Monday, May 31, 2010

The Memorial of our Redemption

Reflections on the Readings

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 6, 2010 - Year C

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

The Memorial of our Redemption

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. - St. Paul

Today's Gospel foreshadows the Passover Jesus will celebrate with his disciples.  The action is the same here as in the institution of the Eucharist.  Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives in the multiplication of the loaves and fish to feed the multitude.  On the night Jesus is betrayed, the disciples will witness this taking, blessing, breaking and giving again, but in a deeper meaning; Jesus explaining in the giving of the bread, 'This is my body,' and in the giving of the cup, 'This is my blood.'

From that upper room, the disciples carried this understanding of the Last Supper every where they preached.  St. Paul, from the first century explains the same tradition of faith to the Corinthians:  

The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you."  In the same way also the cup, after supper saying, "This is the new covenant in my blood."     

Some things should never change.  The meaning Jesus ascribes to the bread and wine at the Last Supper falls into this category.  St. Cyril led the Church of Jerusalem during the early part of the fourth century.  He also affirms the tradition of faith concerning the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist stating: "When the Master himself has explicitly said of the bread, 'This is my body,' will anyone still dare to doubt?  When he is himself our warranty saying, 'This is my blood,' who will ever waver and say it is not his blood?"  St Cyril continues, "With perfect confidence, then, we partake as of the body and blood of Christ." (On the Mysteries, 4th Lecture)

The Church approaches the Eucharist as the source and summit of her life in Christ.   Cyril of Alexandria of the early fifth century states, "We celebrate the unbloody sacrifice in the churches, and we thus approach the spiritual blessings and are made holy, becoming partakers of the holy flesh and of the precious blood of Christ, the Savior of us all."   

From the earliest days of the Church, the Supper of the Lord is celebrated as the memorial of her redemption; as a proclamation of the Lord's death until he comes.  Now twenty-one centuries later the Church still receives by faith the body and blood of Jesus; not by sight, not by taste nor by smell, but by faith.  If we can believe, the bread is the body of Jesus.  If we can believe, the wine is the blood of Christ.  As we in faith receive this Sacrament, we are united with Jesus.  As we together in faith partake of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, we who are many, are one in Christ. 

Great is the mystery of our faith; great is the memorial of our redemption.



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Contemplation of the Divine Nature

Reflections on the Readings
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - May 30, 2010, Year C
By Dennis Hankins

The Most Holy Trinity - A Contemplation of the Divine Nature

"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." - Jesus

As I grow older, I find myself willing to let some things go unsaid.  I'm discovering a little more patience can go a long way, but not because it wouldn't be good to speak or to intervene.  It just might not be the right moment.  Perhaps that child or spouse will be more prepared to hear and listen at another time.  Just like it is for the disciples, they are not ready to hear it right now.

"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now," Jesus says.  Even with that said, Jesus opens for his disciples and for us a door to contemplating the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the very mystery of God in himself. (Catechism #234

Jesus promised the Spirit of truth saying, "He will guide you into all truth."  And what kind of truth is it?  The Holy Spirit guides the Church to contemplate all that is shared between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he (i.e. the Holy Spirit) will take what is mine and declare it to you.  In our contemplation we witness the mutuality of exchange, the complete living for the other, of the Blessed Three in One.  

If the Holy Spirit leads us, and he will, we can see with the very eyes of our heart the drama of divine love.  To contemplate the divine nature is to muse upon this extraordinary love; the height, the width, the length, and the breadth of the love of God.  And if the baptism of the Holy Spirit is anything, it is most assuredly the love of God poured into our hearts.  

Paul, who spoke and prayed in tongues more than anyone, describes tongues of men and of angels without love as a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If one possesses prophetic powers, understands all mysteries, has all knowledge, and faith enough to remove mountains, without love he is nothing.  Nothing, absolutely nothing is gained without the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. 

It is the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts and our minds to the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  If we are wary of his inspirations, we cannot be fully grateful for our salvation. My friend, let us contemplate this:  

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the spirit of sonship.  When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17)

The ecstatic prayer, "Abba! Father!" is a prayer inspired by the Spirit; the very Spirit who make us not slaves, but sons and daughters of the Most Holy Trinity - partakers of the divine nature.  True worship starts here.

It is Jesus who describes true worshippers and they are those who worship the Father in spirit and truth.  In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the 'Spirit of truth.'  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.(John 4:22-24) And so joining with all the choirs of heaven, we lift our voices in the Holy Spirit to proclaim the power of the love of God, and to sing of our salvation in Christ: Holy, Holy, Holy, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.  

Let us Pray: Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace to continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Rush of a Mighty Wind - Pentecost Sunday

Reflections on the Readings

Solemnity of Pentecost - May 23, 2010, Year C

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

The Rush of a Mighty Wind

And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

Turn to page five in your Pilgrim's Guide. 

Everyone attending a Cursillo Retreat is familiar with the opening prayer of every talk given.  On page five of the Pilgrim's Guide is the prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us your faithful and kindle 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.

I have been to three Cursillo Retreats, first as a candidate and twice as part of the leadership team.  Each time I witnessed the wind of the Holy Spirit blow into our midst changing us, reviving us, and imbuing us with a power not of this world. 

We assign labels to people and their experiences.  Especially we do this to people and their experiences we don't understand.  Let's try it once: 'Those tongue talking, shouting, imbalanced, off center, holy roller Pentecostals. Who do they think they are?  Some might even laugh along.  It is good to note that those tongue talking, holy shouting, imbalanced, off center, holy rollers, also emulated the master in their prayers, their fasting, in their caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, and embracing each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord.  The full gospel is what they call their experience in the Lord.

Jesus says, "the wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit."  Claiming an ability to predict the effects of the Holy Spirit on a believer is akin to claiming absolute certainty about the origin and destination of the wind.  It is a futile effort.

This is not to say the Holy Spirit is chaotic.  Just the opposite.  He works upon the dismal abyss of our chaotic lives bringing order, design, and beauty.  Temples of the Holy Spirit is what St. Paul calls us.  Only the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit can effect such creations of new beings.  We ought to pray often, inviting with expectation, the Holy Spirit into our lives, so that  we might always be 'new creations' in Christ Jesus.

Pope John Paul II in TERTIO MILLENNIO ADVENIENTE  speaks eloquently of the role of the Holy Spirit in the 21st century and in the new evangelization.  It is the Holy Spirit that makes possible the religion "of dwelling in the heart of God," of sharing in God's very life, says John Paul II.  Expanding on this the Pope quotes the Apostle Paul saying, "God has sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba!'  'Father!'"  

Speaking of the new evangelization, JPII again, "In our day too, the Spirit is the principle agent of the new evangelization. Hence it will be important to gain a renewed appreciation of the Spirit as the One who builds the Kingdom of God within the course of human history and prepares its full manifestation in Jesus Christ, stirring people's hearts and quickening in our world the seeds of the full salvation which will come at the end of time."

We come today to the birthday of the Church.  Today is a good time to become docile to the Holy Spirit.  It is as necessary today as it ever was to be submissive to and led by the Holy Spirit.  He is the way, the means by which the Father and the Son are present to us.  Someone has stated that the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Spirit is the Love.  It is a mysteriously deep truth.  But Pope John Paul II says, "The Holy Spirit, who searches the depths of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10), leads us, all mankind, into these depths by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ. 

May the rush of a mighty wind descend upon our hearts! Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your people.  Awaken in us the joy of our salvation.  Renew in the Church the memory of her Lord. Enable her to shine the light of Christ without fear.  Blow O mighty wind of God upon us as in a new Pentecost, renewing in our day the power of signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit. 

And everybody said, "Amen!" 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

High and Lifted Up

Reflections on the Readings
The Ascension of the Lord
Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 16, 2010, Year C
By Dennis Hankins

High and Lifted Up

While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.

A favorite book of mine is, A Man Called Mr. Pentecost. It is the dramatic story of a legendary missionary to the Church, David du Plessis. I read this book for the first time back in the '80's. This book is an account of a Pentecostal minister used to bring the message of the Pentecostal movement and experience to the historic churches and ultimately to the Vatican. Reading it really softened my heart toward the Catholic Church, preparing me to one day to unite fully with it.

Preparing for this Reflection on the Readings, I recalled reading in this book an account about Mr. du Plessis' father dying on Ascension Day. The book is not indexed, and not having time to read the book again, I did the next best thing. Well, the next best thing after thumbing through the book and Googling way too long attempting to locate the story.

You see, I believe my wife is related to St. Anthony. In our family, Debbie is known for her prayers to find things, like things I can't find even with my glasses on. Telling Debbie about my dilemma and how I wanted to quote this passage for this Reflection, and reminding her of her reputation, I asked her to pray. You're right. It was less than five minutes, and I turned to the right pages in the book. So here's the excerpt from A Man Called Mr. Pentecost.

One day early in 1961 (my father) said to my younger brother, Justus, one of the three of us who became preachers, "David may come to South Africa again this year, and, if you write him, tell him if he is coming, to make it before Ascension Day. I've asked the Lord to take me home on Ascension Day.

Justus was startled. "You can't do a thing like that, dad!"

"Well," father replied, "I don't say I'm doing it; I only discussed it with my heavenly Father. And if he approves, that is my desire. And I'm going to prepare for that day."

Dad's getting senile, thought Justus, and he never wrote to me. Neither did any of the other boys.

Late in the morning Ascension Day, a few months later, a pastor came to the house to pick up some of his camping gear that had been left there. He stopped to talk to dad.

"Grandfather (everyone called him that), do you still have some communion wine" Dad loved to grow grapes, and his vines were magnificent. He made unfermented communion wine that was a favorite of everybody.

"Yes," dad said. "I've got a gallon left and you're welcome to it."

Then he said, "You know, this is Ascension Day."


"Well, I've asked the Lord to take me home today."

The pastor assumed he was joking. "In that case, grandfather, please bring me the wine before you go."

Dad went into the house, fetched the wine and gave it to the pastor, who paid him for it. Then dad said, "I won't go to the garage with you. It's open, and you know where your things are. I feel just a little tired, and I'm going to sit down."
"That's fine," the pastor said, and walked away. After only a few steps, he heard a strange little sound---a "hallelujah." He looked around to see dad slumped in his easy chair. The pastor rushed over to him in the bright sunshine of the morning and found dad unconscious.

Just then, mother came out of the house, peaceful and serene, and walked toward them. The pastor was excited, "Grandma, grandpa's fainted."

Mother, smiling and calm, continued her slow pace toward them. "No, pastor he hasn't fainted. He's gone home."

"But, grandma, you take it so easy!" he nearly shouted.

"Oh, it's all right," she said gently. "I expected it. You see, he said goodbye to me at breakfast. He said the Lord might call him and he wouldn't be able to come and say goodbye."

Reverend Du Plessis was at Kennedy Airport in New York when he received the news from his wife.

I paused for moment, but felt absolutely peaceful. "That's just like old dad," I said half-aloud. "He waits until Ascension Day, and he goes up, too."

We live not only in the memory, but also in the meaning of the Ascension of our Lord. Each Sunday, on the Lord's Day, we are in the Spirit, at the celebration of the Eucharist.

At the Sursum Corda (Latin for 'Lift up your hearts') we ascend in the Spirit to enter with confidence the sanctuary not made by hands.

By the blood of Jesus we ascend into heaven itself, appearing in the presence of God, in Christ Jesus, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

Let us pray: Dear heavenly Father, help us to live and worship in the meaning of Christ's Ascension into heaven itself. Through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus, please keep us in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our Heart is His Home

Reflections on the Readings

Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 9, 2010, Year C

By Dennis Hankins

Reading for this Sunday

Our Heart is His Home

"If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." - Jesus

A familiar Easter hymn, 'He Lives,' has this resounding refrain: You ask me how I know He lives. He Lives! Within my heart.

Looking toward the cross, Jesus speaks of his glorification to take place by way of his Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension. Liturgically, we are moving toward the Ascension. Within the context of today's Gospel, Jesus speaks of Himself, his Father, and the Holy Spirit, personally present in those who obey his teaching.

His glorification is a restoration to the Father; his equality with God prior to humbling himself in human form. He refers to his Father as greater than himself not because they are not one, or that Jesus is not truly God. He is God in the flesh, God incarnated.

In contrast, the Father is greater in that he sent, that is he gave, his only son. Yet, God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. This is the mystery of our redemption.

In his high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prays to be glorified in his Father's presence saying, "Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made."

It is Jesus' return to the Father that completes and exalts his resurrection victory. From this exalted position he promises that he and his Father will come and make their home with us.

This they do so that we may be seated with them in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:1-7)

This they do so that we may receive all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who calls us to his own glory and excellence. All of this is ours so that we may escape the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and participate in and partake of the divine nature. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

This they do so that we may truly say our fellowship is with the Father and his dear Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)

Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? You bet we do. Through our baptism Christ is in us, the hope of glory. Through Christ we are embraced by the Father and the Spirit for we are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. (Colossians 1:27)

Do we pray often that in our lives the family of the Thrice Holy God may be glorified?

Will we personally turn toward these Holy Faces of grace and be illumined from within?

Filled with the Presence of the very origin of life and love, do we follow where that Presence wants to takes us?

Do we sense holy promptings to say with grace what we would prefer to say with anger?

Do we have holy nudges to write that letter, call that brother, or make that donation?

Do desires for the deep things of God go unheeded, opportunities to be silent ignored?

The challenge we face daily is whether we will let our heart reveal the Holy Fellowship we say we have. The hope of the world is in the obedient heart, the heart that is home to the living God.

Let us pray: Dear Father, help me to seek those things that are above, where Christ is; so that my heart may be where He is, by the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. Make my heart your home. Amen.