Friday, April 27, 2012

What's in a Name? - Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reflections on the Readings

Fourth Sunday of Easter -  April 29, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

What's in a Name?

They inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?"   Acts 4:7

Choosing a name for a baby is one of those thrilling realities for the expectant mom and dad.  Family stories abound about such things.  Thirty-five years ago this June I remember we had a boy's name and a girl's name picked out as we awaited the arrival of our first-born.  When our son was born we knew his name would be 'Timothy.' We chose that name because it means 'one who honors God.'  Pouring into him our love, the meaning of the faith, and teaching him the value of a disciplined life we watched him grow into a fine young man.  

However I must tell you that I spent many a night praying myself to sleep as Timothy tried other ways and things that did not match the meaning of his name.  But today Debbie and I are grateful that Timothy does honor God along with his wife Kristin.  And we are especially proud to announce that he is entering the seminary this fall to become a United Methodist pastor.

So, "What's in a name? someone may ask.  

Is there anything particularly special about the name of Jesus?  Does the name of Jesus signify something about his identity and mission?  The answer to both of these questions is, "Yes!"  Jesus means in Hebrew: "God saves."  At the annunciation the angel Gabriel gave the name 'Jesus' as the proper name of the Son of the Father.  His name expresses both his identity and his mission. (CCC #430) (Luke 1:31)  An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David,... you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20, 21)

Moses encounters the living God speaking to him from the midst of the bush that burns without being consumed.  He reveals himself as the God of the fathers:  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The combination of the voice and the unburned burning bush causes Moses to hide his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  But God tells Moses of his intentions.  He hears the cries of his people and he sees their oppression.  And in this revelation of himself he commissions Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.

Moses ponders one thing and asks the Lord, "If I go to your people and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"

God reveals to Moses his mysterious name, YHWH which means: "I AM HE WHO IS," "I AM WHO AM" or "I AM WHO I AM."  Tell them Moses, "I AM has sent me to you...this is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations." (Ex. 3:13-15)  In his name God reveals himself infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the "hidden God," his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men. (CCC #206)  The richness of the mercy of God came to the world in the person of Jesus.  By giving his life to free us from sin, Jesus reveals that he himself bears the divine name: "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will realize that 'I AM.'" (CCC 210; Jn 8:28 in the Greek)

Peter exclaims to the Rulers of the people and elders that it is by the mighty name of Jesus that the crippled man now walks and leaps and praises God.  Peter continues, "You crucified him, but God raised him from the dead.  This stone was rejected by you builders but it has become the head of the corner." 

Peter's sermon crescendos with the exalted name of Jesus.  He declares there is no salvation in anyone else.  There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  The Catechism takes up this theme: Jesus' Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the "name which is above every name." The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in his name. (CCC #434) 

The Church has her origin in the salvific identify and mission of Jesus.  In his name she proclaims to all the world repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  From her we receive in his name the sacraments that nurture our soul and that help us to grow in grace.  And in Christ's name she feeds the poor, clothes the naked, and visits those in prison.  In the precious name of Jesus she comforts the sick and soothes the trouble hearted.  She is the very face of Jesus glowing with the immeasurable depths of holy love.  And to every repentant heart she whispers the words of Jesus, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!"

The Catechism continues: The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer.  All liturgical prayers conclude with the words "through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words "blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."  The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." (CCC #435)

Many souls have left this world with the one word "Jesus" on their lips.  For two millennia mothers have caressed the feverish brow of their babies while whispering the holy name of Jesus.  At the meals of Christian families a prayer of thanksgiving concludes with "through Christ our Lord."  

Let this sacred name be the inspiration of your thoughts and words and deeds.  Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:17)  Amen.

1. Take the name of Jesus with you, 

child of sorrow and of woe; 

it will joy and comfort give you; 

take it then, where'er you go. 



Precious name, O how sweet! 

Hope of earth and joy of heaven. 

Precious name, O how sweet! 

Hope of earth and joy of heaven. 

2. Take the name of Jesus ever, 

as a shield from every snare; 

if temptations round you gather, 

breathe that holy name in prayer. 

3. O the precious name of Jesus! 

How it thrills our souls with joy, 

when his loving arms receive us, 

and his songs our tongues employ! 


4. At the name of Jesus bowing, 

falling prostrate at his feet, 

King of kings in heaven we'll crown him,

when our journey is complete.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Depth of Spiritual Ignorance

Reflections on the Readings
Third Sunday of Easter -  April 22, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Depth of Spiritual Ignorance
You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. - Acts 3:14

The mock trial and crucifixion Jesus endures and his resurrection from the dead makes Peter a bold and persuasive preacher of the gospel.  His transformation reminds me of how a potter transforms the clay in his hands into a beautiful and usable vessel.  What a difference fifty days make.  Peter is not the man he was.  A visit to an empty tomb and a sea side morning breakfast with Jesus make Peter a true fisher of men.

Peter is direct.  He's not pointing fingers.  He speaks with denouement as he ties together the great salvation story from Abraham to Jesus.  In a masterly and convincing way Peter discerns the heart of his own people without denouncing them.  He piques their interest with a simple explanation:  "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers."

He laments the spiritual ineptness embedded in the hearts of the Chosen people before him.  And I can believe that Peter replays the acts of denial of Jesus in his own heart.  Not many days ago Peter wrestled with the distance and alienation of his own making.  He didn't even stand with Mary and John under the cross of him he declared to be the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Some standing before him are aware how Peter denied the Lord three times and cursed and resisted the truth that once made him free.  

Only a few minutes ago just before 3 p.m., the hour of prayer at the Temple, Peter and John enter the Temple through a gate of particular splendor where a man lame from birth is begging alms.  This lame man asks Peter and John for alms.  And Peter explains, "I have no silver or gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."  And taking him by the right hand, he helps the man get up as his feet and ankles are immediately filled with strength!  The nameless man then enters the Temple area walking and leaping and praising God.  (Acts 3:1-10)

Imagine the commotion this causes.  For as long as anyone can remember this man has begged for alms.  And all are filled with wonder and amazement that he is now walking.  Of course the lame man introduces himself as the new friend of these two men he has just met. 

"What are your names again? he asks.

"Well, uh, my name is Peter and this is my good friend, John."

"Hey everybody, this is Peter and John," the once lame man exclaims.  Peter takes stock and understands he needs to explain some things now and quickly.  

Raising his hands to calm the crowd, Peter explains, "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we make this man to walk?"  He speaks like a shepherd; a new and welcomed feature of Peter's character.

And then addressing the crowd he recalls for everyone the event of not many days ago. 

"The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus," Peter reminds everyone.  Heads begin to drop.  Some were in that crowd before Pilate crying, "Give us Barabbas!"

"But what do you want me to do with Jesus?"  Pilate is thinking he should release Jesus.

"Crucify him! Crucify him!" Some in Peter's audience remember that day.  Some in that crowd were the ones in that other crowd chanting death to the Author of Life.  I remember being in that crowd chanting the same thing on Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion.  And on Good Friday I sang, "Were you there when they crucified, my Lord."

I bow my head and say, "Yes."

Then Peter says, "I know.  I was too.  You acted in ignorance.  But I...tears not yet cried run between the wrinkles in Peter's cheeks.  I knew him as the Son of God."  

We believe Mark composed his Gospel in Rome as a result of hearing Peter's preaching. (1 Peter 5:13) Mark recall's Peter's reflection on his denial of the Lord: "And he broke down and wept." (Mark 14:72)

With a heart shaped by events still fresh on his mind, Peter lifts his voice in the triumphant testimony of the early Church, "But God raised him from the dead.  To this, I can assure you, John and I are witnesses." (Acts 3:15)

Spiritual ignorance is a real and black hole of unbelievable depth and arrogance.  St. Paul addresses the darkness and slowness of the soul to believe.  He describes the message of the cross as a 'secret' and 'hidden' wisdom of God imparted by the Holy Spirit.  This message is, he says, for our salvation and glorification.  Paul recalls that none of the rulers of this age understood this.  For if they had, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."  (1 Cor. 2:6-8) 

Only for a little while is Jesus made lower than the angels.  He is crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one.  (Hebrews 2:9)  But in the Easter Vigil Proclamation we hear the words of rejoicing: 

O happy fault.  O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer.  Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!...The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.  (The Exultet)

As Peter finishes his irresistible discourse, the light of the Resurrection fills those listening to him at their holy hour of prayer.  A notable miracle has occurred in the healing of the man born lame, and a greater miracle is taking place as many of those who hear Peter's preaching, believe; and the number of men alone who believe is about five thousand.  

As for Peter and John, they spend the night in jail.  And the next morning they pierce the spiritual darkness again proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified who makes the lame to walk and the blind to see and the deaf to hear.  With power they proclaim there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men that can save us! (see Acts 4:1-4;10-12; 30-31)  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, April 12, 2012

The Gift of Each Other

Reflections on the Readings

Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday - April 15, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

The Gift of Each Other

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. - Acts 4:32

Bishop Stika reminds us to be the face, voice, and hands of Jesus to each other. A loving face is beautiful no matter how young it is or wrinkled it has become. There's something real and powerful about the face of a follower of Jesus glowing with the light of eternity. The same is true of a loving voice; a voice trained in the school of prayer speaking kindness and concern in words soaked in love. And loving hands bring healing and hope and comfort as though the nailed scarred hand of Jesus is doing the touching. Think about it. Am I the face, voice, and hands of Jesus in my family and in the community of the faithful and to my neighbor?

Jesus emphasized the 'face value' of his cause by giving a new commandment. Loving one another is a new commandment. Jesus gives us his example - the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. This love given and received as brothers and sisters in Christ is evidence that we are his disciples. One heart and one soul is a potent description of those who made up the nascent Church.

Today's first reading is full of challenge for all of us. In the earliest days of the Church there were great needs just like today. Some early followers of Jesus experienced the loss of family and home, so the Church was the only family they had. Others were more self sustaining and perhaps did not experience the disruption in their lives as some. But given the circumstances of the day, everyone responded to each other with generosity. Great grace was upon them all because each one valued the gift of each brother and sister in Christ. Many shared what they had and what they could. No one was left out or without. In their worship they prayed together and gave thanks to God for each other. And to this day we pray: "I confess to God and to you my brothers and sisters...pray for me to the Lord our God."

The royal law of love recognizes the importance and eternal worth of every soul. And Paul thought so much about it that he invited the Church at Galatia to embrace every opportunity to do good to all men, and especially to those of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

The greatest deficit (if I may be so bold to hold forth) in a congregation today is a selfless effort to be truly joined in heart and soul to each other. What passes as a 'fellowship of believers' is that everyone shows up at the designated times the doors open. Recognizing each other as a gift of God is profoundly more.

John the beloved writes in his first Epistle to perfect his readers in God's love: Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love...Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another...We love, because he first loved us. (1 Jo. 4:7, 11, 19)

John's words remind us of sacrifice, and tenderness, reconciliation, and what comes first. Who Jesus is rubbed off on John. He was the one closest to the Master at the table. (John 13:23-25) And then under the cross, John watched with Mary as Jesus gave the world the inexhaustible power of love. Jesus, the righteous one, looked from his cross upon his accusers and tormentors and lamented their spiritual ignorance and forgave them, for they did not understand what they were doing; the just dying for the unjust. (1 Peter 3:18) And Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him in that love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Dare we seek for this depth of spirituality? Dare we live another moment without asking God to infuse us with the understanding of this faith which works through love? (Galatians 5:6) As we pray together the Holy Spirit will lead us deeper into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There we witness the indescribable unity of the Father and the Son in eternal love. As we draw near this sacred inner court of perfect love we become more deeply aware of Jesus calling us to be one in heart and soul as he and the Father are one. In this immeasurable depth of holy love we hear Jesus say, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

Jesus invited Thomas to place his finger into his nail scarred hands. "Thrust your hand into my side, Thomas. Here, right here where the spear unleashed the water and blood from my body. Don't hold back in unbelief, but believe, my son. Believe!" Thomas believed because he saw with his eyes the Lord Jesus. But blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

The unity of the faith is revealed in the water and blood gushing from the riven side of Jesus. This great mystery adorns the living Church of God and is seen in Baptism and in the Eucharist - the water and the blood. This mystery is ours to guard and to nurture by praying that all divisions among us cease - forgiving each other as Christ has forgiven each one of us. The love that we expect from others is found in the love that we give. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38b)

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all. And in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is this faith, this baptism, and the one name by which we are saved. The forty-fifth Pope, St. Leo the Great, in his lessons on the mysteries explains that no one is the same after they come to the baptismal font, "for the bodies reborn become the flesh of the Crucified." Not literally, but spiritually, we receive in baptism the marks of the Lord Jesus. Salvation thus understood makes us more aware of the price of our redemption and of the trophies of grace who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Sound of Music is on my list of favorite movies. One of my favorite scenes is when the Captain recognizes again the gift his children are to him. Maria cultivates in them the gift of music and song and brings back the joy of family and music to the house. Captain Von Trapp recognizes the precious gifts his children are and his heart is softened and learns to sing and love again.

As in any family, it's too easy to take each other for granted. But we need each other very much. We often see in families the 'family resemblance.' You know those guys come from the same gene pool. But you look familiar to me as well. I think I know why. In your face I see Jesus, and in your voice I hear the kindness of our Lord. Is that a hole the size of a nail that I feel when I take your hand? 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, April 7, 2012



A Holy and Happy Easter to All!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Food for Thought

Reflections on the Readings
Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord - April 8, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

Food for Thought

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him up on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. - Acts 10:39b -41

One of the tragedies of our time is the disappearance of the family dinner. It's a tragedy because it means we are not getting together as families. We are not sharing ourselves nor what is happening in our lives with those closest to us.

There was a time when the family meal happened every evening. The family would sit down together and fill up on some good home cooking. In between a mouthful of mashed potatoes and meatloaf the stories of the day were told.

Nothing compares with a family dinner and that special time together. At the family dinner table broken hearts are mended, dreams are shared, and the wisdom of another generation is digested as well as the apple pie from great-grandma's recipe.

Favorite meals and birthday dinners and anniversary celebrations all involve lots of food. I celebrated my birthday this past Wednesday in the company of my family. There was too much food and too much cake and ice cream. But there was laughter and pictures and cards and presents and we all ended the evening with full stomachs and even fuller hearts. And I can't wait for the next time.

Food is important in the ministry of Jesus too.

Do you remember when Jesus fed the multitude? Stomachs began to growl. The little children began to cry the same tune: "I'm hungry mommy!" The day was almost gone and most families had not packed enough. Mom and dad began to calculate how far they were from home. Thousands had borne the heat of the day feasting on every word that fell from the lips of Jesus. But words don't fill stomachs and now the growing rumble of empty stomachs got the attention of the disciples.

Peter whispers to Jesus, "Better send the folks back into town before the stores close. If they stay any longer we'll have to feed them."

"That's a great idea Peter. Why don't you facilitate that!"

"Why don't I do what?" Peter asks.

"Feed them!" Jesus invokes.

Peter roles his eyes in disbelief. "Two hundred days of wages would not buy enough bread to feed this crowd," Peter fires back as whispering has given way to exasperation.

Someone near by overhears the conversation. Peter, James, and John are working on a strategy. "Hey mister." A little boy tugs on Peter's garment. "You can have my lunch." Peter looks down into the biggest eyes of generosity he had ever seen. Reluctantly he accepts the five small loaves of bread and the two fish from the little guy.

"This is all we have, Master." Peter explains. And looking into the doubtful eyes of his right hand man, Jesus whispers, "It will be enough, Peter. Thank you."

Looking up to heaven Jesus blessed and broke the loaves, and divided up the fish among them all. When it was all said and done the disciples took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.

Jesus connected with the history of his people and the giving of the manna when they were in the wilderness. Jesus feeds these people who also are far from home. The twelve baskets signified the twelve tribes of Israel. As the twelve disciples pick up the leftovers, they begin to understand their calling to give the world the bread of life.

Peter became restless after the initial reports of the resurrection of Jesus and decided to go fishing. James and John and others joined him. The fishing expedition went on all night and they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus called from the shore, "Children, have you any fish?" Not knowing it was Jesus they answered him with a disappointed, "No."

"You'll find fish on the right side of the boat!" Jesus shouts. Did they not try that area of the lake at all during the night? Nonetheless they get a catch of fish they could barely haul in. It's then that John, the beloved disciple says, "It is the Lord." It could only be the same one they saw multiply the loaves and fish helping them to catch so many fish. As they approach land they see a charcoal fire with fish and bread lying on it.

"Have you had breakfast yet, fellows?" Jesus asks.

Jesus waits until Peter's stomach is full before he asks the question. Peter can feel the eyes of Jesus looking into his soul. The warmth of the charcoal fire is comforting. The gaze into his soul is disturbing.

"Do you love me, Peter?"

Just a few days before Peter three times denied any knowledge or relationship with Jesus. His mind wandered as he now hears Jesus asking for the third time, "Peter. PETER! Do you love me?"

There is no doubt that Peter is thinking about that morning when he tells Cornelius and his household about eating and drinking with the Lord after he rose.

Luke tells us about two disciples walking home to Emmaus. It's about seven miles from Jerusalem. It might as well have been a hundred, for they were walking home with long faces and troubled hearts. Together they talked and soon they are joined by another. The stranger inquires about their long faces and they respond with disbelief that a visitor to Jerusalem would be unaware of the events that transpired there in the last few days.

But before they know it this stranger is massaging their hearts with the story of their salvation. He explains from the scriptures all the things that Moses and the prophets and the psalms say about Christ and his suffering and his destiny and glory.

The day now is far gone and night will soon be upon them. They compel their new friend to stay with them. As their new companion takes his place at their table, he takes the bread and blesses it, and breaks it, and gives it to them to eat. And immediately their eyes are open and they recognize the Lord who is with them. He vanishes from their sight and they make haste to return to Jerusalem that very night to tell the others that they have seen the Lord.

They find the eleven gathered together who explain, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then the two from Emmaus take turns telling them what happened on the road and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Some food for thought.

Happy Easter!

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: