Friday, December 30, 2011

A Mother's Thoughts

Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God - January 1, 2011 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

A Mother's Thoughts

But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Do you remember hearing for the first time what your mommy always knew about you? Mother's are like that. They are intuitive - often unerring about what they have reflected on about their husband or children - thoughts that lay deep in their hearts for many years. And then you make that major decision and Mom says, "I always knew you would one day decide to do that!"

Mary, the Holy Mother of God, carried many thoughts about the words given her by Gabriel and Simeon and Anna. The deep mysteries of our redemption became the focus of her meditation - of her deepest prayers - voiceless prayers of her heart when her lips moved but not a sound was heard. Hannah, who bore Samuel the prophet, prayed that way. Now Mary, whose Son was Prophet, Priest, and King, prayed too. Then one day a sword pierced her heart. News came to her that John the Baptist had declared her Son to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

She was probably not more than 16 years old - maybe only 14 or 15 years old the scholars speculate. The Mother of the Redeemer learned somewhat abruptly through the visitation of Gabriel that she was 'highly favored by God.' And the salutation, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" left the young virgin 'troubled.' And no one is without sympathy for Mary when she questions the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"

Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a Son, and that she should name him Jesus. And then the angel erupts with a litany of greatness concerning this child:

He will be great.
He will be called the Son of the Most High.
He will possess the Throne of his father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.
His kingdom will have no end!

So how will all this come about? Gabriel gave three words that convey why nothing will be impossible with God. In answer to Mary's question, "How shall this be?" Gabriel said, "The Holy Spirit." The greatness of the Deity revealed in the Incarnation is mediated by the Holy Spirit - the power of the Most High, overshadowing Mary. This is how Jesus became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Perhaps Mary recalled the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of her people. Before time was ever measured, the Spirit of God hovered over the dark waters, when the earth was still without form and empty. Mary would remember when God formed Adam of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. Her thoughts would recount how the Spirit of God came upon the prophets and prophetesses of old and overshadowed Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Law. In that moment of contemplation she received courage born in her by that same Spirit helping her to say, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And as quickly as Gabriel came he left her to 'ponder these things in her heart.'

Mary wants us to come to her Son and she wants us to invite him into our hearts as she invited him into her womb. It is Mary who shows us the way to have an affection for Jesus that is intense and heartfelt. Here, in the spacious depths of our heart, we can discover the friendship of Jesus. There is room in his heart for us. Is there room in your heart for him?

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to meet Jesus, to have all the riches of the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2, 3) There is far more than a superficial acquaintance awaiting us in Christ; for our life is hidden with Christ in God. Mary lived her life with an immense awareness of Christ. May we learn to see through Mary's eyes and understand with her what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ and be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-20)

As we come to this Holy Table let us pray: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.'' Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

St. Augustine on Sheer Grace - A Christmas Thought

An Excerpt From a Christmas Sermon
By St. Augustine, Bishop

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time... Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Christmas Story

Reflections on the Readings

Christmas Mass at Midnight - December 25, 2011 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For Sunday

The Christmas Story

For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

"Once upon a time," is often the beginning of a good story. The Christmas story, however, is earth's best loved story. It is a story that has no beginning nor does it have an end; it's origin is eternal and it includes you and me. Children are taught that Santa's as old as his tongue and a bit older than his teeth! But the Christmas story is because God is.

Before there was ever a tick on a clock or a calendar to mark the days of a week or the months of a year, there was Christmas. St. Peter taught the early Church that our redemption was not accomplished by perishable things like silver or gold. The precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish bathed our sin infested soul. In the eternal environs of holy love Jesus was destined before the foundation of the world to be the one born in the city of David, the Savior of the world. (1 Peter 1:19-20)

It is good that every Christmas we reflect more deeply upon the mystery of faith. Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, teaching what had been hidden from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 13:34) He said things like, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." (Matthew 13:31)

There is a connection between the mustard seed and Jesus whose birth we celebrate tonight. The most vulnerable and smallest of all humanity is a baby. And when the time came for Mary to have her child, she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. From the first reading the prophet Isaiah explains the hope and promise wrapped up in swaddling clothes. "His name is Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace," Isaiah shouts. And the government rests upon the shoulders of this little boy child lying in this manger. And of the increase of his reign and of peace there will be no end. Can we together say, "Hallelujah!" O Holy Night, the night our soul truly feels its worth.

Twenty-one centuries ago, in the tiny village of Bethlehem, the mystery hidden for ages in God, lay in a manger. And ever since that first Christmas night, the unsearchable riches of Christ has been the treasure trove of the Church. In the Church we learn of Christ and through the Church we hear the voice of Christ inviting the world into the deepest things of God, the wisdom of God kept secret in a mystery, a mystery that is a fellowship in the friendship of God. It is an abyss of love from which we learn to forgive each other as God in his Son forgives us. It is where our hearts reach for the heart of God. In this holy embrace our fearful and faithless hearts are healed - here where deep calls unto deep - and the great and intended reason for Christmas is revealed to us. (Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corithians 2:7)

A manger as the first bed for Jesus remains one of the most poignant moments in salvation history. Perhaps it happened this way to remind us we will not find God in the predictable but rather in the place of seclusion, the place away from the crowds and the noise and hustle and bustle of life. There does not seem to be much room for him in those places. There's not a doubt in my heart that Mary and Joseph tenderly kissed the face of God that holy night. And from the realms of glory angels made haste to proclaim to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night the good and glorious news. Perhaps the angel of the Lord said to them, "Go! You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Go! Make haste. And kiss the face of God."

Like the shepherds let's also expect to see Jesus. When we come to this altar this holy night, may the Lord help us to see him for the first time again. Here before us the grace of God appears as we heard in the second reading. Jesus comes for our salvation and for the salvation of all humankind. He comes to judge the earth and the world with righteousness and the nations with truth. It is the very love of Christmas itself we receive tonight when we eat this bread which is his body and drink from this Chalice the precious blood of Christ. This is the heart of the Christmas story - a story that grows dearer with every Eucharist and the passing of the years until time shall be no more!

Let us fall on our knees and hear the angel of the Lord say again, "I bring you glad tidings of great joy which is for all the world; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Merry Christmas!

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. You can email him at His website is:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Promise of Christmas

Reflections on the Readings

Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 18, 2011 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For Sunday

The Promise of Christmas

Gabriel said to Mary, "For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:37, 38)

A colleague of mine has a little 3 year old boy. She recently explained to her little feller that together they would make a birthday cake for Jesus. She told him how Jesus' birthday was coming soon. I think she wants him to know that Christmas is a promise - a promise made to the Virgin Mary that her son will be called the Son of the Most High - the King whose first throne was a manger.

The first reading reminds us of a promise God made to David. David desired to build a suitable shrine for the ark of the covenant. For several years the ark was kept in tents while David went about the business of solidifying his kingdom. So it came into David's heart, after many years of warfare, that now in an era of peace and a comfortable palace of cedar for himself, that he should build a house for the Lord.

Through Nathan the prophet God makes a promise to David. David is promised a house, a dynasty. And God promises that he will be a father forever to the house of David and to his decendants. And the grand finale of God's promise is that David's kingdom will endure forever before the Lord. Fast forward to today's Gospel and we read that Gabriel is sent by God to the city of Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name is Joseph, of the house David; and the virgin's name is Mary. Luke wants us to note the connection to the promise made to David. God promised David a dynasty, a dynasty that became the basis of the expectation of an anointed king whose kingdom would have no end.

The very first promise of Christmas came in the Garden. You remember how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sought to be like God without God. That fatal meal from the forbidden tree was not a simple stubbing of the toe. Theologically it has always been described as the Fall. Humankind became estranged from the God of love through sin. It wasn't an accident or a simple misunderstanding. The whole event altered the humanness of humanity. And God, whose love never lets go, promised the serpent of old, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15)

Grace is greater than our sin. When we grow in that grace we learn to overcome sin. And when we stray from that grace, as we do, our humanness falters. And our time making a good confession as we are invited to do during Advent, restores again our soul - the promise of Christmas grace becomes the only gift we really need. I think it is this love of the Father and the grace of Christmas and all the promise that Christmas holds for the world that we should think about and pray about this final week of Advent.

The power we need to help us be our true selves is not wrapped up under the Christmas tree. My dear brothers and sisters, the promise of Christmas is not a thing but a person; the person of Jesus the Christ. It is Jesus Christ who inspires hope and causes the weary soul to feel its worth as the song O Holy Night reminds us.

Our Salvation depends on whether or not Mary those many centuries ago really found favor with God. If she did not, then let us eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Let us be consumed by all that glitters and glows and throw caution to the wind. If Gabriel did not visit Nazareth and bring Mary God's loving message then we are perilously lost.

But the promise of Christmas is real. It's as real as the faith of a child whose eyes glow at the wonder she beholds in the holy creche. And our faith is reminded today of the power of Christmas - For with God nothing is impossible. Mary's full consent is an example and invitation to us to open ourselves freely to God's power of faith and hope and love- the greatest of these is love. It is the greatest power on earth because it comes from the very inner life of the Holy Three in One. The mystery of our selves as creatures made in the image of God is illumined by that love, with the power to cover a multitude of sins. An old song comes to mind entitled the Love of God:

"Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made; Were every stalk a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love God above would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky."

Lastly, the promise of Christmas is about our destiny as sons and daughters of God. At this Holy Eucharist we partake of the divine nature. Here we commune not as strangers but as brothers and sisters in Christ. May we become what we eat and drink - the very face of our Lord and Savior. This is my prayer as I come to this Table with you this morning. Let us make a throne of our hands and partake of the very promise of Christmas - the Son of God - the Son of Mary. Amen.

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. You can email him at His website is:

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Spirit of Joy

Reflections on the Readings
Third Sunday of Advent - December 11, 2011 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

The Spirit of Joy

Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."

This third Sunday of Advent invites us to rejoice. We rejoice because Christ is near. Very soon we will follow the Holy Family as they travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And before you know it, today's joy will erupt into a heavenly crescendo of tidings of great joy and an invocation of peace to all of good will.

Joy is listed as one of the nine fruit of the Spirit by St. Paul. (Galations 5:22) Mary's joy is revealed in her spontaneous praise for the gift she carries within her womb: "For he who is mighty has done great things for me." It is this holy gift in the Virgin's womb which inspires in each of us this morning the Spirit's joy. Even the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaped in her when the voice of Mary's greeting was heard.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose is poetic and romantic; however, the Magnificat is about a divine romance and joy. Christian joy is not fickle or even dictated by one's circumstances or emotions. The joy of the Lord comes to us from the heart of the Holy Trinity carrying with it the indescribable mystery from which it comes. This is why John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb. It is the reason we 'lift up our hearts' in worship this morning. The mystery of our faith helps us to look Godward. Our journey through Advent brings us to contemplate the Word made flesh and the Word descending from heaven with a shout and with the voice of the archangel when time shall be no more. This joy is ours to lift us up to where we belong - seated together with Christ in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:6)

Yet some will become Scrooge like and say with exasperation, "Bah! Humbug! Cynicism suggests that all of this joy about Jesus is misplaced. That Jesus is a fraud. That Mary and Joseph are impostors. That all of this 'peace on earth' and 'tidings of great joy' is gibberish and nonsense. Scrooge needed the visits of the three spirits of Christmas - Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come to overcome his cynical view of the great day called Christmas. We need an infusion of the Holy Spirit to inspire in us a spirit of praise and joy for Christ - to help us to keep Christ in Christmas and help us to honor the Christ of Christmas and keep him first all the year!

We need the same Spirit that hovered over Mary and incarnated Jesus in her womb - the Savior of the world. This same Spirit hovered over the great abyss of earth and mediated the gracious creation we today call home. It is this Spirit we need to awaken in us the unfathomable riches of our inheritance. Mary proclaimed that he who is mighty had done great things for her and God wants to do great things for you and me as Pope Benedict stated recently.

So today we don't embrace the scowl of the naysayers. We won't quench the Spirt nor despise the anointed preaching of God's word to us today at Mass. We will not forsake coming together as the people of God. Nor will we neglect to prepare our hearts to receive him who loves us. In everything and at every opportunity we will give thanks and rejoice always and never give up praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)

Paul and Silas are examples of this tenacity of faith and spirit of joy. They were imprisoned for delivering a slave girl of a spirit of divination in the name of Jesus. Her owners, now deprived of a source for their income brought charges against these godly men. What were these trumped up charges? Paul and Silas were arrested for advocating 'customs not lawful for Romans to accept or practice.' Does anyone else see political correctness in this? (Acts 16:16-21) Taken into custody, Paul and Silas were severely beaten and incarcerated with their feet placed in stocks.

At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns while the other prisoners listened. And suddenly there was a great earthquake that shook the doors of the prison open and every prisoner's feet were set free from their stocks. That's the fruit of joy - the reality of the divine romance - a love and grace poured out in the darkest hours of their ordeal. Peter wrote about this kind of sustaining joy. Writing to early followers of Christ he said, "Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy." (1 Peter 1:8)

In today's Gospel John the Baptist explains that there is 'one among you whom you do not recognize.' It is this Jesus we seek to reveal in our lives and in our conduct and in the words we speak. The joy of the Lord enables us to be the very face of Jesus in a time that does not always recognize him.

Today we come to renew our deep and divine romance with Jesus our Lord. And like John the Baptist who said, "I am not worthy to untie his sandal straps," we will say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." And Jesus will say, "Enter into the joy of your Master. All things are ready. Come and dine." Amen.

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. You can email him at His website is:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

According To His Promise

Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Advent - December 4, 2011 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

According To His Promise

But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. - 2 Peter 3:13

Patience and perseverance, and a reason for hope, and the supremacy of love eternal is the message of the readings for today. Even the cosmic fire in the second reading is a purifying fire - not a destructive fire in the nuclear bomb sense but rather a fire that leaves new heavens and a new earth in its wake.

We are a people who are heirs to a promise. Peter recalls this promise by describing the long patience and love of God - a God not wishing that any should perish, but that all should find Him through repentance. Metanoia is a way of life for us - availing ourselves of the grace that is greater than all of our sins. We do this by making time for the sacrament of reconciliation. And in our confession the promise of love's pure justice is renewed in our hearts.

It is the warm justice of godly love we are called to emanate like living embers burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit. We are to be imitators of the divine love in all of our relationships. This high and holy calling is worthy of our consideration in this holy season of Advent. Advent truly is our opportunity to get the holy fire burning again in our hearts. Only four weeks are given for this so let's use them wisely and make room in our busy lives to rehearse again the great and precious promises of Christ. Let's use this time to find the grace that is proper to this season and keep Christ first always and always first at Christmas time.

Contrary to popular 'holiday' activity Advent is not pre-Christmas and Christmas is not over until Epiphany. The rhythm of life is not found in sales and more sales and then the sale of the year. Advent helps us to regain the true vision of Christ's coming into our world and how he will according to his promise come again. This promise strengthens us in the nasty now and now and makes us eager to be found at Christ's coming without spot or blemish or anything that is not worthy of the name Christian. Jesus makes everything and everyone new in his love and in that we find the peace the world can't give and the times cannot take a way!

Advent reminds us that we are a pilgrim people; this world is not our home - here we have no lasting city. This was the revelation to Abraham and the faith he lived by. He saw with the clarity of faith the day of the Father's love gift to all the world - God's only Son given for the life of the world. (John 8:56) Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. Abraham looked forward to the heavenly fulfillment of God's promise of a home for him and for all the faithful of all times - a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 13:14; 11:8-16)

The secularist vision is not so heavenly inspired. Human progress is believed possible without God or of any remembrance of him or of any reference to him. In this world view only the productive and strong are deemed valuable and worthy of a world made in the image of man. St. Peter calls them scoffers who follow their own passions and say, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (2 Peter 3:3 & 4)

In the first reading the people of Judah are coming from Babylonian captivity. The time of their exile is coming to a close and the promise of home is beating in their hearts. The prophet speaks of God as a loving and caring shepherd. A 'voice' cries out, "Prepare the way of the Lord. Make a straight path through the desert - a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together. Here is your God - he comes with power and his reward is with him." How breathtaking this promise of a new day - of new heavens and a new earth!

As John the Baptist proclaimed, Jesus fills us with the Holy Spirit. Into us he pours the promise of his Spirit and under the shadow of the Almighty Spirit we find help in the day of trouble. But when the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night then will the heavens pass away and the elements will be dissolved with fire and the earth and the works in it will be consumed. Then will the Spirit bear us up on his pinions and bring us to the promise of new heavens and a new earth - a place where the perfect love of God is the law - and the glory of the Lord is the light of that eternal day.

The promise of renewal and greater participation in the Spirit is the blessing of this Advent. As we come to this Holy Table let's reflect on paragraph 1405 of the Catechism: There is no surer pledge or clearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth "in which righteousness dwells," than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, "the work of our redemption is carried on and we "break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Let us live this Advent being renewed in his promise - the promise of new heavens and a new earth - perfect love - "Marana tha!" "Come, Lord Jesus!" Amen.

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. You can email him at His website is:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Matter of Priorities

Reflections on the Readings
First Sunday of Advent - November 27, 2011 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

A Matter of Priorities!

"Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come." - Jesus

Time is a gift from God. Someone has said that how we use it becomes our gift to God.

If we use it to gain God's grace and forgiveness we will have invested our time wisely. If we are docile to the Holy Spirit and are quick to forgive one another we will have used our time for the things that really matter. If our families and friends see the goodness of God it will be when we take the time to be kind and generous and gentle and less suspicious. We waste the gift of time when we harbor resentment and point fingers of blame and shout each other down. It's not only a horrible waste of the time we are given on earth it is a wasteful use of the breath of God in us.

We need Advent don't we? We need this time to gain back our lives and reset our direction. The days are filled with less sunshine this time of year. But these are also days we invite more of the light of Christ into our hearts. Each week during Advent we will light one more candle to join the previous week's candle. By Christmas Vigil the Advent wreath will glow with the light of the candles and each one of us will be filled with the glorious light of Christ. As we give priority to waiting and watching and praying during these shortened days we are rewarded with a new and fresh understanding of the things that matter. And Christmas will come with fresher and deeper meaning for everyone.

The Advent scriptures are about the deepest hope and longing of the Church. Since the earliest days of the Church, the return of the Lord, his coming again, occupy the fervent prayers of the Church. This truth remains the blessed hope of every generation of the faithful. Its a hope we renew in a special way during these days before Christmas. Sure we should anticipate the glorious celebration of the Incarnation. But that moment in time reminds us that there is a time when Christ will crown his holy work of redemption with the shout of the Archangel and with the trumpet of God and we all shall go out to meet him. It is the fulness of time for which we live. And if we live in the fellowship of Jesus the Christ we have a living hope for which there are not words adequate to describe.

That day of the Lord does not come with any forewarning. We do not know the day nor the hour - whether evening, or at midnight or at cockcrow, or in the morning - but for those who live aware of his promise and pray to be found faithful he will come in power and great glory. And the angels of Bethlehem will join the angel chorus of that great day exclaiming, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty. Who was, and who is, and who is to come. Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power!" (Revelation 4:8-11) And perhaps we will join in and exclaim in the words of today's Psalm: "O shepherd of Israel, hearken, from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power, and come to save us!"

In this Holy Eucharist we celebrate the sacred promise of Jesus to come again. We know he will come again as he has promised because he comes in every celebration of this Holy and Sacred meal. And every time we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord's great work on Calvary until he comes again. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

In this communion we learn what really matters. Today let us make what matters most our priority every day. From this Holy Table may we take the grace we receive and share it in our families and with our friends and neighbors. As we have freely received let us freely give. Here in this Holy moment we are the clay and He is the potter; we are the work of his hands. May it please the Lord to use us for the greater work of his Kingdom - the greater work of mercy and justice and peace - embracing the priorities that matter if we are to meet the Lord when he comes again. Amen.

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. You can email him at His website is:

Friday, November 18, 2011

His Glorious Throne

Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ The King - November 20, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." - Jesus

His Glorious Throne

I heard a really good story today. It seems to me I am supposed to share it with you since it is right in line with the readings for today.

This is a true story. One of my colleagues at work told about a man caught shoplifting groceries at a local grocery store. My colleague and her sister watched as the man was retained with his two children hanging on to their daddy's pant legs as they cried. Then the sister of my co-worker spoke up and said, "He's with me. I'm buying those groceries for him." The store officials balked but finally gave in and let this advocate buy this man's stolen goods. The groceries came to about forty dollars. Outside the store the thief wept and tried to find the words to express his gratitude to his benefactress.

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."

Today's readings reveal to us a King who watches over the nations as the Great Shepherd that he is. However, past and present despots rule without any thought of him who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They relish their delirious self importance and live in the comforts and advantages they deny their citizens. Some even allow their armies to shoot upon their detractors who clamor for more than the crumbs that fall from their leaders' tables. Freedom of religious practices and piety of the Christian minorities throughout the troubled Middle East remains one of the vexations of our time. This is what happens when regimes, Presidents, Governors, and Legislatures, deny the King of heaven and rule without any fear of the Lord in their heart.

Not our King. He leads us beside the calm and refreshing streams of salvation. He withholds nothing from us. What's his is ours. The sweet yolk of his love envelops his Kingdom and its citizens. His burden is light; the burden to love and forgive as he has loved us and forgiven us. His people know he cares for he comforts all who mourn. He keeps their tears as trophies and hears the cries of the orphan and the widow. The solitary and the stranger are welcome into his family. This Kingdom of his love is called the Church - the body of Christ. In her is found the living water that brings us to the love of the Lord she serves.

Through the sacraments of the Church we meet Jesus. In these sacraments we encounter the grace of Christ who restores our soul. Even though he sits on a glorious throne high and lifted up, he always comes to us and leads us through the dark shadows and valleys of this life. Into the light of a better day he is leading us. And when the devil comes among us to lure us back into the shadows, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah will roar with the power that raised him from the dead. We need not fear any evil for Christ our King is near and watches over us from the top of the mountain over yonder! He never will leave us nor forsake us. This is his promise.

Today, as every Lord's Day, he invites his anointed ones, you and me, bathed in the waters of baptism and anointed with the oil of confirmation to his Table. Crucified love spreads this table before us. Calling us to himself from our fractured lives and brutal weeks at work, he brings us to himself and his peace. Here where nothing can separate us from his love, we are nourished on the love that hung from a glorious cross. From the cross he said to all who would hurt and offend in his holy empire, "It is finished." This is a special day, and a special moment with him who from his Glorious Throne presides over this holy meal and says to you and to me, "Come and eat. This is my body and this is my blood."

Praise to you Jesus Christ, King of Glory!


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. You can email him at His website is:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Building Up the Kingdom of God

Reflections on the Readings

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 13, 2011 - Year A

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For Sunday

Building Up the Kingdom of God!

But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. (Matthew 25:18)

I work as a Customer Service/Lead Agent for a bank Customer Service Center. Before my current position I took around 30,000 calls a year as a Customer Service Representative. A common call to the Customer Service Center is about a dormant account. An account becomes inactive when there is no activity into or out of the account for about two years. If the inactive status remains for another couple of years the account status is changed to dormant . Then, if the account remains dormant for another couple of years the account status is changed to escheatable and is turned over to the state as unclaimed funds. In effect it becomes buried treasure.

The treasure of marriage is highlighted in today's first reading. Finding a wife is a good thing and her worth is beyond precious jewels. She is known by her commitment and incalculable investment in the good of her marriage and home. Let's face it men, behind every successful man is a wife whose influence shapes the home into a haven of rest for her family. She makes room in the budget to house, feed, and clothe the poor. The good done by our wives goes mostly unheralded except in Proverbs chapter 31.

No grass grows under her feet. She coordinates a week's activities and responsibilities that would make many CEO's of large companies dizzy. This is in stark contrast to the servant who plays it safe in the Gospel today. Jesus calls him "wicked and slothful and worthless." I suppose this man thought his one talent was enough - but he lost even what he had. What if we play it safe and stay back and uninvolved but lose our soul?

Sometimes we just need our souls stretched out. The recent readings leading up to Christ the King Sunday stretch us. Jesus wants us to become his personal emissaries. He relies on us to build up his kingdom. He sends us out into the world to live for him and to lift him up. He gives us the light of his love and asks us to invest it in those loved less. We represent a kingdom that has no end. We must not become inactive, and dormant, and finally estranged from our maker and redeemer.

I remember an illustration concerning a Christian young man who went off to college. He decided that he would not bring any attention to his beliefs and Christian upbringing. So for four years he encountered no opposition; no one ever suspected that he was a Christian. In every way he denied the power of the life he claimed he possessed. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ needs tending and it needs sharing. It is also living and powerful and filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Jesus empowers us to be witnesses to redeem in his love a little bit of the world around us.

The Parable of the Talents help us to see more deeply into what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Are we grateful for the part he gives us to be his sons and his daughters in his kingdom? Certainly the servant who received five talents and the servant with two talents saw themselves in relationship with their master. With grateful hearts they looked forward to his return as children of light remaining alert and engaged in his work. They wanted to see his goodness multiplied in their efforts and the stewardship entrusted to their care flourish.

The two faithful servants wanted more - they desired more - they saw the potential in what they had received. The slothful servant was paralyzed with fear. Fear of failure or fear of risk impedes success and makes sterile what once had potential. The wicked servant congratulated himself and conjured up reasons why he was reluctant; why he played it safe; why he comforted himself in being lukewarm.

It may not always be convenient to show your true heavenly identity. But the incalculable investment you make to help someone see the love of Jesus increases the gift he gives you to share. The kingdom just gets bigger and the world becomes less dark!

The Lord is returning and his coming is not a surprise for those who expect him. But the wicked servant who buried his treasure also buried his belief in the future of the kingdom of heaven. The master upon his return was not impressed with his recalcitrance.

My dear brothers and sisters, all of us have something to add to the community of faith and to the world in which we live. We are each endowed with varying abilities. Some of us may be gifted with much. You may feel limited in your abilities. But all of us are called to do the good that he gives us to do. To each of us the Spirit gives us gifts to share. If we do not fulfill our calling we become inactive and dormant.

To keep us always alive in his love our Lord gives us himself - his very self - in this bread which is his body and in this wine which is his blood. This living sacrifice is for our good - for the good of His Church - for the good of the world. Receiving him increases in us the goodness that comes from Christ in us. In this Holy Eucharist Christ gives us an increase of his kingdom; he gives us his help to build up the kingdom in our families and in our world. Amen.

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. You can email him at His website is:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Will You Be Ready?

Reflections on the Readings
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 6, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins

Will You Be Ready?

Jesus said, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

Through the years, I've heard my share of scary sermons about the end. I hope my title for today's reflections doesn't frighten you. It's not my intention to scare you.

In fact, I believe that if you will read to the end of these thoughts and reflections that you will be blessed. I invite you to begin first with the Readings For This Sunday

After all these years I still cringe when I recall the 'Jesus is coming soon' revival sermons I heard growing up. I suspect some of them could've been rated 'R.' There still exists in some church traditions a predictive tone to 'end time' speculative preaching. Prophetic speculators link the daily headlines to apocalyptic scripture and folks begin to squirm in their seats. And to soothe their conscience they buy up the preacher's Prophetic Bible Charts and End Time writings creatively captured in book form.

There is no end to speculation and predictions and setting of dates for when Jesus will come again. Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted the world would end this past May 21, 2011. The 89 year old was absolutely certain of the date the world would end.

He didn't know.

He couldn't and we can't know that either. Jesus clearly states that you and I do not know the day nor the hour. But that is not so much a handicap as it is an opporunity. Jesus is stressing the need to be prepared - to be eternally vigilant - to always live prepared to meet him at a moments notice. This is the good news. Compared to the sermons I referenced above, this is very good news. I'd rather live preparing to meet my maker than to live afraid to face the sunshine of a new day. How about you?

The truth is Jesus does not want us to be afraid. He wants us as we heard in the second reading to console one another about his promised return. We are to speak words of hope, not despair. We are to speak to one another about our deep expectation that our Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And both the living and the faithful departed will rise to be forever in the presence of him who loved us and gave himself for us.

The five wise maidens show us the blessings and joy of being ready to meet our Lord when he comes again. They brought extra oil for their lamps so that they could always be ready for the coming of the bridegroom. At any time throughout the night hours they were ready because of their foresight and preparation. Today's Psalm captures what it is we hope for. It is God, the living God for whom we wait. Our very bodies anticipate a change; our flesh pines for him; our soul thirsts for God. We lift our hands and call upon his name. We meditate upon these things; we muse upon his promise that he will come again and receive us unto himself so that where he is we may be also.

For two thousand years the blessed hope of the Church has been its belief that Christ will come again in the clouds of glory. Sanctified by her trials and temptations; beautified by her martyrs; adorned by her love for the poor and downtrodden, her faith has rested on his promise that he will come again. Crowned with the kindness of Jesus she has gone in Christ's name into all the world wiping the tears from every eye and comforting all who mourn. For two millennia she has healed the sick of soul and body and embraced the hurting with the tenderness of a mother. It is not some craftily devised fable that keeps the Church going. It is the promise of Jesus himself who said, "I will come again, and in my Father's house are many mansions!"

Time has not diminished the story of our bridegroom coming again nor has the calendar aged his bride the Church. Every Sunday, the day of the Lord, we gaze upon our Savior in the sanctuary. He comes to us in power and great glory again and again with all the angels and saints and we with them cry Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord. He gives us the great riches of his body and blood; the great banquet that fills us with every bodily and spiritual grace. This Holy Eucharist is the closest of moments we have with our Lord as we gather here this morning under the shadow of his wings and shout for joy.

Behold the bridegroom! Come and meet him!

And those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Amen.

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. You can email him at His website is: