Saturday, June 30, 2012

Reaching Out to Touch Jesus

Reflections on the Readings

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 1, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Reaching Out to Touch Jesus

For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well."

We don't know her name.  For twelve years she's suffered from an incurable flow of blood.  In his Gospel, Mark, gives us important details as to why she longs to be in the presence of Jesus.  But he leaves her and her story with us without giving us her name.  We know who is the ruler of the synagogue; his name is Jairus.  Perhaps Mark wants the Church to remember that anyone is welcome in the presence of Jesus.  Even the least among us is invited to come to Jesus.  For he who was rich for our sakes became poor that we by his poverty may become rich in the grace and love that are in him in abundance.

Jesus is our high priest.  He is moved by our infirmities and weaknesses.  Power is in him and in him our hope for life in its fulness is found in him.  In him we live and move and discover that we are created in his imperishable image.  In our creation we bear his likeness.  And in his redemption we receive his glory.  

I remember family trips in my childhood.  Late at night, while making our way home from visiting Grandma and Grandpa Hankins, my daddy would turn on the car radio. It seemed like every time he tuned in the station, the same program would be starting. Music swelled as the theme song began.  "God is just a prayer away," thundered the singer in a melodic and rich bass voice.  He paused as the chorus melted into a musical refrain. "This is the 'God Is Just A Prayer Away,' radio broadcast," he intoned.  And then he finished the beautiful song as the program began.  I remember how deeply moving that notion was to me.  God is as near as the prayer I breathe in the deepest part of my heart.     

Today's scriptures remind us just how close we can be to our Lord.  Jairus sought the Lord to ask him to come and touch his twelve year old daughter dying at home.  The woman with hemorrhaging in her body for twelve long years dared to press through the crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus' garment.  Both of these seekers of Jesus are motivated by a hope that is not of this world.  Hope is confidence that the night spent in weeping will find us rejoicing in him at the first rays of dawn.

Since the earliest days of the Church, those who reach out to touch the Lord know him in the most personal and profoundly deep fellowship.  The Apostle John describes those who listened to Jesus and looked upon him in awe.  And then in a tone that is remarkable in its simplicity and trust he says, "Which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, the word of life." (1 John 1:1)  

When we receive Holy Communion, we believe that Jesus is among us, just as he promised: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." God is reachable. He is touchable. Nothing can separate us from the love of God — not sin, not disease, not even a pressing crowd. 

For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well." And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Be bold. Reach out. Your faith has made you whole.

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:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


This prayer and other resources and daily reflections concerning Religious Liberty at:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
June 24, 2012 - Year B
A Burning and Shining Lamp
And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?"  For the hand of the Lord was with him. 

Today we rejoice in the birth of John the Baptist.  We give God praise for the important link and voice He is in the history of salvation.  Elizabeth and Zechariah conceived him in their old age.  In the course of his ministry to burn incense in the Most Holy Place, Zechariah was visited by the angel of the Lord.  There in that holy moment and sacred space Zechariah received a promise of a son.  In a moment of disbelief citing both his and Elizabeth's advanced years, the angel of the Lord struck him with muteness; a condition he bore for over nine months.  

John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah.  In this he fulfilled the anticipation of Israel of a second Elijah.  He lived in obscurity in the desert region sustained by locusts and wild honey.  His clothing was a garment of camel's hair accented by a leather girdle.  His preaching was fearless in speaking truth to power.  And with his words he invited his countrymen to turn their hearts toward God by receiving his baptism of repentance at the waters of the river Jordan.  We can safely say John the Baptist was a sight to see and compelling in his preaching. 

John was a man sent from God to bear witness to the light.  John was not the light but he was a light; a very brightly burning and shining lamp.(John 5:35) Through his testimony he let his light shine so that others could see the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  With his life and words he pointed people to Jesus.  He served with humility when explaining the goodness and Godness of Jesus saying, "I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet."  Rejecting the notion that he was the Christ, John the Baptist said, "I am not he.  I must decrease, but he must increase."  Such an integral link in salvation history is John that the earliest Church sees its beginning in the preaching of John the Baptist.   

All of us are called to be like John in pointing our family and friends to Jesus and his friendship.  Like John we too can be a burning and shining lamp.  This is an important truth for our time.  Letting our light shine so others can see the goodness of God is what we do.  This of course means praying that the Holy Spirit will give us the guidance and the courage to be faithful Christians.  This faithfulness is important in the lives we live at home and at the job and wherever we may be.  In our desire to live peaceably with everyone we cannot become complacent in our hearts nor take for granted our freedom in Christ or our religious liberty enshrined in our Constitution.

For Father's Day I received a special card note from my son. In his own handwriting he said, "Pops, thank you for teaching me about Jesus. Love, Timothy."  Maybe one day when by God's grace you stroll through the Pearly Gates someone will thank you for letting your light shine so that they too could meet and get to know Jesus and his love.  By all means let us be like John the Baptist, a burning and shining lamp.  Amen.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sowing the Seeds of the Kingdom

Reflections on the Readings

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 17, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Sowing the Seeds of the Kingdom

And he said, "The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how." - Jesus

All around us gardens are growing.  Seeds planted not too long ago are bursting out of the ground revealing all of the life that is in that seed.  And very soon we will have corn from the cob stuck in our teeth while we feast on the goodies from the garden.  All of that good and healthy array of vegetables started from a seed or plant.  Someone did the work of preparing the garden spot.  Someone made the effort to do the perspiring work of planting and watering and weeding their garden.  And then it pays off.  What a miracle a garden is and brings to our lives.

You and me are to bring to our families and neighbors the miracle of the kingdom of God.  This kingdom is in each of us.  Jesus said so.  He said, "The kingdom of God is within you.  It's not here or over there.  It's within you.  Now give what you have received so that others may have within them what I've given you." 

There is nothing more fundamental to a harvest than first there is the sowing of the seed.  Planting seed is an act of faith.  Everything that is done leaves you looking over the soil that is now covering the seed you've sown.  The seed is out of sight.  What lies hidden under the soil remains to be revealed in the vegetable that will come from that seed.  The DNA for the expected vegetable resides within the seed.  But that information is out of sight as well.  The package it comes from shows the product we expect to get from that package of seed.  All of this requires the expectation of faith for if we were to rely on sight we'd say, "No way.  I'll buy it already in a can at the grocery store."

The preached word of the good news gives you and me a new birth.  St. Peter called it being born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.  The Eternal Logos becomes in us a seed of his nature and life.  Our cooperation with the message of the saving work of Christ increases in us that life which that seed contains.  It is then for us to always pray that we may be conformed to that divine life and be for each other and for those whom we meet the precious face and voice and hands of Jesus.  

It is the very friendship of Jesus we are called to share.  Sharing His friendship can take on many forms of service and benevolence.  It just depends if we will become more docile to the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  We can pray more frequently to be led by the Holy Spirit. We can invite him to help us bring the new spring time of faith in this very moment of history.  God has not abandoned the unfolding of history.  The times in which we live require us to be diligent in prayer and faithful in stewardship of the seed of the good news of the life and love and friendship of our dear Jesus.

Many good things begin in small and often imperceptible ways.  A virtuoso begins by practicing the very basic stuff.  Those tedious and repetitious lessons and scales and mastering the time signatures are like the tiny seeds we sow in a garden.  But the results are similar. The concert hall rings with the talent of him or her who has learned the demands of the perfection his art requires.  The farmer's diligent care and protection of the rows and rows of green beans is harvested for us to buy at the farmers market.

And the kingdom, ah yes, the mighty kingdom of God is given in those moments when we sow the seeds of God's love.  When we befriend the thirsty with a glass of water a seed of the kingdom is planted.  A bowl of soup for the hungry or that extra jacket from our closet for someone shivering in the cold is a seed of the kingdom.  No matter how small the effort or insignificant the gesture may seem, Mother Theresa told us, "We are not called to do great things.  We are called to do little things with great love."  Amen.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

His Own Blood - Sunday, June 10, 2012

Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood  of Christ 
June 10, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
His Own Blood
He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  (Hebrews 9:12)

"You are what you eat!" someone says with a wink.  And we politely nod in agreement.  Except the last time some version of that saying came up I thought I heard it thunder.  It was my doctor saying, "You've got to lose this!" as he methodically reviewed my weight history with a slightly concerned wrinkle above his eyes at my last visit a few weeks ago. 

With my defenses down I responded with that semi intelligent query, "How?" Without missing a beat my doctor said, "Starve yourself!"  

And then he began to explain what should be in my diet and what should not be entering my mouth.  Agreeing with his assessment and warning I then hoped for a 'bone' tossed to me as I bravely asked, "Can I have sweet tea?"  "You might as well drink cool aid!" the doctor retorted.  "Water! You can have all the fruits and vegetables you want.  And water!"

The doctor did not like what I was becoming.  And I was becoming what too many deserts and portions that are too large and what not enough exercise create.  The bubble in the middle of my body was not the sign of a balanced life.  

So I left the doctor's office with much to think about.  I felt somewhat inspired that I could follow my doctor's timely advice.  So now there is more stuff in my diet that grows in a garden somewhere and whole fruits and grains.  And water.  Lots of water.  I hear this eating better and exercise will help me lose weight.  Anyway I already like what I'm becoming because of what I'm eating now!  

Today we reflect a little deeper on the memorial of our redemption.  It's a Christian meal that helps us to become more like Jesus.  When we eat this bread and drink this cup we receive into ourselves the body and blood of him who loved us and gave himself for us.  I marvel at the oldest among us at Mass.  The reverence they bring to their worship and reception of the Holy Sacrifice is nothing less than inspirational.  Their posture and demeanor reflect an awe of that which is holy.  Their approach reflects years of growing in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Savior; of him who with his own body and blood secured for them and us and for as many who call upon his name eternal redemption. 

Under the old covenant it was the blood of calves and goats; not the blood of a holy person.  That covenant and those rituals that ratified it were temporary - not eternal.  Such sacrifices were repeated and did nothing to bring an interior change of heart.  The purification wrought by the blood sacrifices of bulls and goats made the people under the Old Covenant able to stand outside the Tent.  In that covenant God made a promise of coming even closer to his people.  Through Moses and the prophets of Israel came the promise of a new heart and the help of the Holy Spirit in the depths of our humanness; Christ in us!  

In the second reading we hear the contrast between the Old Testament rites and the New Covenant mediated by Christ himself.  The writer captures the intensity of Christ's own death that procures for us an inheritance 'his own blood' makes possible; an inheritance that the Old Covenant could only foreshadow.  And then this crescendo: 'How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.'

The word 'transubstantiation' offers a way to look at the mystery of the Eucharist.  It describes that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.  St. John Chrysostom said, "It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself."  St. Ambrose asks, "Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before?  It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature."

This feast of Corpus Christi let us embrace the purification this Eucharist offers us.  It is Christ himself who invites us into the redemption he won by his own Body and Blood.  We are summoned here today to participate in the good things of our inheritance in Christ and the redemption he gives us. At the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) the priest will pray: Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood, of our Lord Jesus, Christ. 

Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?  You bet we do.  In this Holy Feast and Memorial of our Redemption is the 'source and summit' of our faith.  St. Theresa of Avila believed that the good Jesus is with us now in the Holy Sacrament.  She reflected that if, while He went about in the world, the sick were healed by merely touching His clothes, how can we doubt that He will work miracles within us, if we have faith, or that He will give us what we ask of Him since He is in our House?  "His Majesty," she said, "is not accustomed to paying poorly for His lodging if the hospitality is good."  

What should we do after receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord?  St. Theresa of Avila said, "Since you have the Person Himself present, strive to close the eyes of the body and open those of the soul and look into your own heart."  

In this Holy Communion, Jesus is near, even at the door of our heart. 


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, June 2, 2012

Our Christian Identity - Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity -  June 3, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins

Our Christian Identity

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...- Jesus

Occasionally there is a news story that captures the imagination and heart.   About three years ago a young person mysteriously showed up in Manhattan claiming to have no memory of her family, her home or even her own name according to CNN.  The young girl, estimated to be between 14 and 17 years of age, gave an agonizing appeal stating, "I just want to know who I am."

Who am I?  Where did I come from?  In a good stable home life including a loving mom and dad and grandma and grandpa these questions usually get answered.  

This past week I had a few days off.  We visited family and friends in the towns where we grew up.  Our visit included decorating the graves of those members of our families we've laid to rest throughout the years.  All of it put together was a stroll down memory lane remembering who we are and where we came from and pausing before the headstones of those who helped us to know who we are and what is expected of us.  

I visited with Warren Evans too.  He is a WWII veteran and served with the original elite Darby's Rangers.  I've known Mr. Evans since I was a little boy.  Going back home this week I wanted to be sure not to leave the area before getting to see him.  Through a hastily arranged meeting I got to shake his hand and hug his neck just before he and his son, Mark, took off for Aberdeen, South Dakota.  I asked Warren how old he was.

"I'm between 93 and 94," he said.

He continued.  "I'm going out west with my son to Portland where he lives.  But we're going to Aberdeen first.  That's where I'm from.  I'm going to see if the Virginia Cafe and Combs Chocolate shop is still there. I used to sell papers in front of the Cafe when I was a boy.  I'm going also to see my sister and brother-in-law.  They're in the nursing home."

I marveled at this giant of a man who still makes me stand straighter when I'm in his presence.  Here before me is a man who endured POW atrocities and treatment.  Yet for as long as I've known Mr. Evans he smiles through his ghostly memories and makes you believe that life is worth living and that freedom is worth defending and that friendships are priceless.  Warren knows who he is and where he came from.  More importantly his faith reminds him also who he is and where he's going.  His Christian identity is sure and vibrant and has sustained him through the untimely deaths of two sons and two grandsons.  And three years ago his dear wife Frances, his bride for 64 years left his life but not his heart.

I don't know if I'll get to see Warren again in this world.  But I know we share a common heritage and identity through baptism.  In baptism we receive a new self, the old is gone and all things are new; especially ourselves.  Through Christian baptism we gain a Christian understanding of ourselves, and of our world and of the world to come.

For over two thousand years Christian baptism has been the way men and women and their children have become Christian.  The Trinitarian invocation in Christian baptism brings us into a new relationship with God.  By it we become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.  God lays his claim and his blessing on us when in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we become his sons and his daughters.  If we are his sons and his daughters through baptism then we are also brothers and sisters as well.  

Some say blood is thicker than water when describing family relationships.  But Christian baptism creates relationships through immersion into the immeasurable depths of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each in their own distinct mission come to us as God who is love. It is beyond our finite minds to grasp the infinite and eternal realms of this mystery.  This mystery is even more compelling when we recognize that we are God's children not because of a particular blood line nor by the will of the flesh nor of the will of man. We are his children because God wills it!  And because he wills it he gives us the Spirit of adoption and in our hearts we are free to pray, "Abba! Father! Hallowed be thy name."

Herein is love, not that we loved God but that God first loved us. Who are we?  We are God's children.  May we be faithful to first praise God for his generous disposition toward us.  Then let us also pray to be to each other generous in all things especially in kindness, and forgiveness, and in love.  The greatest of these is love; God is love - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  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: