Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Gift of Sight

Reflections on the Readings

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 28, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

The Gift of Sight

And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?"  And the blind man said to him, "Master, let me receive my sight."

A colleague of mine recently was fitted with bi-focal contact lenses.  When she arrived at work recently her face was beaming like a child's face on Christmas morning.  Amelia exclaimed, "I can see!  I can see you!  I can see her!" And looking at her computer she continued, "And I can see that!"  It wasn't hard to appreciate the joy my co-worker exuded.  The gift of sight is truly a cause for joy.  

I remember when our son, Timothy, was diagnosed with amblyopia in his left eye.  We were grateful that a simple eye test at grade school helped us to know our son needed to see an eye doctor.  Timothy was fitted for glasses to help him see better.  But to correct the lazy eye, we placed tape over the good eye lens to make the lazy eye work.  It was an arduous time for him and for us.  In time, and I mean years later, Timothy's lazy eye went from 20/200 to about 20/30.  His eyes require a different prescription for each eye to balance out his field of vision.  Timothy's vision needs were caught early on.  And with proper therapy and eye glass prescriptions his eyes and vision are fine.  The gift of sight is truly a gift we don't want to take for granted.  

My papa Seibert's glasses were thick like the bottom of the old fashioned coca-cola bottles.  His eyes frightened me when I was little shaver.  When I sat on his lap I would look into his eyes.  Through those thick lenses papa's eyes looked like they were huge and floating.  I remember that papa struggled with his eye sight.  The imperfections of his vision, however, did not cloud his insight about Jesus and his love.  I remember the moving way he would testify in church when I was a little boy.  It's my understanding that in heaven eyeglasses and corrective contacts are not needed.  The gift of sight will be perfected there.

We read in scripture that the first will be last and the last will be first in the kingdom of heaven.  I think that means that those who bore physical imperfections in this life will get to go to the head of the line to get their new bodies.  In the first reading the exiles of the Northern Kingdom of Israel are returning to their homeland.  The blind and the lame gathered from the ends of the earth and the mothers with child lead the rejoicing throng back home.  It is a picture of our own journey home.  After this our exile we pray that Mary will show to us the fruit of her womb, Jesus.  And among the first to see the love light in His eyes will be those who saw him first by faith in spite of blindness or deformities or missing limbs.  

The Psalm reading today is filled with indefinable joy.  Those who have had little to be joyful about will have a new morning.  A new day of rejoicing is promised to those who have lived in tears.  On that day many will come from the despairs of this life to see first hand the joy that comes with the first early rays of the Son rising with healing in his wings.  Then will our mouths be filled with laughter and our tongues liberated to sing his praise.  And those who have sown in tears shall rejoice and the weak and the halt and the blind and the lame will lead all of us in the never ending praise of God!

Jesus challenged those in his day who refused to see, who rejected his offer of a true vision of God.  He indicted those who listened but whose ears were dull and whose hearts were cold and withdrawn.  Their blindness was darker than a million midnights.  But he gave to those who believed in him the gift of spiritual eyes.  Near the time of the Passion of Jesus some Greeks came to Philip and said, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  I have heard many testify through the years how they long to see Jesus.  We long to see the One who out of his boundless love for us died on that old rugged Cross. This is a universal Christian hope.  

Thomas exclaimed after seeing and touching the wounds in the hands and side of Jesus, "My Lord and my God!"  And Jesus replied, "Thomas, have you believed because you have seen me?"  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."  In his first Epistle, St. Peter confirms the faith of those who became Christians after the Ascension of Jesus.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit he says, "Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy."  

Our high Priest is our Lord, Jesus Christ.  As our Priest He is aware of our bodily imperfections and weaknesses.  He understands our failures and our limitations.  He knows we have blind spots.  As he entered into Jericho 2000 years ago a blind man shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  It was an affirmation of Jesus as Messiah.  In his blindness he saw better who Jesus was than many with perfect vision.  He had lived many years in physical darkness.  But in those years of physical blindness he contemplated the promises of a coming Messiah.  And on that sunny afternoon, Jesus gave him what he asked of him.  Blind Bartimaeus received the gift of sight.  And he used his gift of sight to follow Jesus.  Such was the appreciation he had for his new gift of sight.   

The eyes of faith is our gift of sight.  We see by faith the Savior of our soul.  The wonders of our redemption and the riches of mercy from His spear pierced side are visible to the eyes of our soul.  We know Christ by faith; not by our natural vision.  May our vision of Him be clear and uncluttered.  May we accept the invitation to gaze upon him in prayer - more often than not!  May Jesus heal us wherever we are blind to his Love.  Let us dare to ask Jesus to help us see him better.  Especially in the Eucharist we are invited to look upon the precious Lamb of God.  The priest proclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."  At that moment may each of us remember, "I once was blind, but now I see."  

Praised be Jesus Christ. Now and Forever!  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, October 18, 2012

S - W - A - R - M

Reflections on the Readings

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 21, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

S - W - A -  R -  M

But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  

We've all heard the saying, "It's not what you know but it's who you know."  Nepotism makes eyes roll.  Preferential treatment and favoritism regardless of merit creates discord and talk at the water fountain.  Sometimes it seems hard work and discipline and education and loyalty aren't important.  But they are.  These are the things that impress and have their own rewards.  However, the sons of Zebedee ask for a favor.  They are seeking preferential treatment.  James and John are looking out for themselves.  Their attitude brought division within the community of Jesus.  Jesus used this occasion as a timely teaching moment for them.  We will benefit as well from his words.


Several years ago Debbie and I worked in a fast food restaurant.  It's hard and demanding work.  I flipped hamburgers, dropped the fries into the hot oil, and made shakes.  Anyone who has ever worked in the food industry knows that it is some of the hardest work you will ever do.  Our manager watched the operation and directed the staff.  Our customers were guests and every car turning into our lot initiated a command from our boss.  "Let's SWARM!" he said.  With that order I placed more burgers on the grill and dropped more fries.  The cashiers took their places and the fun began.

Now I know you've read this far because you want to know what S - W - A - R - M means.  In our fast food environment it meant: Service With A Rapid Motion.  And we were fast.  Our goal was to complete the customer's order correctly and in a timely manner.  By the time two o'clock rolled around we were very tired puppies.  

But I want to change up the words here and maybe slow down the pace a bit.  I want to reuse those letters to say: Servants With A Real Mission.  Jesus answers James and John by explaining his mission and what is all of his disciples place in it.  

Jesus is a Servant.  He comes to seek and to save.  The very reason for the Incarnation was to save his people from their sins.  It's not about privilege and rank and honor and prestige.  Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for all.  A ransom is a 'redemption price' paid for the release of a prisoner or someone taken captive and made a slave.  The price for our ransom was the life of Christ.  His death on the cross was a saving death.  In giving his life as an offering for sin he opens for you and me the door of heaven.  

In this Year of Faith just begun the Church invites us to see again the riches of our life in Christ.  The purpose of this Year of Faith is so we will increase our understanding of the Faith, and grow in our ardor to proclaim the Faith, and to also more deeply celebrate the Faith.  This Sunday's readings emphasize the great mission of Christ to rescue us from the tyranny of sin and to restore us to the Friendship of God.  

Jesus describes his destiny as a cup he will drink and as a baptism he accepts.  Both of these images show us that his cross is a cup of suffering and an immersion into the great quest for our souls.  For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.  The Incarnation of Christ and his life in Nazareth and beyond demonstrate God's infinite Love in pursuit of souls.  Jesus truly came as a Servant With A Real Mission. 

It is this Mission Jesus asks his disciples to see and to embrace.  He shines a light on the meaning of greatness.  Greatness by divine definition is to serve Jesus in each other and especially in those who are poor.  He who is great is the servant of all.  The mission of Christ is to all - the rich and poor, the high and low, the great and small, the least, the lost and the lonely.  

In his first Catecheses on the Faith, the Holy Father said, "Where there is domination, possession, and exploitation,... man is impoverished, degraded and disfigured."  These words of our dear Pope were confirmed October 9, 2012 when a Taliban gunman shot 14 year old Malala Yousufzai in the head as she sat in a school bus.  What was her crime?  She's a girl and wants to go to school and get an education.  It just leaves one wondering what this world is coming to.  Too often does the worldly standard of superiority and authoritative demagoguery and vindictiveness prevail.  May God truly help us to embrace this Year of Faith and to count all things inferior to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified.  

So completely did Jesus live and die for others that the passage of Hebrews today says he is still able to sympathize with our weaknesses and our needs.  He is patient with us so we should be patient with each other.  He was tested in every way we are tested, yet remained sinless.  So he truly does know our frame, the stuff we are made of, and invites us to come as often as we need to the throne of grace to receive mercy and the timely help of his grace.  That throne and that grace and mercy are profoundly experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Our mission, if we will accept it, is a deeply intimate relationship with him who made of himself no reputation.  Why is it necessary to know Jesus in such a profoundly deep friendship?  As the latin phrase so aptly puts its, "We cannot give what we do not have."  How can we have this friendship with our Lord?  Prayer.  We will know Christ better as we pray often and earnestly.  The world around us needs the friendship of Christ.  Today may we pledge ourselves to know the love of Christ and for the sake of that love become Servants With A Real Mission.  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:


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You Lack One Thing

Reflections on the Readings

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 14, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

You Lack One Thing

And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.

Wisdom helps us to contemplate God and our relationship with him.  Many vie for our allegiance.  Political personalities, movie stars, and sports teams all compete for our undivided attention.  However, it is God alone who deserves our complete attention.  If God is at the core of our living we learn to be more present and focused on who and what matters most.  

Stuff and things also want our attention and promise us an easy life.  But power and riches cannot satisfy the hunger of our heart.  In each of us is a cavernous space all the gold and silver and precious jewels in all the world cannot fill.  Before the beneficent Almighty Lord all the gold in the bowels of the earth is but 'a little sand.'  And the question as relevant now as when our Lord asked it is, "For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?"   

Yet everyday too many live without a true lodestar, the bright and morning star, Jesus Christ.  Only Christ through his Church can guide us into true wealth and help us find that love that is durable and immeasurable.  It is this wealth Jesus reveals.  In him this love is ours if we will follow him; if we will but invite him to be the center of our lives.  We need the precious friendship of Jesus.  Only He is able to bring us to greatness.  He alone can give us the unlimited gifts of faith, hope, and love. 

Do you ever lie awake at night and think about a question you'd like to ask Jesus?  As we read the gospels we watch many people seek Jesus for healing for blindness, leprosy, and deliverance from demons and death itself.  A woman touches the hem of his garment and Jesus touches the leper.  No one is denied the touch of his powerful love.  But one wealthy man seeks Jesus to ask him what he must do to inherit eternal life.  He doesn't ask for relief from pain and suffering.  This precious man asks about his eternal destiny.  He asks what he must do to enter the kingdom of God!

A quick review of the commandments reveal how serious this man has been about obeying God.  Ever since he was knee high to a grasshopper he has kept the Commandments.  Reverently he bows in the presence of the Lord.  Everyone watching this scene unfold can feel the mutual love between this man and Jesus.  Jesus reaches out to help the man to his feet.  He puts his arm around him and gives him a hug he surely will never forget.  They walk together and Jesus gently speaks to him words meant to bring him to the warm rays of eternity.  

"You lack one thing," Jesus speaks in a half whisper.  

"What?  What is it I lack?  I'll do anything!

Jesus slips his arm around the man again as he turns the seeker toward his face.  His eyes burn with a fiery love meant to purify.  His mouth opens and he speaks with the precision of a two edged sword.  He knows the intentions and thoughts of his heart.  All things about this man are open to the eyes of Jesus.  Jesus does not mean to dissuade.  He only hopes to persuade. (Hebrews 4:12-13 and Revelation 1:16)   

The man's heart pounds.  Jesus helps him to see a glimpse of eternity with him.  Peter and company hold their breath.  It seems that the sun stands still.  All of creation waits and angels hover to see if there will be rejoicing in heaven today.  

And then the air grew thick.  The sunshine seemed diminished.  All of creation groaned and the angels disappeared.  We don't know his name.  We only know that his countenance fell.  Jesus hesitates to let go but allows the man to walk away from his embrace.  The words of the Good Teacher pound in his head:  "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."  Like an unbroken record he hears these words repeat over and over and over in his head.  And the rich man walked away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

How difficult it is for those who trust in their possessions to enter the kingdom of God.  We must ask God to help us.  We must ask him to teach us to understand the brevity of life - to help us to number our days and to help us fill them with the things that matter.  It is not wisdom to take short cuts and avoid the weightier matters.  What days we are given we should live in hope and prayer and look up at the sunshine and thank the good Lord who provides it.  May we not take the goodness that fills our life for granted because we are too busy building bigger places to hold our stuff. (Luke 12:18)  

Scripture teaches us that the love of money is the root of all evils and that those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge its victims into ruin and destruction.  The simple pleasures of family and friends and of food, clothing, and a roof over our heads is to be truly rich.  And we have many modern conveniences that enrich are way of life as well.  But the message today is that God and greed are incompatible.  We cannot have two masters.  The high road of faith is to understand that godliness with contentment is great gain; for we brought nothing into this world, and we can't take any of it with us! (1 Timothy 6:6-10)  


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, October 4, 2012

Until Death Do Us Part

Reflections on the Readings

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 7, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Until Death Do Us Part

What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Mark 10:9)

Sometimes it seems like marriage doesn't stand a chance.  We all shake our heads in disbelief when we hear of someone we know who is separated from their spouse and thinking about divorce.  Someone you respect or look up to or have confidence in leaves his wife and kids leaves you disillusioned and heartbroken.  You may even begin to think that true love does not exist and faithfulness is impossible.

We had this conversation recently at our table.  A doubt was raised that there is really any true love and commitment.  My wife spoke up and said, "We've never divorced.  Your dad has never left me."  She was speaking up for the fact that we had demonstrated what faithfulness looks like.  Also we noted that our parents on both sides were equally without incidences of infidelity in marriage.  That got me thinking.  I have to go back to my great-great grandparents before I find any adultery or divorce.  In my wife's family there isn't any divorce as far back as she can remember.  In fact, Debbie's great-great maternal grandmother's maiden name was Susan Samantha Saluty.  She outlived four husbands.  So the humorous remembrance of this stout woman was that her name was Susan Samantha Saluty Shelton Williams Fortner Snow!  

About a year ago Pat Robertson made a startling statement on his 700 Club TV talk show.  A viewer named Andreas asked about his friend, who had started seeing another woman after his wife developed Alzheimer's.  According to the CNN report Andreas' friend says, "He should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone."  Andreas pleads, "I'm not sure what to tell him.  Please help."  I'm sure at this point many were shaking their heads and screaming at their TV screens something on the order of, "What a jerk!"   But not Mr. Robertson.  None of that 'for better or for worse' or 'for richer or for poorer' stuff.  Mr. Pat explains that this man should divorce her and start over again but also make sure his soon to be ex-wife has custodial care and somebody looking after her.  Robertson does agree that there is the vow of "till death do us part," but Alzheimer's is he said, "A kind of death."  I bet you're shaking your head about now. 

My mother died from an incurable disease.  But before she died I watched my dad do everything in his power and faith to find help for mom.  They prayed together and stayed together.  They solicited the prayers of their church and family and friends far and wide.  My dear mommy wore a smile through it all. Every day was a pretty day to her.  No matter if the sun was shining or the sky grew dark with clouds and rain, it was a pretty day according to mom.

I knew the end was near when I dreamed about mom on a Thursday or Friday night before she passed on Sunday.  I saw her suspended in the heavens as though she was rising to heaven.  From a distance I could tell she was dressed in a white robe.  It was very white.  As I drew near to her in my dream I saw how beautiful she was.  Her beauty exuded an indefinable youthfulness.  There was no more pain; there was no more disease.  While I was getting ready for Sunday services, Debbie brought me the phone with tears in her eyes and said, "It's not good news."  My eyes fill with tears as I write this.  Dad told me that Mom was gone.  It was the Lord's Day.  I asked Daddy if I could conduct the funeral unless he had planned to himself.  He told me I could do it if I thought I could.  He said he didn't know anyone better he'd rather have preaching Mom's funeral.  I titled my sermon for her service, "A Faith to Remember."  

Mommy stayed at home until her last breath.  My precious sister Mary Rose graduated from Graduate school and came home and helped my dad take care of our mother.  I stood alone at her casket before any one else arrived at the funeral home.  I lifted my hands in praise to God and wept tears of sorrow and thankfulness.  This woman, my mother, had nurtured me in the faith.  She taught me to believe that God is really, really big.  She sat in the pew as she listened to me preach my first sermon at age 13.  It was mommy who gave me the article and information that ultimately led me to be a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church.  It was mommy I saw on her knees praying beside her bed.  It was mommy who glowed when she said to me, "I always knew that Debbie was the one for you."  Mommy died the way she had lived.  Every day she lived in the awareness that God's love is deep and wide and she trusted him to help her to protect and raise her six children.  

I know that many of you are examples of true love and fidelity.  The unfortunate truth is that not without reason many think that marriage isn't something that lasts.  This institution ordained by God as we hear in the first reading is being assaulted.  It's integrity and necessity for home and society is discounted in high places.  The statistics show that 41% to 50% of first marriages end in divorce in America.  The rate of divorce in second marriages is from 60% to 67%.  For those in their third marriage the divorce rate soars to 73%. 

According to the Bishop's website the phenomenon of cohabitation is redefining commitments in relationships and is a corrosive impact on marriage as the center of family.  We need strong voices and spiritual leadership from those who know the joy of marriage.  Fathers and Mothers who now rock grandchildren to sleep are important witnesses in our parishes of the gift of marriage.  It is a mystery of self-giving that brings a husband and his wife to a particular fulness and fruitfulness of life.  Married love is a Sacrament that teaches us to think deeply about the great love Christ pours upon his Church, how he gave himself for her lavishing her with the joys of forgiveness and mercy.  That's how a Christian husband is to love his wife and children.  "This is a great mystery this union of a man and his wife, the two becoming one flesh," says the apostle Paul, "But I speak," he says, "concerning Christ and the Church." 

God presided over the first wedding.  He brought Adam and Eve together to live in holy union.  Their communion with each other is phrased in those immortal words, "And the two shall become one flesh."  One man united to his wife makes one family.  Life as one is not always easy.  There will be times of misunderstanding and tension.  But the same Jesus who turned the water into wine at the marriage in Cana will help you and your beloved to have the grace and the love that makes marriage the gift that it is.  It is what God envisioned from the beginning.  The man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.  

And so shall it be, until death do us part.  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: