Friday, November 27, 2009

The Light of Hope

Reflections on the Readings

First Sunday of Advent - November 29, 2009 Year C

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

..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

King of Kings

Reflections on the Readings
The Solemnity of Christ the King
November 22, 2009 Year B
By Dennis Hankins

Jesus answered, "My kingship is not of this world..."(John 18/:36 RSV)

"You mean Jesus is not a politician, not a power seeker?"


"And if his kingship were of this world, his servants would fight for him to keep him from being handed over to the Jews?"


"And he really said his kingship is not of this world?"


"But you say he is a King?" 

"That's right!  And his kingdom is a kingdom of truth!"

"Truth? What is truth?"

And so it goes.  The question has been around about 21 centuries.  And for 21 centuries Christ's rule and reign has been a witness to the truth and the freedom his way, his life, his truth brings to all of us.  Unlike earthly domains of monarchs and rulers Christ's kingdom is not of this world; its citizens who are in the world also are not of this world.  

Let's hear that again. Here it is: Jesus and his followers are not of this world.  Never have been nor ever will be.  Our prayer every Lord's day is, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven."  As we celebrate the Kingship of Christ let us recommit ourselves to embracing in our hearts his Lordship, for the kingdom must first be in us.  

The first reading invites us to have a new vision of our King.  A new vision that his kingship is indestructible, and is open to all peoples, nations, and languages.  Under his benevolent Kingship is the mosaic of rich and poor, Kings and paupers, black and white, red and yellow, the halt and the maimed, the blind and the deaf, the hungry and the thirsty, all together saying by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is Lord and King forever and forever.  

We are called to carry this vision of our King everywhere we go, remembering that if we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us.  How desperately our times need your friendship and the friendship of the one in your heart.  We need a new courage like St. Paul's that says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who has faith..." (Romans 1:16) If this generation is to turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God and know in their hearts the forgiveness of sins then must the Church in this moment of history pray to be full of the life of her risen and ascended King.  

We know that the whole world is under the power of the evil one, (1 John 5:19) but greater his he who is in you than he who is in the world. ( 1 John 4:4) This is the faith of the earliest followers of this King.  And the King they followed is the same King we love even Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8) 

This liturgical year ends as history will one day end, in the revelation that Jesus is the firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth.  We have this Solemnity of Christ the King to remind us that we don't have to wait until the end of time to know and to proclaim the Lord is king, robed in splendor  and girded with strength.  We need not wait till the last day to know today that Christ's Throne stands firm from all of eternity; that he is high and lifted up and that his glory fills our lives, our Church and all of history and time.  

He is the Alpha and Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.  Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Father whose kingdom is love, and whose Son is our Sovereign, kindle in us the fire of your love by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  Now to the blessed Three in One be glory, and honor, and splendor, now and forever more.  Amen.     

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

Reflections on the Readings

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost - November 15, 2009

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

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.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Lesson of the Widow - Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reflections on the Readings

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost - November 8, 2009

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

God himself is a cheerful giver!  Is it not with joy he proclaims, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?"

And we know that in his generosity he who did not spare his own Son, gave him up for us all.  Furthermore, you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

So humbling himself, he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  

Jesus' interest in how people put their money into the temple treasury was not self serving.  Nor was he concerned if the offering was going to be good on this day.  His observation was much deeper and more importantly was about the inner sanctuary and its affections; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The widow in today's gospel provides a lesson about the affections of the heart.  While the rich gave in a measured way, she on the other hand, gave with a generosity of spirit, not counting the cost, putting in everything she had.

Little is much, when God is in it.  And God was in that widow's two copper coins, so much so that she put in more than all those who contributed that day.  In the hands of Jesus, a little boys lunch fed a multitude. At his command he turned mere water into wine.  And it was only the hem of Jesus' garment a woman with an issue of blood touched and she went home healed of her illness.  Yes, little is much, when God is in it. 

Some fail to give what they could spare, while others, like this poor widow give even what they need for themselves.  It is this generosity that caught the Master's eye.  It is this kind of abandonment Elijah asked for from the widow at Zarephath in the first reading.  And it was for that widow the jar of flour and the jug of oil never ran out.  She and her son were sustained on this miracle for a whole year.  It is impossible to out give God!

It is still this kind of generosity of soul and spirit that not only gains the smile and blessing of heaven, but it puts socks and shoes on kids feet, food in hungry stomachs, fresh well water in the villages, winter coats on the backs of the homeless.  This is the spirit of Christianity and its mission of the last two thousand years.  

Like a little leaven will leaven a whole lump of dough, those who bear the name of Christ, have done what they could, wherever they could, as often as they could.  Facing the great odds against him, Fr. Damien of Molokai, walked valiantly into the dark world of lepers. And the weary masses on the streets of Calcutta met Mother Teresa. Both bathed humanity in the love of Jesus.  

Can we capture for ourselves what was in that poor widow's soul that Jesus observed?  Somehow I think this reading is not just about the ability to give courageously and generously.  Though it is that.  It is giving not just what is in our hand, but becoming bigger in forgiving, in reconciling, in reaching out our hand first, breaking the ice and being the face of Jesus.  

I told someone this week God wants to bless him.  The young man replied, "Why?"  I said, "Because you're made in his image!"  He replied, "Are you sure about that?"  "Absolutely!" I responded.  It was a little seed sown with love.  Let us not sow sparingly lest we reap sparingly.  

It is Mother Teresa who reminds us, "We cannot do great things.  We can only do little things with great love."

This is the lesson of the widow.

Let us pray: Dear Father, what love you have poured upon us that we should be called the children of God. I give you praise in the mighty name of Jesus your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009 Article Recommendation from Dennis Hankins

Dennis Hankins has suggested this article for you on



This is a very special addition to this blog site. Please read and enjoy. Especially let us remember that 'what we have in common is greater than what divides us'!