Friday, February 3, 2012

In Caring For Souls

Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 5, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

In Caring For Souls

I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. - St. Paul

There are some people you just enjoy being with. They add to your life and in their presence you feel special. When they leave you look forward to seeing them again and after they pass you still are filled with what they added to your life. I believe the converts gained by St. Paul had that kind of attachment to this apostle.

How could they not feel special? Paul was to them the aroma of Christ. Being in Paul's presence was like being in the presence of Jesus. Paul's prayers, his teaching, and his presence were filled with the unmistakeable fragrance of the Savior. Gathering the inquirers around him, Paul relates his encounter with Christ: "I have seen Jesus our Lord, and his light and glory knocked me to the ground and brought me to my senses. Before I met Christ, I persecuted the Church, but now, by divine intervention, I give you what I've received - a Savior."

According to the passage from Job today, life can be challenging. Job speaks of months of misery and nights filled with trouble. He goes to bed only to toss and turn and wonder when will the sun rise again. And before you know it, like a puff of wind, life is over and happiness still eludes him.

But hold the curtain.

A Cross rises above the mountains over yonder and in its shadow the broken hearted and the wounded are healed. Even Job comes to himself and proclaims, "Yet in my flesh shall I see God." And he does. (Job 19:25-26) He again rejoices that God is great and greatly to be praised. He ponders God's greatness revealed in the vastness of the universe and in his own heart. And in his contemplation I can imagine Job listening to the tender voice of God within him counting the stars and calling them each by name. And Job and you and me will sing again; touched by him who cares for our soul.

Like his Master, Paul brings empathy to all he meets. No one is beyond grace. All must be reached. Everyone must hear of God's love. Owing no one anything but love, Paul made himself a servant of all, that he might win the more. (Romans 13:8; 1 Cor. 9:19ff) Charging no one for his ministry, Paul labors the more fervently for the care of the souls he encounters.

Whether in person or by letter, Paul preaches the Gospel with the intent of persuading everyone that Christ is the Savior of the world seated at the right hand of the Father, and whose love is endless and whose mercy is without measure.

Much of Paul's ministry was rewarded with exhausting effort, imprisonments, countless beatings; many times he was at death's door. Five times he received forty lashes less one at the hands of the religious leaders of his day. Three times he was beaten with rods; once he was stoned. He endured three shipwrecks spending a night and a day adrift at sea. Sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure all were part of Paul's endless evangelization missions. And apart from all of these things he felt the daily pressure of his deep love and concern for all the churches. Paul travailed over his spiritual children urging them to embrace Christ without reservation. In all this Paul exclaims, "Who is weak, and I am not weak?"(2 Cor. 11:29) Paul found the blessings of the Gospel a reward filled with the eternal weight of glory, a glory he first encountered on the road to Damascus.

Jesus became all things to all people. In the Gospel today he is the physician for the fever stricken mother-in-law of Peter. For those filled with Satan's bondage he is the great deliverer. He is a spring of living water to all who thirst. To the dead in Christ he is the Resurrection and the Life. His flesh is the bread of life; and his blood fills the chalice of our salvation. The Shepherd of our soul comes to us in his Church offering us this memorial of himself. By this Holy Communion our soul is filled again so that we may meditate more fully on the mystery of his healing love. 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:

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