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 dennishankins@gmail.com His website is: www.dennishankins.com

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 dennishankins@gmail.com His website is: www.dennishankins.com

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 dennishankins@gmail.com His website is: www.dennishankins.com

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 dennishankins@gmail.com His website is: www.dennishankins.com