)
The lesson of the fig tree is that when it puts forth its leaves you know that summer is near. Likewise, Jesus said when all these things begin to take place, know that he is near, at the very gates. The predictions Jesus made were for a specific period in time and for a specific reason; occurring during the first generation of the Church.
We are familiar with the expression, "It's a dark day." By that statement we could mean the clouds are hanging close to the ground, and its bleak, dreary, and dark.
There is another way we use this familiar phrase. For example we recall the events of 9/11 as a 'dark time,' as a 'dark day.' It was a day filled with violence, treachery, and death. In the language and poetry of prophetic scripture we might say the sun was darkened.
Jesus said some important things to his disciples before he ascended to forever take his seat at the Father's right hand. Explaining that only the Father knows the day and the hour, he outlined the things that would befall his followers and the Temple of the Old Covenant within the first generation of the Church. He said, "This generation shall will not pass away until all these things have taken place." (Mark 13:30
The beginning of those calamities upon the Temple began when Jesus was on the Cross. You recall that the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Temple was torn from top to bottom when Jesus cried with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. (Matthew 27:50-51)
Earlier in Mark 13 Jesus states this time during the first generation of the Church would be marked with great unrest. Describing wars, famines and earthquakes as the beginning of sufferings, he also spoke of false Messiah's, persecution of Christians issuing from synagogues and political powers; betrayal and hatred heaped upon his disciples all because they bear the name of Christ.
The culmination of this time would be the destruction of the Temple. In AD 70 the foreign and pagan Roman armies desecrated the Temple and destroyed it; the fulness of God's displeasure upon the apostasy that rejected the Son of His Love. Jesus told his followers in that day, "Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."
In Matthew 23 Jesus speaks of what will come upon 'this generation.' Jesus laments, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!" The house in this context is the Temple.
The shortening of those days was for the 'sake of the elect,' those immediately before him whom he had chosen. Remember he said, "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."
Upon the closing of the door on the Old Covenant and the destruction of the Temple, the Christian era came into full view. A gathering of the elect from the four winds has been the mission of the Church for two millennia.
The language of prophetic scripture is poetic. The powers of heaven, meaning the sun, moon and stars, are symbols of the religious and the political entities on earth. Given that, such scriptures continue to provide language to describe whenever the leadership of the Church becomes unfaithful or the leadership of government becomes oppressive.
So for those looking for specific language in scripture to support theories of massive atomic blasts and or the invasion of the Killer Bees, or some other end time speculation, today's gospel is non supportive.
No, the same stuff as always is what either plagues the Church or persecutes the Church. Whenever the way of the Lord is rejected and unfaithfulness to the Lord is left unchecked, it's a dark time; a dark and lonesome night. During systematic persecution, the political powers bring upon the Church a day when the sun is darkened and the moon turns into blood.
But there is one thing we have not looked at, and that is the clouds. The clouds are a symbol of the presence of the Lord. Whenever 'these things' take place, the lesson of the fig tree includes the fact that the Lord is near. During times of trial and tribulation it is the sustaining presence of the Son of Man who always comes to us in the bread and wine, his own body and blood and will one day in the fulness of time come in the clouds with great power and glory.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, the protector and defender of all who love you, ever protect and save us in the mighty name of Jesus who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.