Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Feeding the Hungry - Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reflections on the Readings

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 29, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Feeding the Hungry

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?"  This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Every week if not every day I receive mail reminding me of the hungry people in our world.  On the face of one envelope I received it states that a child dies every 12 minutes due to the lack of food.  We struggle sometimes on what to choose to satisfy our hunger.  A quick trip to the store and presto we pick up a chicken ready to eat while lack of food and adequate water supplies are a daily reality in too many places in our world.  

My parish bulletin last Sunday contained a notice that the local Second Harvest organization is critically low on food items such as peanut butter, canned tuna, individual boxes of cereal, canned fruit and vegetables.  The notice also states that Second Harvest accepts gifts of money.  For every $1 raised, Second Harvest will feed 3 complete meals to hungry kids and seniors in East Tennessee.  Now that's what I call stretching a dollar as far as it can go!  This East Tennessee Food Drive deserves our support.

Jesus certainly stretched the five barley loaves and two fish.  Somehow in his hands the bread and fish multiplied.  There was plenty for five thousand men plus women and children.  Everyone had all they wanted and what was leftover amounted to twelve baskets full.  I'm sure the poor and hungry in the area were fed out of the surplus and the news about this miraculous feeding of the five thousand spread throughout the area.  It's not news that can be contained. 

But this is not just about miraculous fish sandwiches.  Jesus turning water into wine or feeding the multitudes is more about who Jesus is than what Jesus did.  We are supposed to see something about Jesus in these events.  In the coming weeks the gospel readings from John chapter 6 will reveal Jesus as the bread from heaven and the sign seekers repulsed by this notion.  Jesus feeds the hungry but also is himself food for all who hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God.  

We rightly pray for ourselves and others, "Give us this day our daily bread."  While we recognize the signs of physical hunger, do we know our need of spiritual food?  Do we recognize the food our soul craves?  Do we possess a child like faith in him who not only cares for and feeds the sparrows but also nourishes us with his own presence?  For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17) 

Our interior life is too anemic.  We possess not enough of what St. Paul today calls humility, gentleness, and patience.  Deep within us where we think we keep secret our impoverished selves we lack too often the strength of God's love.  Our courage to love each other with God's love is tenuous. May we crave the good our soul needs and ask for help to love with sincerity.  The bond of peace we share is worthy of our every prayer for its preservation.  We should not take for granted the unity of the spirit.  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  

The Father knows when a sparrow falls from the sky and he adorns the fields with lilies and makes it rain on the just and the unjust.  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)   

Our tables are full and our cupboards are bulging.  Our gardens are filled with vegetables and fruit.  We will go to the faucet and draw a glass of water without giving it a second thought.  A switch on the wall will respond to our need for light.  My computer I'm using to research and write these reflections has replaced my old black iron typewriter.  In an instant I get news and make contact with whomever I want to contact.  But hunger exists in more ways than one.  Physical hunger is not the only hunger in our lives.  Sometimes we are hungry for something more than what can go down the hatch.  Our hearts crave for peace where there is only turmoil.  We hunger for something more than spiritual fast food.  We sense that we need a new discovery of the life that is worthy of the name 'Christian.' 

May Jesus bless our bodies with what we need, but also give us every spiritual grace as well.  For he who feeds the multitudes with the bread and the fish invites his people to come and eat the bread which is his body and to drink the wine which is his blood.  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           

Saturday, July 21, 2012

We Need A Shepherd

Reflections on the Readings

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 22, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

We Need a Shepherd

As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Our son, Timothy, has some experience with sheep.  A family friend invited Timothy to assist him in shearing his sheep.  The winter wool needed to come off the little flock of sheep as the Southern Indiana summer promised to make another appearance.  Comically, Timothy retells how he watched a sheep run right into the pond.  Sheering was not what he had in mind I suppose.  The thick wool on the sheep acted as a sponge and the frantic sheep was rescued by the owner.  

I asked my son, "What are sheep like without a shepherd?"  "A mess!  They lack direction, protection, food, and shelter." He said.

Sound like us?  You bet.  Today's readings remind us of our need of a shepherd who has the heart of a shepherd.

We need direction.  Our lives need focus.  The promise of the Twenty-Third Psalm is that the Good Shepherd leads us and gives us repose and peace even in the midst of danger and uncertainty.  Jesus began to teach them many things because he saw their hunger for truth and spiritual direction.  He looked into their hearts and saw their need for a clearer vision of God.  This is what Jesus still gives us.  In our parish community we gather each Lord's Day and experience the pastoral care of our shepherd serving us at the request of the bishop.  When we come together we hear the teachings of Christ's saving doctrine and his call to us to practice the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love. (CCC 2179)

A shepherd keeps watch over his flock.  He is alert to the dangers the sheep may not perceive.  The grass is good pasture and the waters are calm.  But there are wolves who stalk them.  So it is with us.  The enemy of our soul goes about as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. The Good Shepherd does not lead us into temptation but delivers us from evil.  Even when the shadows of death come he does not desert us but his presence drives far from us all fear - he is at our side with his rod and staff.  He comforts us and gives us courage.  The shepherds crook the Bishop holds when he is among us remind us of the great love and protection we have as he guides us in the paths that are righteous and holy.  The Bishop is an icon of the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ.

The true shepherd will be sure there is good pasture.  Sheep need to eat.  They graze where there are green pastures.  In our Sunday gatherings we have a table prepared for us.  Christ himself gives us his very body and blood.  In this memorial of our redemption we remember that the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep.  In the Eucharistic celebration he calls us each by name and in love that is beyond words he unites himself with us - through him, with him, and in him, we live.  Goodness and mercy flow from him and follow us all the days of our life.

Sheep need shelter.  They need the strength of each other.  The shepherd provides for their mutual comfort and shelter.  For us this is the house of the Lord.  It is the place where the community of the faithful gather.  This sacred space is a place of safety and where encouragement is given and received.  Here we ask our brothers and sisters to pray with us and for us.  The priests take care of us.  But there is also that care we give to each other.  Through Christ we have access to the Father in one Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives to us the joy of Christ's presence and with one heart, and one voice, and with one mind we glorify the Father.  In the sacrificial love of Christ we pause each Sunday to remember it is the blood of Christ that brings us near to God.  It is a moment of great worth to our soul.  

How greatly shall he who is the door to the sheepfold, of the very house of God, bless us with every blessing in the heavenly places and promise us an abundant welcome into his eternal kingdom where we shall dwell forevermore.  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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Gospel in the Digital Age: Cardinal Dolan on America's New Mission Territories - U.s. - Catholic Online

This is a must read. The New Evangelization is a call to each of us to reach out in prayer and in friendship to our families and friends. The Method? Make a Friend - Be a Friend - Bring your Friend to Christ!


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Saturday, July 14, 2012

A New Evangelization

Reflections on the Readings

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 15, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

A New Evangelization

(Mark 6:12 -13)

So they went out and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them. 

Conversion lasts a lifetime.  It's a process.  Our life in Christ requires daily attention.  As Paul reminds the Church at Philippi, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."  As we cooperate with the grace given to us in Baptism we grow in Christ.  We become more like him as we embrace a radical reorientation of our whole life by loving and serving Christ with our whole heart. (CCC 1431)  

The new evangelization espoused by many Popes but especially articulated by Blessed John Paul II begins with you and with me.  It is accepting for ourselves the love of God our baptism gives us.  The frailty and weakness of human nature is ever with us.  The new birth of baptism does not remove the reality of what tradition calls concupiscence - an inclination to sin.  Jesus sent his disciples to call all people to embrace the strength and hope and change of heart repentance gives.  Conversion, therefore, gives us a new power to overcome sin and to love God and our neighbor as our selves.(CCC 1426)

Jesus sent his disciples on a mission to preach a new and profound way to know God.  Without pretense or imposition the disciples lived simple  lives.  They relied on the generosity of those who accepted what they had to say.  With the example of a simple lifestyle and the persuasion of their message they gave a powerful witness to the truth and love of Jesus.  Going out two by two they dispersed into the community inviting everyone to a change of heart.  They explained an interior conversion of heart and invited the people to turn away from sin and resolve to change their life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. (CCC 1431)

Everyone may not be receptive.  In the first reading, Amos, is rejected in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Amaziah tells him to go to Judah with all of his prophesying.  Amos' call to repent and to return to God with fidelity of heart fell on deaf ears.  Even the disciples are warned that some may not embrace what is told them.  Jesus instructed them to shake the dust from their sandals on their way as a testimony against those who reject the message - a gesture that others are waiting to hear the good news and will be receptive.  

However, in the second reading, we see how blessed we are in God's preferential love for us.  So many do not know the depth and measure of God's love.  Many in the Church are not aware of the magnitude of mercy they received in their baptism.  Paul calls baptism a seal of the Holy Spirit - the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory.  

Paul describes this inheritance as something God chooses to give us.  In our baptism God has lavished upon us the riches of his grace.  In the new evangelization we are called to discover for ourselves the treasures of our salvation.  Do you know the power of Christ's blood that gives to you and to me the forgiveness of sins?  Do you know that long before we were a baby in the womb God predestined you for adoption to himself and to his family, the Church?  Do you know that every day is a day to walk in the favor of God's will for us?  And further, did you know that we were chosen on purpose to know the gift of God's love in Christ and to hear the wonderful truth of the gospel of our salvation?

This is the dynamic reality of life in Christ.  It is more than an occasional tip of the hat to God on Easter and Christmas.  Life in Christ is an encounter of a new power that makes all things new - especially ourselves.  Jesus sent his disciples in a new humility and power that brought hope and healing of body and soul.  Hearts were changed and the power and grip of sin was broken.  Devils were cast out and sick people were healed.  The power of the new evangelization is a new awareness of the power and healing and comfort of the good news that God loves us.  He is not far from anyone of us.  He is as close as the baptism that gave us his life and his love.  

Our conversion of heart and mind is something we must embrace for ourselves.  It is that personal encounter with Christ we want our children and their children to embrace.  We must begin now and where we are to ask ourselves and our families if they are living up to their baptism.  For ourselves we must consciously and on purpose invite the God of our baptism to grow in us his love and mercy.  For our salvation is by grace.  Let us by faith embrace this gracious gift of God and walk in the power of Christ.  And he who makes all things new will give us a new understanding of what it means to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.  For if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17 )

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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Slow of Heart - Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reflections on the Readings

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 8, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Slow of Heart

And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:6) 

The home folks knew.  For around thirty years Jesus worked in Joseph's carpenter shop.  He was well known throughout the area of Nazareth.  But the home town folks knew.  It happened so very long ago.  Mary was  barely a teenager.  She was betrothed to Joseph.  And behind closed doors the community talked.  Perhaps they snickered.  "Can you believe it?  Overshadowed by the power of the Almighty?  Impossible!" they murmured, like their fathers before them in the wilderness.  

"Isn't this Mary's son? they now ask.  The air stiffens.  And they name off some relatives.  The semitic language allows the word used for 'brothers and sisters' to be understood as cousins and half-brothers and half-sisters as well.  The local folks know that Mary does not have other 'children.'  There is only this one they know as Mary's son.  And now they are astonished and offended.  All of the incredulity kept safe in their hearts for all these years is unleashed.  

Jesus and his disciples listen in amazement.  Mary and her kinsfolk stand closer to Jesus as if to protect him.  There are no stones today.  Neither are there any mighty works, except Jesus laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  

Awareness of God's love and presence is integral to a full and vibrant Christian life.  Expectation and openness give God access to our hearts.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.  For when we come to God in prayer, we must believe that He exists and that He  responds to all who seek him.  This is the testimony of Abel and Noah and Abraham too.  (Hebrews 11:6)

I'm grateful to God for a Mom and Dad who taught me to let God be God in my life.  As I was growing up I learned from my folks and Church that God is alive and well and able to do exceedingly more than I could ever ask or think about.  I learned at home that we can come to God with reverent boldness and bow before His majestic throne of Grace and find the help I need.  

Our Father is not reluctant to enter wherever he is invited.  Rather than throwing our hands up and surrendering let's ask and keep on asking.  Let's knock on the door of heaven and keep on knocking.  Let's seek the kingdom of power and love and invite the Almighty to change our sluggish and slow hearts into strong and faithful hearts.  Let it not be said of us that Jesus can do no mighty work in us or in our day because we stopped praying.  Because we stopped hoping.  Because we stopped believing.  

Jesus came to his hometown and some in that town did not receive him.  It was amazing.  Their unbelief stifled the presence of God.  Jesus, God in the flesh, could do no mighty work for them.  Their hearts were slow and doubtful and filled with questions that limited their prayers.  

I remember one time expressing some doubt about the effectiveness of my prayers.  Daddy reminded me that the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.  He recalled for me that Elijah was a man like us and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three and half years it did not rain.  Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth its fruit. So the next time you throw your hands up and surrender ask God to break through.  Ask him to shine the light of his power into your heart.  Ask him to change your mind and to help you to make room for his will and that his power and glory will invade the darkness of your heart.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  

Sometimes miracles come all at once.  They delight us and we rejoice that God is near.  Then there are the miracles that come almost imperceptible to the senses.  They are the prayers that get answered like a 1000 piece puzzle that is put together one piece in place at a time.  Blessed is that Christian who endures such trial in prayer, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.  The testing of our faith makes us stedfast and helps to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  But in all of our praying let us ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  May God calm our fears and feed our hearts with the mercy we need and seek for ourselves for those for whom we pray. (James 1:5-6) 

Let us ask again today to be filled with all that God desires to give us.  Open your hearts wide and let the Lord of this Holy Eucharist enter in and give you his life.  Amen.



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Archbishop Chaput Closes Fortnight: What We Must Render Unto God and Unto Caesar - U.s. - Catholic Online

Bishop Chaput exhorts us to live authentic Christian lives.


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