Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 26, 2010 - Year C
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins
An Angel at the Door (Part II)
"And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores." - Jesus
Last week I told about my Daddy, and of his compassion to entertain strangers and their needs. He did this believing that showing such hospitality to strangers, 'some have entertained angels unawares.' (Hebrews 13:2) Perhaps it is good to remember that Jesus said, "You always have the poor with you." (Matthew 26:11)
There are two types of poverty in today's gospel. On the one hand, there is Lazarus, described as a poor man. Obvious traits of his poverty include lack of food, inadequate clothing, and sleeping on the street. On the other hand, the well clothed and housed and fed rich man is poor in a worse way. I don't mean to minimize one iota the plight of Lazarus, the poor man. However, to be spiritually bankrupt with no concern for eternity and with no vision for those in need is to be poor. In comparison, Lazarus with only the dogs for his comfort, is a King in waiting.
Emperor Valerian ordered the beheading of Pope Sixtus II, August 6, 285, after the pope refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. Thereafter, a Roman prefect, coveting the riches of the Church, ordered Deacon Lawrence to hand over the Church's treasures. The good Deacon requested three days to gather up the Church's treasures. Lawrence, one of seven deacons of Rome, was in charge of distributing alms to the sick and needy. After three days, he invited the prefect to the anteroom where the Church's treasure was located. Opening the door, the prefect was greeted by the city's poor, sick and crippled. Enraged at this, the prefect ordered Deacon Lawrence to be grilled alive on a gridiron. According to tradition, he told his executioners, "This side's done. Turn me over and have a bite." St. Lawrence is the patron saint not only of the poor but of comedians as well.
From earliest times, the Church ministered to the poor. It is St. Peter who tells the man born lame, "Silver and gold have I none, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking the lame man by the right hand and raising him up, the man received strength in his feet and ankles. At this he went away walking, and leaping, and praising God.(Acts 3)
The record of the New Testament concerning the early Church is that there was not a needy person among them. Many who were owners of lands and houses sold them and donated the proceeds to the Church. Soon afterward, the Church appointed Deacons and the apostles laid hands on them to assist with the daily distribution to the widows and the poor of the Church. The Church from its beginnings lifted up the poor, advanced the dignity of women, and for these 21 centuries remains an advocate for the unborn, the elderly, and the marginalized of society.(Acts Chapters 4, 5 and 6)
It is St. Paul who reminds us that the strength of the Church is not according to worldly standards. Describing the foolishness of God as wiser than men, and the weakness of God as stronger than men, Paul explains: "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are."(1 Corinthians 1:24-28)
The Church turned inward will worry mostly about its coffers. The Church reaching out will be a Church filled with the compassion of Christ. The compassion of Christ poured out upon the weak and the foolish, the lowly and the despised reminds the Church of her true strength and power. It is from the cross of Christ the Church receives such divine energy, while never trusting in eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.(1 Corinthians 1:17)
Amos the prophet warns those who take their comfort in beds of ivory, who relax comfortably on their couches, with plenty to eat. "At ease in Zion," is how the prophets speak to the people; drinking wine from the finest bowls, massaged with the finest of oils, listening to the best music money can buy, while the poorer of the land can barely scrape up a meal. This is much like the rich man in today's gospel: clothed in purple and fine linen and feasting sumptuously every day, while Lazarus desired just the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. But even the crumbs are a feast beyond his reach.
The angels at the door are our neighbors. They come from all types of brokenness and bitterness, these sacred strangers among us. Within their hearts, however, remains the imprint of their maker's signature. From deep inside they cry to be loved, to be forgiven, to be born again. It is these, the fatherless and the widows, the bowed down and the captive, the oppressed and the hungry, with whom the Lord keeps faith.
When Lazarus died, he was carried by the angels of heaven into the presence of father Abraham. The rich man died and was buried. And opening his eyes in a place of torment, he cast a wistful eye upon Lazarus; whom he saw afar off, resting peacefully in Abraham's bosom. It is in this life we make the bed we will sleep on in the next.
Let us love one another with a generous heart of hospitality; for in so doing, some have, without even knowing it, assisted angels.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. His website is www.dennishankins.com
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 19, 2010, Year C
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins
An Angel at the Door
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. - Jesus
Daddy did not hesitate welcoming and feeding a stranger. I remember a Sunday in the fall of 1975. Daddy pastored Dierks United Methodist Church in Dierks, AR. Debbie and I were newly weds, and we were visiting my family at the time. All of us, Mom and Dad, we six kids and my wife had just sat down to a Sunday dinner. And then a stranger knocked at the door. While we all insisted on daddy to be cautious and not invite the hungry man in, Daddy was a man of faith. You see, he believed that passage that reads: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.(Hebrews 13:2)
There’s no getting around it. God does not take kindly when the poor and needy are ignored and worse yet, when they are trampled upon. Amos’ prophecy speaks to Israel’s attitude toward the poor of the land. Two Holy Days of obligation are addressed by Amos. The new moon occurred on the first day of each lunar month upon which a burnt sacrifice was offered. This consisted of two bulls, a ram and seven lambs along with various other offerings and libations. Like the Sabbath, the other day Amos mentions, no business dealings or ordinary work were permitted. These Holy Days were an inconvenience to those making their living exploiting the poor. And Amos reads their mail. He condemns, in no uncertain terms God’s displeasure with fraudulent business practices, false weights, high prices, even selling the refuse (the stuff off of the floor) of the wheat for a profit.
In short, Amos says, “You trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end.” But the Psalmist declares that God raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes.
I suppose my daddy’s soft heart in part was formed by the Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s. He quit school at age 16 to get a job to help put food on the family table. When his shoes wore thin and through, he put cardboard in his shoes to help protect his feet. He never really forgot where he came from. Nor did he neglect the gift of friendship given him by the Father of the poor.
To be sure, in the Incarnation we witness God’s embrace of the poor. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to participate in the relief of the poor saints of the Church in Jerusalem. In doing so, he speaks of Jesus, who though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich. This reference to the Incarnation means that Jesus embraces us in our humanity so that we can share in his divinity. This rich outpouring of his life for ours demonstrates that God in the flesh wills that we be freed from the poverty of sin and death.
Therefore we share out of our ability, so that those who have little or nothing can be freed from their poverty of hunger and thirst. This, one would think, is a no brainer. However, we still contend with indifference and judgementalism. “It’s not my problem!” some say. Others whisper, “She made her bed, let her lie in it.” “I don’t want my money supporting another welfare baby, let her have an abortion!” some say, chiding both the mother and the innocent baby.
Today’s words from St. Paul to Timothy appropriately challenge such attitudes. Paul explains that the man Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all. Furthermore he states how God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. While we pray for a quiet and peaceable life, we also pray to be godly and respectful in every way. That’s where the lost, the forgotten, those who may be counted as the off scour of the earth come in. It is in their faces we see Jesus. Do they see his in ours?
It’s a Wonderful Life! is one of my favorite movies. It’s story sheds light on our readings today. The old Bailey Building and Loan office helps the poorer clientele in Bedford Falls. But old man Potter runs the bank and owns most of the town. Mr. Potter describes the customers of the Bailey Building and Loan as the rabble of the community. And it is this attitude about Potter’s fellow human beings George Bailey addresses.
George Bailey says:
“Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book, he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be.”
George Bailey went on to argue that Bedford Falls needed the Building and Loan. “This measly one-horse institution,” he said was necessary. “If for no other reason than to have some place people could come to without crawling to Potter,” George said.
Potter’s response? “Sentimental hogwash,” Potter said.
We need more George Baileys because God likes sentimental hogwash!
At the end of the movie, the rabble that the Bailey Building and Loan had bailed out through the years now bails George Bailey and his B & L out of a financial disaster! The moral to that story is spread around some sentimental hogwash, you may need some yourself one day. Or as Jesus says, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations.
Jesus talks to us today about making friends of the poor; about using our money rightly as alms for the poor. Jesus commends to us the value of serving and discerning the needs of our day. In this regard, he says, “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
Looking toward eternity, we, the sons and daughters of the light are led by one master. It is our destiny to follow the example of him who for our sakes became poor. Jesus says, “When I was hunger, you fed me; when I was thirsty, you gave me a drink; when I was naked, you clothed me; in as much as you do this for one of these, you do it for me.” In serving the poor, we serve God; serving mammon we only serve ourselves. If we want to have a good commendation when we approach St. Peter, we want the poor shouting out, “He fed me, she dressed me, he gave me a drink, he visited me, she prayed for me, he wept with me.”
I don’t remember for sure If Daddy let that man in to sit at our table. But I do know that the door did not go unanswered nor the angel go away hungry.
Let us pray: Dear Father of every good and perfect gift, even Jesus our Savior. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, help us to be cheerful in our giving, to have willing hearts and open hands. Help us to treat your friends as ours. Amen
February 17, 1912 - September 4, 2010
A Service of Celebration of her Life and Faith
Saturday, September 11, 2010
By Dennis S. Hankins
In the gospel passage today, Jesus speaks of preparing a place for us. Grandma told me a few years ago she wanted this passage read at her funeral.
St. John 14:1-7
There’s No Place Like Home
It’s a familiar phrase; one that will help us to reflect on Grandma’s life, her love for us, and her faith.
No one can live 98 1/2 years and not create in the lives she has touched, a host of stories and memories that all of us cherish this day. These memories were created by Grandma and Grandpa, memories of how their lives and their love touched our lives. To us they opened their hearts and their home. For us they prayed, and I believe they will continue to pray for us. Prayer warriors don’t die, for they serve a living God; they know him who is the Resurrection and the Life.
So today is a day of celebration; a celebration of a life lived in simplicity and joy. Simplicity: because Mary and Dale McCollum did not need nor want the latest gadget or technology to make them happy. They were happy because they had each other, and Imogene and Carroll and their three talented and beautiful grandkids. In fact, Dale spent a lot of his time repairing the old tractor, because, well because it cost too much to buy a new one. The old one kept on pulling the plow and the planter just fine. Joy: because they both shared in a mutual faith and trust in Jesus Christ, remaining faithful and committed members of the Pentecostal Assembly Church of Mt. Carmel, Illinois, until old age overtook them.
Upon retiring from the farm, Grandma and Grandpa moved into town and took residence in a mobile home near their daughter, Imogene, and son-in-law, Carroll, and precious grandchildren. But life threw them a curve, and they lost their dear daughter after her long and hard battle with cancer. Grandpa lived out his days there, as Grandma tenderly cared for him.
As age continued to take over, and Grandma’s needs increased, Carroll and Agnes provided her much needed support. It is a grateful family that says thank you to them for all the ways they gave of themselves to assist Grandma in her waning years. And to the staff of Way Fair, we also say thank you for the daily care and attention they gave Grandma.
It was a particular honor to have Grandma live with us for about 3 1/2 years. Living with us, Grandma loved to help by peeling potatoes and folding clothes. Our three older kids taught her how to roll the papers for their paper route, and she looked forward to doing that everyday. She got to know Debbie’s piano students who came through our front door, and enjoyed visiting with them when she got a chance. Our home became her home.
There’s no place like home; this phrase certainly describes the kind of relationship many of us remember with Grandma and Grandpa McCollum. You see, they lived on a farm. Their family business consisted of planting corn and beans, raising cattle, and chickens. In time some of those chickens became Sunday dinner! How did those chickens make it to the dinner table? Dressing the chickens, I think is what they call it. I’m sort of a city boy, so I’ll leave my wife Debbie, and Dennis and Donna to their memories about this.
Grandma liked telling us about the good old times. For example, when Grandma and Grandpa got married, they had $25 between them; Grandma had $20 saved up and Grandpa had $5.00. Grandma’s engagement ring cost $10 and her wedding ring cost $5. Married in 1932, their first car was a one seater, 1927 Chevrolet Coupe. And their first corn crop brought 19 cents a bushel. And they were married for 56 years!
And as farmer and farmer’s wife, they prayed for it to rain upon the newly planted crops. And then they prayed again for the rains to stop so they could harvest the crops they had planted. One of my favorite stories is how Grandma could hear above the roar of the tractor, Grandpa singing to his heart’s content while plowing and planting the fields.
A lot of memories were created visiting Grandma and Grandpa at the farm. Swinging on the old red porch swing, the grand kids sat with Grandma and Grandpa and made pictures out of the lazy summer afternoon Illinois clouds. There were Sunday afternoon singings, celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries, and Grandma and Grandpa were there. Wherever the Gospel Melodies sang, they were there. And if you wanted to have a little reprieve from it all, well, you would go out and visit them at the farm.
There’s no place like home.
When I first met the Hoffee’s it was through Grandpa and Grandma McCollum. Being around the Hoffees and the McCollums was like being at home. My first date with Debbie happened at one of those Sunday afternoon singings I mentioned earlier. And everybody was there, including, you guessed it, Grandma and Grandpa.
I ate my last supper as a bachelor at, now your ahead of me, your right, at the farm. Grandma fixed a good ole country supper, and we visited in the living room. There was no TV, no computer, no email to check. Now, I can’t go a day without checking my email, while I keep getting invitations to join Facebook. I’m on Twitter, but I’m not sure how to Tweet. But Grandma and Grandpa ended their day like they began it for 56 years; they read the scriptures and prayed. And even when Grandma couldn’t remember how old she was, she could still quote the scriptures that lay hidden deep in the memory of her heart.
So you see, for me on the eve of being married to Debbie, being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house couldn’t have been more like home. I saw in them the same love for the Lord, they held to the same values and convictions that I grew up with. Grandma’s cooking was like being at home.
In every sense of the word, we can describe Grandma as a homemaker. She was always making something new; a dress, a new sport coat for Grandpa, or clothes for the grandkids. Quilting, embroidering, stitching and sewing, canning and preserving; all are the fruit of her gracious and talented hands; hands guided by a heart of love for her family. We all remember her dinners at the farm and the cakes, cookies and cobblers that followed. Any desert, whether square or round, Grandpa liked them all, and we did too.
Her devotion to the Lord included her love of teaching the small children for many years at the Pentecostal Assembly Church in Mt. Carmel, IL. And she and Grandpa had a heart for the orphans and the hungry kids of the world. They also enjoyed rich and enduring friendships at their church. By God’s grace and help, those many friendships will be renewed in a far better place.
As we honor Grandma today and hallow her memory in our hearts, lets think a little bit more about another home. For sure, our homes here, made by the families we grow up with, creates memories, important memories we pass down to our children. These memories are indeed the foundation of the memories we keep on making. But there’s another home I’m thinking about; the home Grandma talked about. She talked about it because all of her life she spoke of Jesus as her personal friend. In him she placed her faith, and in his name she prayed, taking everything to God in prayer. She believed God would do more than she could ever ask him.
The Sainted Apostle Paul speaks of being baptized into Christ, which speaks of a deep and personal relationship with Jesus. This immersion into Christ’s life I am speaking of is Grandma’s testimony; a testimony that inspires us to be sure that Jesus is our friend, too. This close and abiding presence of Christ in her life helped her to believe there’s a place Jesus calls, “My Father’s house.” This is why she could speak of heaven as going home.
I want to believe it may be like the birthdays, Sunday dinners, and anniversaries we remember having out at the farm. This reunion however, is more than earthly words can describe, and words to describe what form it takes may escape us now. But I can’t help but believe, that somewhere near the green pastures and the still waters, Grandpa and Grandma and Imogene will find each other.
You see we are pilgrims. Here we have no abiding city. The farm now belongs to someone else, but the memories are ours forever. What we have here is not forever. And people who think and talk like this speak of a particular kind of hope; a desire for a homeland, a better country, that is a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. A home.
Among all the angels and saints and the whole company of the redeemed, Grandma McCollum will find her new home. And in that place, there is no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for Jesus, who was Grandma’s light in this life, will be forever her light there.
We do not grieve as others do who have no hope; For we believe him who said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Truly, there is no place like home!