Thursday, January 26, 2012

With Undivided Devotion

Reflections on the Readings

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 29, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For Sunday

With Undivided Devotion

I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:35)

Our readings today speak of God's bigness, of his undiluted presence in us and in our world. The Messianic promise in Moses' speech to the people of Israel points to the time when the fame and love of Jesus will spread everywhere, exceeding the fame of Moses and Elijah and all the prophets. And in the gospel we observe Jesus teaching with authority and in his authority he delivers a man filled with an unclean spirit. In the second reading, St. Paul reveals his sense on the priority of our relationship in Christ.

It is no small thing when you discover that you can love someone. Married love is one such love. It is good and St. Paul recommends it when he says, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." Marriage is demanding and requires sacrifice because of concern and care for the other. The 'other' enters into a life long commitment to the 'other.' St. Paul highlights this when he speaks of how the husband and the wife daily live with the self-effacing agenda on how they may please each other.

Infidelity and other forms of immorality filled the culture of Corinth. A cosmopolitan city and a center of commerce, Corinth gave the known world some of the more potent forms of debauchery. The Church at Corinth was addressed by Paul concerning open approval of immorality of a sort not even found among pagans. (1 Corinthians 5) "And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you," Paul exhorts. To Corinth, Paul gave Jesus Christ and him crucified, the true lover of all humankind. And in that sacrificial love Paul teaches the Corinthian Church how marriage is truly a sacrament. It is not to be entered into lightly nor is the dignity of marriage to be altered by any who wish to swindle it of its true meaning.

Above I said it is no small thing to discover that you can love someone. I think that Paul in our reading today is asking the Church at Corinth and us to consider that it is no small thing when you discover that someone loves you. That someone is Jesus. The claims of Christ and the signature love with which he bathes the soul merits our undivided devotion.

There are those who may be described as cafeteria Christians. Picking and choosing the beliefs of Christianity that suit them such folks dismiss the beliefs they say are now archaic and unsuited for more enlightened people. The winds of change often bring division in the Church and destructive rhetoric to the ancient creeds. Introducing a weak understanding of those things cherished for two millennia grieves the Holy Spirit leaving the Church vulnerable and impotent. Is it any surprise why we find St. Paul boldly asking us today to embrace an undivided devotion to the Lord. If ever there was a time, now is that time, and we are that people whom the Lord asks, "Do you love me?"

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus inspired amazement and wonder in the synagogue at Capernaum. After Jesus taught that morning and then cured the man of an unclean spirit the people asked, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him." Then Mark notes that Jesus' fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee. I wonder if we might let our hearts be captivated again with the simplicity and fame of Jesus. Who else deserves our undivided attention? Sometimes we give ourselves to lesser things with lesser rewards and with even lesser endurance. It is too often that we give to these things that devotion of heart that is meant for higher and even deeper contemplation.

A divided heart finds healing in the holiness for which it was created. The first commandment is still etched in stone: I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. It is even better if it is etched into our hearts. We cannot serve two Masters. Without reservation let us return to our 'first love.' The Love that is from above loved us first and we can only love him as we ought when we truly understand that he loved us first.

There is no greater love and that love is left to us in this bread which is his Body and this wine which is his Blood. He has not left us. Jesus will never leave us because in this memorial of our redemption He comes to us again and again. In the vision of his Sacred Heart we are the focus of his affection. May we respond with an undivided devotion that cannot be satisfied with anything less than that love that is immeasurable, immortal, and immaculate. Indeed, this is a meal filled with all the memory and presence of that love that touched this world with its fame many centuries ago and has never let go. 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, January 20, 2012

The Time Is Short

Reflections on the Readings

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 22, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For Sunday

The Time Is Short

"I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short...for the form of this world is passing away." - St. Paul

Paul speaks of the end of time and how near it may be. From the beginning of the Church there have been wars and famines and pestilence and persecution, all of which have fueled expectations that time is short. Not long after Pentecost, immediate persecution of the people of the Way broke out. And the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by Titus, the son of the Roman Emperor, Vespasian, were regarded as 'signs of the times.' And merciless persecution and martyrdom like under the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, further persuaded the early Church that the appointed time was surely near.

The blessed hope is a hope we should reflect on as deeply as did the early Church - embracing the promise that it is. In this reflection I attempt to guide us into the patient endurance of the Church and the urgency and mandate she possesses to bring Christ to the world - while there is still time. As the early Church observed Jesus ascend into heaven, two men in white apparel said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) It is for this the Apostle Paul sought to convey some sense of urgency to the Church at Corinth. We do well to take heed.

Throughout history the Church has learned in every generation that the servant is not greater than her Master. "If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you," says the Lord of the Church. Our heroes are those who have 'fought the good fight and finished the race and kept the faith' for there awaits a crown of righteousness for everyone who will endure until the end.
(2 Timothy 4:7, 8)

Patiently the Church goes into all the world understanding that 'one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day with the Lord.' And persecution and martyrdom has not diminished the zeal and fervency of the Church's evangelization. It is not convenience that propels the Church into the world but rather conviction and her Lord's calling upon her for he who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap. (Eccl. 11:4) In 'season and out of season' the light of the people of God shines showing the way to the Father's house and Table. In the open and welcoming arms of the Church is salvation; now is the acceptable time; today is the day of salvation!

Throughout 1 Corinthians 7, Paul gives a vigorous defense of marriage. However, Paul teaches us not to have undue attachment to things that will cease when time shall be no more. He exhorts us not to be distracted by the joys or the trials of life. Paul warns us against the human propensity to see one's worth in what this world gives - this world is not our destiny and it is 'passing away.' In marriage or in singleness, a proper understanding is that we are in the world, but we are not of it. We are to hold onto the goods and the good things of this life with our eyes fixed on things above.

For two thousand years the Church has possessed a sense of urgency by going into all the world with the healing love of Jesus. In the first reading, it is necessary and urgent that Jonah preach to the city of Nineveh. Because of his three day preaching campaign, the people of Nineveh fasted and prayed and repented of their evil ways. Without Jonah's obedience those people would have perished under the judgement of God. But the people turned from their wicked ways and God looked graciously upon them. It is the same grace that comes to the world through us.

It is Jesus who first preaches the gospel of God and says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel." These words remain the inspiration of all that the Church does to reach every generation with the gospel. The gospel is Good News! When John was arrested and incarcerated, he sent two of his disciples to Jesus with this question: "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" And Jesus said, "Go tell John the Good News! Tell him what you have seen and heard. Tell him that the blind see, and the lame walk. Tell him that the lepers are cleansed and the deaf can hear again. Tell him that the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. Then whisper in his ear, 'And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.'" (see Luke 18-23)

In the Gospel today Jesus calls men to join him in announcing the fullness of time and the kingdom of God. He calls Simon and his brother Andrew and James and John, the sons of Zebedee to follow him and to become fishers of men. To them he revealed his kingdom of love and mercy and then he sent them into all the world to preach in his name the merciful love of God. His name has been proclaimed in the pristine halls of palaces and in the lowest ghettos of human suffering.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he gave his fledgling Church the Great Commission. (Matthew 28: 16-20) In that moment he promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us saying, "I am with you always, to the close of the age." Jesus is near us in the poor among us. He is close to us in the brothers and sisters we have in the family of God. Christ is beside us in the care we take to help our families grow in holiness. Jesus comes to us in the sacraments of confession and marriage and holy orders. This morning Jesus comes to us in this bread which is his body and this wine which is his blood. This is a special time to be aware of Christ in us the hope of glory. For now is salvation nearer than we we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11-14) 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, January 12, 2012

Pope John Paul II

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

His and His Alone

Reflections on the Readings

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 15, 2011 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For Sunday

His and His Alone

You are not your own; you were bought with a price. I Cor. 6:19-20

Tim Tebow loves football. But he loves Jesus first. Just ask him. He has captured the attention of football lovers by his talent and his testimony. This past Sunday night, 41.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the Jesus loving Tebow and the Broncos defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's true that not everyone is comfortable with folks who are very public with their faith. It's also true that we need someone like Tim Tebow to remind us that maybe we need to be more expressive and robust about our faith. What could it hurt? Or, conversely, how much better might things be if we were?

In the first reading, Samuel is under the tutelage of Eli the Priest. Hannah, Samuel's mother, gave her son to the Lord, fulfilling a promise she made a few years back. Barren and heartbroken, Hannah begged the Lord for a son with the promise that if the Lord granted her request, she would give him back to the Lord. God revealed himself to Samuel at a very young age, showing us a God who does not waste what we give to him and that no one is too young to hear his voice. Our Father always brings to fruitfulness anyone's life given to him. This is not just for our Priests and Pastors or Nuns or Monks or Hermits. No matter what our calling in life may be, God invites everyone of us to give him our all - heart, soul, mind, body, and strength. God wastes no life that is lovingly surrendered to him.

The invitation to be his and his alone is for every one. We are not truly ourselves until we are aware that we have been bought with a price that remains incalculable. "Going once, Going twice," the evil auctioneer sneered. The wind in the Garden grew still. The leaves hung in dismay and the animals gaped. And then out of the Royal place came the voice of our Redeemer, "With my own love I'll purchase this lost and weary race. Come here all you sons of Adam and daughters of Eve." And in a scene that still causes Angels to look deeply into with awe-struck wonder, the Son of God became the Son of Man and now all the baptized children of Adam and Eve are clothed with Christ. We are his and his alone.

A closer relationship with the Lord happens by taking up the disciplines of prayer, confession, and a renewed consecration of ourselves, our time, our talents, and our treasures, to have Christ's presence in our very bodies. Paul asks whether we are aware that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. God pours into us his Spirit to effect the redemption and reconciliation we need so that we can truly be united to the Lord, to be one spirit with him. (1 Cor. 6:17)

We are sons and daughters of him who loves us. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven and by the Holy Spirit was made incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man. In the Virgin Mary we sense how close God wants to be to us. Her humble and willing heart shows us the way to let God into our lives. Many hurtful and immoral substitutes entice us to forsake our first love for lesser loves and lovers. These denigrate the holiness of our high calling. It is you and me he has raised up by his power and through whom he desires to bring his presence into all the world. The ever Virgin Mary opened herself to the great gift of love and invited the love of heaven to fill her womb for nine months and her Sacred Heart forever. Dare we understand our role to be less or unnecessary or without consequence? St. Paul asks, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?"

We are bought with a price. It is the Crucifix that reminds us of the inestimable love of Jesus. We are not our own - nothing nor anyone nor anything else has the claim to our affections like Jesus. He is the 'Lamb of God.' Look at him and feel the pureness of his purpose - the wonder of his love - the majesty of his mercy - that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; the just for the unjust.

We are not our own for Christ has already spoken for us. Let us this Holy morning receive him with the anxious and heart throbbing anticipation of a bride adorned for her husband. We are the Church on which he has lavished his holy love. We take to our lips this sacred bread which is his Body and drink from this sacred Chalice his precious Blood. Let us do this not only for ourselves but also for the life of the world. May we re-enter the world this week with the life we have received and be temples of the Holy Spirit - people of God's love - his and his alone! The world needs more folks like you and Tim Tebow. 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:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Let There Be Light

Reflections on the Readings
The Epiphany of the Lord - January 8, 2011 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

Let There Be Light

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.

Duplicity and deceit breed darkness. These twins lurk in the shadows to maintain their existence. They feed on the unsuspecting. They avoid detection by pointing out the faults and failings of others. And before the trusting and the loving realize they've been duped the twin towers of terror crawl back into the covering of darkness. Such do not inherit the kingdom of heaven - a place of great light - for God is light and in him is no darkness.

The great and holy truth is that Light has come. Jesus, the light of the world, came to us to set us free from the dark and damp and divisive world of darkness. The wise men from the East were drawn to him and the world with them. Mary and Joseph cradled him. Shepherds were shown the way to him. "Go and find him!" the angel of the Lord proclaimed, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

The first reading explains vividly the darkness. The thick dark clouds cover the hearts and minds of the nations. But in the city of Bethlehem the promise of no more night and no more darkness is born. From the infant in the feed trough a Light shines upon the world. And everywhere on this planet this Light reveals the worth of everyones soul.

The revelation of grace in the second reading describes this Light as a mystery. It has become the stewardship of the Church to make the mystery of grace known. This Light of grace has been revealed announcing the end of division and strife - we are all members of the same body and coheirs in the promise we have of Christ announced to us through the gospel.

Together we are called to extend the Light of Christ. Through us this light is to shine to bring us together, to defeat all that offends the dignity of humankind, and to invite the nations and their rulers to this bright and brilliant Light. The united sons and daughters of earth can in Christ's Light and Love defeat the powers of satan and cradle in their warm embrace the weak, the weary, and the wayward.

It remains for us who are touched by the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes to go and tell of his coming from the tops of the mountains. The Christmas star is a light that causes us to rejoice. In its light we are led to the Light of heaven. All of the love of heaven, the glory of the Lord, awaits us in the feeding trough over yonder. To us and for us and for the life of the world, the true Light of our soul is cradled in the arms of Mary and Joseph.

But there are none so blind as those who refuse to see the goodness and the wonder of the Love Light sleeping in the manger. The eyes of their heart are blinded, not by too much light but by too much darkness. Blindness of soul and heart is the mission field of the Church. It is the old arena of the new evangelization - the hearts and minds and souls of family and friends who call darkness light and light darkness. For them we must let our light shine so that they may see our good works and learn to give God the praise that is due him. For them we must show the virtue of forgiveness. For them we must share the power of true charity - the unselfish love that desires nothing in return - a love that has no agenda - the love that is poured into us by the Holy Spirit - a love that has no other motive but the good of the other. This Light seen in this light helps us to see how dark the Darkness is.

Not all rejoice in the Light. For them we will pray. There is nothing more profound than human beings letting the God of Light into all of their life. Today we come to God's Light. We receive this bread as the very body of Christ. We drink this wine as his own precious blood. Into us this Holy Eucharist brings more of Christ's Life and Light. From this Holy Food we receive more of the heart and mind of Christ. From this Holy Communion we take into ourselves and into our world the Light of the world.

At this Table let us profess that we also have seen the Son of Mary and fall down and worship him. Amen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In Remembrance of Carroll Charles Hoffee

The Life and Love
Carroll Charles Hoffee
Fairfield, IL
April 14, 1928 - December 31, 2011

Psalm 98:3
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.

Psalm 98 is often associated with the celebration of the Nativity and the subsequent Season of Christmas. Carroll departed this life in the Christmas season, a season that reminds us of the deep love and affection the Father has for all of us. Carroll left us with the love and affection of the Father deeply planted in his heart.

Verse 3 of Psalm 98 states that God has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Many centuries ago, all of the love of heaven was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; a mere feeding trough. That powerful and victorious love found its way into the hungry and searching heart of Carroll Hoffee at the age of 19.

All of us have been touched by Carroll's life and love. And with God's love he touched us as a husband, as a father and father-in-law, and as a grandfather. He was proud of his family. He closely followed our ups and downs with concern and prayer and with deep and personal understanding - an understanding that was the fruit of his own many challenges and trials of life. He took note of our accomplishments and opportunities and proudly congratulated each of us with warm personal words.

He was a man who distinguished himself by perseverance, training, and prayer. Speaking of prayer, Carroll daily sat in his chair with his long prayer list of family and friends and prayed for each one.

Everyone in Fairfield, who knew Carroll Hoffee, knew him to be a man of integrity. For 36 years, Carroll had the trust of his employer as Office Manager of Southern Associated Lumber. And in his faith, he was a churchman of the first order. Several words come to mind when I think about my father-in-law: Reliable. Faithful. Leader. Teacher. Generous. A confidant. These are the qualities of a man who loved his family, his Lord, and his Church.

Carroll died this past Saturday morning, December 31, 2011. At 11:27 a.m., God graciously invited him into the eternal embrace of his love. It is Carroll's prayer that we will follow him where he has gone and be with him where there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more mourning, no more crying or pain, and no more death. Amen.

Condolences and thoughts may be sent to my wife, Debbie, at her e-mail address: