Friday, January 30, 2009

Have You Come to Destroy Us?--Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 1, 2009, Year B

Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme: Have You Come to Destroy Us?

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)

Sometimes we forget who the enemy of the soul is.  This failure causes complacency in our life of prayer, leaving us vulnerable to the tricks of the devil.  Jesus is clear.  If the evil spirt has been evicted from our life, and returns finding the 'house empty' albeit 'swept and put in order,' the evil spirit can return with seven other spirits more evil than himself, causing the last state of that man to be worse than the first.  It is the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation that will keep us full of grace.

The power of the Lord is real.  In confession and other devotional habits we discover this is true.  Today's readings reveal a God who desires his people to be liberated from the deception of the devil.  He asks us to have faith that he will 'deliver us from evil.'  Such faith will face temptation, temptation designed to lure us away from the power of God.  But God does not allow temptation to be beyond our strength to choose the good.  

Resisting the devil is not just for our good.  In our resistance to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life we remain free to serve others without condescension, remembering 'all have sinned.'  No one enters this life immune to the power of the evil one.  

In whatever station of life we are called to we are to embrace it with the liberty as children of God.  Whether married or single, we are called to the freedom of him who said, "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed."  If we will but resist the devil he will flee from us.

Our freedom leads us deeply into the power of the Cross in which Jesus triumphantly disarmed the principalities and powers, making of them a public example. (Colossians 2:15) In Jesus, we resist the same satanic power He resisted in the Garden of his temptation.  It was there Satan demanded open and absolute homage.  In that blatant disdain for the God of all love, Satan was reminded that only God is to be worshipped and served. 

Satan can make what's not good for us very desirable, but no one compromises to the betterment of their life.  The empty and vague promises of the devil can come in the middle of the night or in the middle of a conversation.  However you are tempted to take the low way, it's still low, it's still burdensome, it's still death.  

No one has ever negotiated with the devil and won.

The history of salvation from Moses to Jesus, reveals that the heart can be the very seat of Satan, becoming a hardened heart.  It is the hardened heart that demands the compassion we deny others.  A hardened heart accepts its own imperfections while demanding perfection of every one else.  The hardened heart seeks only its interests while thinking our neighbor is getting what he deserves.  This vicious cycle shows that 'the heart is deceptively vile' and full of darkness.  Out of the heart comes evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness and slander. 

Yes, Satan!  Christ has come to destroy you!  No life is beyond redemption; the outstretched arm of the Lord is ever present.  

Yet it's possible to revere God out of form; ritually correct, without embracing the power of the one who is worshipped and glorified.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit we need; the Spirit of the prophets, the Spirit who sets the captive free, heals the broken hearted and sets at liberty the oppressed.  The power that hovered over the world in creation's story, descended upon the nascent Church so she would carry the name of Jesus with power.    

Jesus said, "In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues, they will pick up serpents, if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."  

In the Church there is a haven of rest.  This rest is for the liberation of the sons and daughters of earth. Ravaged by Satan's power they seek a refuge and a restoration.  To be more than conquerors; to enter into the freedom of the children of God, to be no longer aliens, but friends of the most high, they come.  The weak, the weary and the wounded come asking if there is room at the cross for them.  Under the gaze of the crucifix they become new creations, the old passes away, behold He makes all things new.

Satan and his minions, toppled again! Hallelujah!

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, where I have compromised, bring me back to the truth.  Where I have wandered by thought, word or deed, bring me back to prayer.  Whereever I have not resisted in the power of your Spirit, fill me again with heaven's sweet Holy Ghost so that in my life you are glorified.  Amen.  



Dt. 18:15-20

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

1 Cor. 7:32-35

Mark 1:21-28

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Time Is Running Out--3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 25, 2009, Year B

Third Sunday In Ordinary Time

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme: Time Is Running Out

For the world in its present form is passing away. (St. Paul)

The scriptures today reflect on the mission of Jonah, St. Paul's words about time running out and Jesus' calling together men he intends to become 'fishers of men.'

Evangelism has always been the mission of the Church.  The very word 'evangelism' speaks of 'good news.' Each one of us is called to share the story of Jesus.  Like the Star of Bethlehem, we are to show the way to Jesus.  The news of Christ coming into the world is indeed the good news, the Gospel of life.

As we contemplate this high and holy calling, many of us are wary.  Good intentioned and enthusiastic Christians can often be seen in public places handing out Chick gospel tracts depicting in cartoon style 'sinners in the hands of an angry God.'  And young men going out 2 by 2 knocking on doors seeking to explain their beliefs based upon another gospel is a turn off to many of us.  Channel surfing reveals any number of TV Evangelists explaining the scary details of an existence should you be 'left behind.'  I even attended a wonderful production of the Story of Christmas a couple of Christmases ago that unfortunately included a graphic and detailed presentation of the Crucifixion, as though the Incarnation is deficient in telling the 'good news.'  Evangelism is telling the story of Jesus, a story the world still needs to hear.  And it can be told in many ways without resorting to scare tactics and threats.   

There is an urgency that comes through the readings today.  No doubt every one of us could say that complacency is our greatest challenge.  St. Paul describes the world as limited on time.  He reflects on the destructive ways of the world.  These ways are so destructive that Paul states 'the world in its present form' is passing away. We must not allow our good and necessary attachments and obligations to keep us from the immediate and urgent call to 'let our light shine.'  

I grew up in a church that taught Jesus is coming soon.  I still believe Jesus is coming soon.  This truth is borne out in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.  However, the urgency I now embrace is different from the backward and sometimes unintelligible way I first learned this truth.  In my childhood church, this truth was often presented as an escape from the world.  Many never cultivated their gifts and talents, thinking there was not enough time to accomplish the many good and wonderful things of life.  This is a travesty that continues to be preached from the pulpit of many churches.

Today we are also called to be bold and courageous.  To be sure, it takes courage and boldness to witness to what is good, true and beautiful.  Today's world is racing down an uncertain road.  It is dangerously courting disaster.  These perilous times are marked by lust.  Lust for power, lust for money, lust for sex.  The stable and ancient traditions of marriage are being attacked.  Respect for life in all stages is being assigned the sentence of death.  In such times we must be bold and courageous in our witness to the splendor of truth. 

Lastly, we must be faithful.  He who is the same yesterday, today and forever asks us to remain faithful to him.  In the end, when time shall be no more, the rewards of eternity will go to those who were faithful.  Being faithful and true remain the virtues of real Christian life and witness.  We cannot allow ourselves to be 'tossed to and fro' by every wind of doctrine.  As we seek to be true to the faith as it was first revealed to the Church, we will bless the world with truth, grace and love, the indestructible pillars of the Church.  The Church in these charisms evangelizes the world, being the face of Jesus to those who have never seen the Lord.


Let us pray: Dear Jesus, You have given me a lifetime and a world in which to show your love.  Pour your love through me and may those nearest to me see your face on mine.  Amen.

Scriptures:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10

      Psalm 25: 4-9

      1 Cor. 7:29-31

      Mark 1:14-20