Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Reflections on the Readings
First Sunday of Lent - February 21, 2010 - Year C
By Dennis Hankins
Surrendering to Love
By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the Desert. (CCC540)
I grew up as a Pentecostal in a community with a strong Catholic presence. I didn't learn what Ash Wednesday was all about until I was a young adult. I did know what Good Friday was. And most of the town did too. The businesses on Fourth Street, the downtown area in those days, would close from Noon until 3 p.m. Time seemed to stand still.
I remember that time well and the excitement I felt because I knew Easter Sunday was right around the corner. I was excited because soon there would be Easter eggs to hunt, and Brach's chocolate Easter eggs to consume. And how exciting it was to linger in front of the G. C. Murphy Co. Store gazing at the little baby chicks just behind the big glass store window.
Oh, Spring was in the air, and soon we would be singing to the top of our lungs:
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.
But what still captivates my soul is the memory of the solemnity that filled the air in my hometown of Huntingburg, Indiana on Good Friday. For several years now I have embraced that solemnity for the forty days that is called Lent, a period of self denial and uniting more fully to Christ's battle and agony. (CCC 2849)
Even though Lent starts in the desert, it is here with Jesus in the desert where the affections of our heart are examined and we learn to pray 'do not let me yield to temptation,' praying to be ruled by the love that is from above. (CCC 2846)
It is no small thing to learn how we might more freely surrender to this love:
That we might love Jesus more, better and always and others for whom He died.
To become more detached from stuff and things and more in union with Him who loved us and gave himself for us.
Embracing the way of the Spirit, as those who belong to Christ Jesus and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
St. Paul describes the passions of the flesh to include fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. (Galatians 5:19 ff)
All works of the flesh are antithetical to love.
Standing today at the threshold of Lent we have an opportunity to meet Jesus in the desert.
Here we will experience that in every temptation common to man our Lord provides the strength to overcome it.
Here we will discern that the power and attraction of fame is nothing compared to faithfulness and true worship.
It is here we will learn that it is no small thing to know how we might more freely surrender to love, the love we now receive and share with one another in this bread which is his body and this cup of blessing which is his blood of the new and everlasting covenant with us.
Let us pray: Dear Father, bless us with a greater understanding of meeting our Savior in the desert. As he was led by the Spirit into the desert, lead us also to meet him there and help us to not fear this holy season of Lent. Amen.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 7, 2010, Year C
By Dennis Hankins
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain." - St. Paul
He was born July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean. At age eleven, he went to sea with his father, completing six voyages before his father retired. In 1744, John was forced into service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich. Conditions on board were intolerable and the young John deserted. Shortly he was recaptured and publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman.
At his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship. This ship took him to the coast of Sierra Leone where he became the servant of a slave trader who brutally abused the young man. Conditions here were no more tolerable than they had been on the H. M. S. Harwich. Early in 1748, John was rescued by a sea captain who knew his father. This led to becoming captain of his own ship, a ship which trafficked in the slave trade.
John's early religious training came from his mother, who died when the lad was a young child. So it is no surprise to learn he had long ago given up on any religious convictions. However, on a particular homeward voyage, straining to steer his ship through a violent storm, all seemed lost and it seemed certain the ship would go down. It was then he cried out, "Lord, have mercy upon us." Later in his cabin, the young captain reflected on this experience and began to believe that God had met him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him.
His hymn of Grace is sung all over the world. There is no church of any denomination where his ode to Grace is not sung. The young John, an infidel and libertine, turned priest in the Church of England. His name is John Newton. His song is Amazing Grace - how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
John Newton's conversion began when he encountered his own insignificance and unworthiness, and cried out, "Lord, have mercy." Isaiah, St. Paul, St. Peter, and Moses at the burning bush, like John Newton came face to face with God's mysterious presence.
And we, when face to face with the body and blood of our Lord, are likewise convicted to affirm with the centurion of old, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
Let us pray: Dear Father, you sent your Son into our world that we might learn to grow in grace and in the holiness of your Spirit. Amen.