Saturday, June 27, 2009

Power Went Out of Him - Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reflections on the Readings

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 28, 2009 - Year B

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, "Who touched me?"

Power went out of him.

"Seek the Lord while he is near," says the prophet (Isaiah 55:6).  Jairus, a ruler in a local synagogue, sought out Jesus for his twelve year old daughter, as also did an unnamed woman who had been suffering with a flow of blood for twelve years.  It is a time of trouble for both; a time of desperation.

Reports about Jesus had been circulating for some time.  His reputation preceded him.  His coming into this seashore community stirred hope and a great crowd gathered around him.  Barely out of the boat, the word spread, and faith leaped in the hearts of his countrymen.  He was coming to his own, and some received him. Those who received him were given the privilege of becoming new sons and daughters of the Father.  

The raw emotions of that moment stirs my imagination.  Jairus believes if Jesus will come to his house and touch his dying daughter, she will be healed. The hemorrhaging woman believes touching the garments of Jesus will heal her.  If only Jesus will come a little closer.  If only I can get a little closer to Jesus, all will be well.  Neither crowds nor distance nor any other thing can keep these two from connecting with him in whom is the power that sustains all things, seen and unseen.  

Worship is not entertainment.  Nor is it necessarily something we can be led to do.  The worship of the Lord is something we enter into; we draw near, we lift up our hearts unto the Lord.  Why?  Because it is right and a good thing.  

Everything else we do in this life requires some sort of active participation.  We dress ourselves, we brush our own teeth, we feed ourselves.  Out side of infants and small children, we take care of ourselves.  In the liturgy, which is the work of the people, we enter into the prayers of the Church; it is a Eucharistic celebration. For centuries, these prayers and this celebration has been understood as a confrontation against the evil of the times.  It is understood that as we pray, we are touched, as is the world for which we pray, by the power of the Lord.

No more personal contact with the Lord exists outside the Eucharist.  We gather around him, like the crowd in the Gospel today. It is not garments we will reach for.  In the memorial of the body and blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes down upon the elements of our offering.  We are people of the Spirit, nourished with the bread which is his body, and with the wine, which is his blood.  We receive the only Son of the Father, body, blood, soul, and divinity.  

This is what St. Peter refers to as a participation in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)  Even the angels look upon this with wonder and amazement. (1 Peter 1:12) Properly disposed, we reach the source and summit of our life in Christ each time we hear the priest say, "The body of Christ."   Here on my tongue, heaven and earth are about to mingle; why wouldn't I say, "Amen?"

Power went out of him.  The same power, the same touch of love, touches us as we taste and see that the Lord is good.  Like Jairus, like the woman with the flowing blood, we come humbly.  We come, not because we are worthy.  We are not.  We come because we need the only power that can move the soul in the right direction.  He has told us, "All things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) It is possible to forgive, it is possible to love again, it is possible to be a new creation, to be born again. 

 Let us receive the power of his endless life. 

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you gave the gift that keeps on giving, even Jesus our Lord, from whom comes the power of a new life, who rules and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who then is this? - Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reflection on the Readings

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 21, 2009 - Year B

The 3rd Sunday After Pentecost - Father's Day

By Dennis Hankins

Readings for this Sunday.

Theme: Who then is this?

"Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

On this stormy moment on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus unveils the power of his holiness.  In bringing peace and calm to the winds and the waves, Jesus demonstrates his oneness with the Father.  That God alone can harness the raging tides, the disciples witness with amazement the wonder of love so divine.  Their question, "Who then is this?", rises from deep within, where faith challenges reason, asking the soul, "Why are you afraid?"

I am not a cradle Catholic.  Deep within my heart, I carry the Pentecostal teachings of my Father whom I called Daddy, who taught me who Jesus is.  I remember Mr. Prior, a man in my hometown who endured a severe back problem, crediting Daddy's prayers for making it possible for him to recover from surgery and walk and work again.  Mr. Prior was not Pentecostal, but Daddy, led by the Spirit, laid his hands on this man, and prayed in the name of him whom wind and sea obey, and Mr. Prior was healed.

After High School, I travelled a bit as a Pentecostal evangelist.  Once, when a pastor scheduled me for a weekend revival, I remember Daddy questioning if they were afraid they might have one!  You see, for Pentecostals like Daddy, you make room for Jesus.  He's not someone you make fit in conveniently.  You make time and space, and pour your soul out, and invite people to meet Jesus who never changes, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

In reality, this is not unlike our Catholic faith. In the Eucharist, are we not participating in the divine nature?  Do we not believe that passing between our lips is the body, soul, and divinity of Christ?  Jesus is alive and well.  And if there is any question about that, let's not put off another moment of knowing him in the power and grace of the consecrated bread and wine, his body and blood.

This Eucharistic truth is embraced all over the world.  Whether in a chapel built out of sticks, mud, and straw or at St. Peter's of Rome, Jesus reveals himself to us just as he did to his disciples in that boat on the raging sea of Galilee.  And he asks us what he asked them: "Why are you afraid?   Have you no faith?"  "Do you trust Me?"

All He asks is that we pray more fervently, believe more deeply, that we might care with more conviction, and be his face of compassion, his hands of fellowship, his voice of love, his heart of mercy.  Jesus is compassion, fellowship, love and mercy; he is the very image and radiance of his Father's heart.  

That's what my Daddy taught me about Jesus.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, grant that I may be a true son of the Church, a good witness to the Son of Love, led by the Spirit.  Amen.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Table of the Lord

Reflection on the Readings
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ 
June 14, 2009 - Year B
By Dennis Hankins

Click HERE 
For the Readings

Theme: The Table of the Lord

What we have in common is greater than what separates us.

I remember many years ago imagining what it would be like for all of us to sit down at the same Table.  It's then I understood: The key to unity in the Body of Christ is in there being one Table.  

On a family level, the pain of fractured relationships is experienced at the family table.  A brother and sister say things to each other they regret.  At the next family dinner, one or the other stays away.  Before you know it, it gets easier to not care, not celebrate, not commune.  There's only one family, one table, but now there's an empty place at the table.  The pain is felt by those still at the table.  Forgiveness is not offered or sought.  Until there is forgiveness there is only the pain of being incomplete, unattached, like a joint out of place. 

There is much pain in the Body of Christ, because there is too little forgiveness, sought for or given.  Historical grudges strewn across the centuries coupled with ignorance, misunderstanding and assumptions, and before you know it, it gets easier to not care, not celebrate, not commune.  

If today's Solemnity means anything, it means we cannot fail to embrace the unity of the faith and pray that we who partake of the one bread will one day witness the healing of the one Body of Christ.  There is one Table, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, as there is one God and Father of us all.  

We confess there is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  In this there is joy as well as sorrow.  For me, my joy was finding that in the Church is the Faith that has always been and will always be.  What I left was the idea that it was OK to split and divide ad nauseum.  The fractures and brokenness of denominationalism fills me with sorrow.  It is a world filled with empty signs and symbols, a belief that the bread and wine do not and cannot mediate what they signify.  In other words, Jesus declaring the bread is his body and the wine is his blood really isn't.  

We all read the same New Testament.  In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, St. Paul states that pagans offer their sacrifices to demons.  Instructing the Church at Corinth, Paul explains the pagans become partners with the demons in their sacrificial offering to them.  He calls their worship the table of demons.    

To all of my brothers and sisters who believe Holy Communion to be only symbolic I pose a question.  How is it that in the same letter Paul describes the cup and bread which we bless as a participation in the body and blood of Christ?  Then he concludes, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.  You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons."   Demons are real and the sacrifices to them enable their worshippers to be partners with the demons.  The bread and wine which we bless brings to us the body and blood of Jesus.  

In the Mass, we enter into the Communion of Love.  If our eyes could be fully opened during Holy Communion, we would see a great Abyss of Love; the Love that is mutually shared by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  In the sacrifice of the Mass we enter into this Holy Abyss of Love.

Come home.  If you are at odds with your family, don't sulk and fume.  Get home.  Get back together and enter again into the love of family around the family table.  Be forgiving and ask for forgiveness.  

Let me take this up a notch and ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to come home.  Let's be separated no more.  What we have in common is greater than what separates us.  Forgive me in whatever way I have offended you and kept you from seeking fellowship with me at the Table of the Lord.  

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, make us one family, one faith, one in love through the body and blood of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Mountain Top Experience - Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - June 7, 2009, Year B
By Dennis Hankins

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Theme: A Mountain Top Experience

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. (Matthew 28:16)

The last words I heard my daddy say to me were, "I love you too, hon."   It was something of a climatic moment, although I did not know two days later I would no longer hear his voice.  I remember how lucid and soothing his voice and these last words were to me.  They echo in my memory, his voice still as comforting and enriching as that last time we spoke on the phone.

Jesus had some final things to say before his Ascension.  There were last minute words to impart, direction that needed to be shared before he was received up into heaven.  Love for the world he died and rose again for filled his mountain top conversation. Encompassing the magnitude of his appearance that day on the mountain was the revelation there is still work to be done.  That work remains unfinished to this day.  Much as been accomplished, but greater works are yet to be done!

Gathering his family out of every tribe, tongue and nation under heaven remains the task of the Church.  Jesus' departing remarks remind us that our fellowship is with the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It is this fellowship which gives us the inspiration to go into all the world.  

There are at least three points to note in Jesus' final words to his disciples.  

There is first a Commission.  "Go...and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."   Under the authority of Jesus, the Church baptizes in the name of the Trinity.  This baptism brings each of us into the heart of God.  So complete is this rite of initiation that it is correctly understood as a transformation; a change within making every son and daughter of Adam a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  At work in this transformation is the Spirit of adoption.  We now call God our Father!  

Within Jesus' exhortation is also revealed the need for Catechesis.  Formation requires information.  The Home and the Church are to teach what Jesus taughtGood preaching and teaching of the faith is necessary to make disciples.  The number one complaint of adults who find their way back to the Church is that they were not taught or not taught well in their formative years.  

We cannot impart what we do not possess.  If our grasp of the ancient tradition and creeds of our faith is inadequate, our love for the truth will become lukewarm.  

A common phrase accompanied by a yawn from too many today is, "Whatever"!  What is at stake is whether there will be a vibrant and prophetic witness from the Church of tomorrow.  But the mandate to make disciples begins in the home.  Within the domestic church there must reside in Mom and Dad the boldness to impart the faith of the Church to the children.  The promise of life in the Spirit is to your children and your children's children.  This is the heritage we must pass on! 

 Every Dad and Mom have to find the courage to live what they believe in their home.  The most impressionable people in the world are those who rely on Mom and Dad for food, clothing and shelter.  However, no one can live by bread alone.  Matters of the heart matter, and if the hearts of our children are not shaped and moulded by what we believe, then Susie and Johnny may not know what it means to be led by the Spirit of God.

Before those eleven disciples stood the resurrected Lord.  They worshipped him, but some doubted.  Some doubted!  After Pentecost, there were no more doubts. Peter, dripping with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, found his backbone.   Reminding every one of the words of the Prophet Joel, Peter preached, "This, what you see and hear, is that which Joel the prophet declared to us."  Sound teaching, teaching that reveals the living Jesus comes from hearts who have the heart of God beating in there chests.  

On that mountain top that day, I imagine Jesus stopped for a moment, letting his eyes meet their eyes.  Stepping forward and opening his hands inviting them to come closer as well, Jesus says to them, "I am with you always, to the very end."   We are promised His Companionship.  Nothing less than the friendship of Jesus will accompany all that we say and do.  

What was it that kept the early Church faithful and true?  Even in the face of great persecution and martyrdom, how was it that the Church remained vibrant and powerful?  Upon threat of punishment, early leaders of the Church were commanded to 'speak no more to anyone in this name.'  But even this did not deter evangelism. Why not?  The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.  The Holy Spirit, sometimes described as a 'wind from heaven,' made the friendship of Jesus as real to His followers as he was when he walked among them.  

Let us take our mountain top experiences with Jesus and become His face in our homes, our places of work, and for our brothers and sisters sitting next to us in the pew.  

Let us prayGlory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:  as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Words of Wisdom by Robert P. George, Princeton University

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gravely Wicked    [Robert P. George]

Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing.  The evil of this action is in no way diminished by the blood George Tiller had on his own hands.  No private individual had the right to execute judgment against him.  We are a nation of laws.  Lawless violence breeds only more lawless violence.  Rightly or wrongly, George Tilller was acquitted by a jury of his peers.  "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord." For the sake of justice and right, the perpetrator of this evil deed must be prosecuted, convicted, and punished.  By word and deed, let us teach that violence against abortionists is not the answer to the violence of abortion.  Every human life is precious.  George Tiller's life was precious.  We do not teach the wrongness of taking human life by wrongfully taking a human life.  Let our "weapons" in the fight to defend the lives of abortion's tiny victims, be chaste weapons of the spirit.

 — Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton


Reflections on the Readings

Pentecost Sunday - May 31, 2009, Year B

By Dennis Hankins



Acts 2:1-11

Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23

Theme: Be Filled with the Spirit

``O Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the Name of Jesus...Renew Thy Wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost!''  Pope John XXIII

Is there anything you are attempting to be or to do that can only succeed if God is with you?  Are you attempting anything that depends upon the empowerment of the Holy Spirit?

On this Day of Pentecost we enter into the Liturgical Season of Pentecost.  It is a time we embrace again the extraordinary birth of the Church.  It is through the Holy Spirit the Church says, "Jesus is Lord."  This confession brings the Church into the unlimited realm of divine love, a love that cannot fail.  On the Day of Pentecost the Church was confirmed in its calling to bring Jesus to the world with power, signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Spirt. (see Hebrews 2:4)

Just a cursory reading of the Acts of the Apostles reveals the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church.  Grace, signs and wonders, and Christian witness declaring with power Jesus to be the Son of God brought the Church into the world of its day.  The spirituality of the Church was and is a personal communion with the Father and the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

It is this witness, this power of grace and holiness Blessed Pope John XXIII prayed for.  The meaning and motivation of Vatican II came from his heart as a prayer for the Church to live out the fulness of faith in the wonders and renewal of the Holy Spirit.  

As many of you know, I was raised Pentecostal.  I remember the ridicule of name calling.  It was the standard fare of 'holy roller' and 'snake handler.'  Of course neither was true of my local Pentecostal church.  And if any Pentecostals did that, I would have thought they were weird too!  There are many good things I remember about my Pentecostal church.  For example, there was good, powerful, biblical preaching, intense prayer for the sick and the sinner, and a joy about Jesus who was the same Jesus of the Acts of the Apostles.

Growth in grace would intensify if on this Day of Pentecost and every day we prayed, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations. Through Christ our Lord.  Amen." 

Every one of us is invited to drink of the one Spirit.  This is an invitation to live deeply in that Spirit which is from above.  We can only resist the 'spirit of the age' by the Holy Spirit.  Life in the Spirit is in contrast to the obvious works of the flesh such as sorcery, idolatry, drunkenness, orgies and the like.  It is the holiness of the Spirit's presence which brings us to love the truth, and empowers us to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit such as joy, peace, patience and generosity.  Such is the kingdom of God and so much more.

Astonishment and amazement gripped Jerusalem on that first Day of the Church.  They were captured by hearing in their own tongues the mighty acts of God.  The Spirit brought the gift of tongues on that Day of Pentecost so that the Church could speak to every one gathered in their own language.  Often a similar gift of tongues comes with the release of the Spirit in us.  Does everyone speak in tongues?  Not necessarily, but sometimes in prayer in can occur along with sighs too deep for words. (see Romans 8:26)

You see, it is not for show that we are to be filled with the Spirit.  Rather, it's so we may put on Christ worthily, without reproach.  My brothers and sisters, we are new creations in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit.  If the same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead, dwell in us, how might we be more prepared to turn the world upside down again? (see Acts 17:6)

Come Holy Spirit, and fill us.  Fill every fiber of our being, renewing us in the spirit of our mind.  Fill our hearts, our words, our thoughts, so that in every way we can be the face of Jesus to everyone we meet.  Amen.