Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking For Jesus

Reflections on the Readings
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
December 30, 2012 Year C
The Year of Faith 

Looking For Jesus

And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously."  And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

We were on our way back home from Atlanta recently and the electronic message sign on the interstate flashed: AMBER ALERT.  What followed was a description of the vehicle and the temporary Georgia tag number.  Anyone sighting this vehicle was advised to call 9-1-1.  

According to a news story about this the mother reported her suspicions and concerns to the authorities after she was unable to reach the father by cell phone.  Immediately one thinks of the trauma of divorce or separation and who gets the kids at Christmas time.  At this time of the year it can be most stressful for families for all kinds of reasons and as a result we see more domestic disputes and disruptions and disagreements and violence during the holidays.  And for these families we pray they may especially have the peace of Christ.  

Every year, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.  This memorial is described in Exodus chapter 12.  It is a remembrance of the event of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.  This commemoration recalls God's freeing his people from the yoke of Egyptian slavery.  Joyful songs are sung and the time is spent among family and friends in community.  In Jesus' time this celebration was celebrated in a central location at the Temple in Jerusalem.  

Because it was such a rich and familial time it was assumed that Jesus was among the clan leaving to return to Nazareth.  But after a day's journey Mary went looking for her twelve year old son whom she had not seen for about 24 hours.  At first she was not worried because she assumed Jesus was among the families they were traveling with.  Mary and Joseph inquired among their family and acquaintances in the caravan confident they would find their son.  When they did not locate him in their caravan they quickly arranged to go back to Jerusalem.  You might say Mary and Joseph had their own AMBER ALERT of sorts.  We are not told all the places in Jerusalem they searched for Jesus.  From the story we know they looked for their son for three days.  And on the third day they found him in the Temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 

Perhaps Mary and Joseph look upon this scene with their mouths agape.  They look at each other, and Mary looks deep into her heart where many things have been stored.  Here in the Temple Jesus is engaged in a question and answer session with the learned Rabbi's of his time.  This is yet another of those mysteries surrounding her that Mary adds to the treasures already in her heart.  Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, is herself growing in the mystery of the Incarnation as her son increases in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.

Where is Jesus?  

He's in us.  He's with us in the ways we are called to be in relationship with one another.  Paul, in the second reading, alludes to our baptism as putting on Christ.  That garment of salvation is seen in our expressions of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Jesus is where there is forgiveness and the bond of perfect love demonstrated in the goodness of God we exchange with one another.  If we are looking for Jesus we will find him in every word we speak in his love and in every deed we do in his name.  If our words and our actions are Christlike then those who hear our words and see our lives may say, "That looks like someone who knows the Lord."

We come together every Lord's Day expressly looking for Jesus.  He's among us in our brothers and sisters we pray with every Sunday.  Jesus is with us in the reading of the scriptures.  And in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist we see Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  Every Sunday the Father summons us to his house to meet with his Son in a special way.  Are you looking for Jesus? He's here in his Father's house ready to fill us with his life and love at this Holy Altar.  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:     

Friday, December 28, 2012

There's Room at the Manger for You

Reflections on the Readings
A Meditation For the Season of Christmas
The Year of Faith 

There’s Room at the Manger for You

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Some things we don’t discuss at the dinner table.  A young child may ask a probing question about someone in the family that is skillfully sidestepped with someone suggesting, “How about we play on the trampoline this afternoon!”  And the child unaware of the indiscretion she committed is satisfied that she’ll have someone to play with after her dinner has settled. 

Skeletons in the family closet.  They are not meant to come back to life.  After a generation or so the stories and their characters go to the grave.  In Matthew’s account of the story of Jesus Christ the good, the bad, and the ugly come tumbling out of the closet.  There they are.  Immoral skeletons of adultery, prostitution, and murder are also a part of the story of Jesus Christ.  

It reads somewhat like a telephone directory:  Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah and his brothers... you get the point.  After about the first ten ‘begats’ it is tempting to skip on down to some more interesting reading.  But you’ll miss out on some important information if you do.  For example, women are included in the genealogy.  Their inclusion is a little unusual in a Jewish genealogical account.  But there they are:  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah.  Bathsheba and David committed adultery together.  It is interesting that she is listed in Matthews account only as the wife of Uriah.  All three women are Gentiles (Canaanite, Canaanite, Moabite, and Hittite, respectively) and three of the women apart from Ruth are associated with sexual immorality.  

Matthew’s account reveals that there is Gentile blood in Jesus’ lineage.  Secondly, he diffuses any argument suggesting anyone in the line discredit Jesus’ Messianic qualifications.  Solomon is the son of a hastily and immorally arranged marriage of King David to the wife of Uriah.  Yet in all that, Solomon as the royal son of David, is not disqualified to succeed his father David to the throne. 

Matthew give us his genealogical account not to bore us to tears but to remind us that the story of Jesus is a story about how Christ came into the world to save sinners.  As we approach the creche we recall the miracle of Christmas.  Christmas is a season to rejoice in the miracle of the incarnation.  In that manager we witness the wonders of true love.  No greater love has ever graced time.  God embraces our frailty - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)  The miracle of Christmas is that God rushes in to embrace us - the Word became flesh to make us partakers of the divine nature. 

Christmas is a holy season.  It calls us to a majestic, joyful, and triumphant adoration of the Son of God.  God is with us to lift us into the heavenly places.  The majesty of Christmas is love’s pure light shining from a manger somewhere in Bethlehem.  No wonder we sing ‘Joy to the World, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.’  That’s wonder.  That’s real joy.  That’s majesty and power and dominion - grace without measure and an inestimable love wrapped in our humanity - no crying he makes - perfect, contented love, all is at peace!  He shall be called the Prince of Peace.

And then there is the mystery of Christmas.  It is the story of the mystery of the Incarnation.  “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,”  we sing.  A friend of mine suggested we might say Happy Incarnation rather than Merry Christmas.  Angels look deep into this mystery for the Incarnation is the beginning of the mystery of our salvation.  

As we look into what is our salvation we see God who is love.  The mystery of iniquity - that original mark of our separation from God - that chasm between us and God  -  is not too great for that baby in the manger around which we gather this Holy Night.  

There’s room for all of us here.  Here is where everyone great and small can meet the one who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.  Our journey to heaven begins here for in this manger we gaze upon him who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  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, December 20, 2012

The Voice of Mary

Reflections on the Readings

Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 23, 2012 - Year C

The Year of Faith 

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

The Voice of Mary

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

We live in a world filled with brokenness.  Broken hearts, broken homes, broken dreams, broken bodies, and broken relationships are everywhere. This is especially true of the horror visited upon Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, December 14 at 9:40 a.m.  Twelve little first grade girls, and eight little first grade boys, and six adult women that included teachers and the principle lost their lives to the homicidal rampage of a very troubled 20 year old young man who forced his way into the school. 

We recoil at this and every act of violence against the innocent and defenseless.  What are we to do, anyone and everyone who is filled up with loss and pain and emptiness?  To whom do we turn to find solace?  I believe Mary wants to help us.  She is ready to guide us to the One who is the Prince of Peace - the blessed fruit of her womb; he who comes into the world to announce good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted; to give sight to the blind and to set free all who are oppressed by the devil.  The spiritual Mother of us all, Mary embraces the children of the Lord to help us to know Jesus her Son.  She bore in her body the eternally good news that evil will not have the last word, that love never fails, and that forgiveness of sins is the immeasurable treasure of God's inexhaustible grace. 

I recall my first encounter with Mary, the Mother of our Lord.  It was about 9 o'clock in the evening.  Mother Angelica began leading in the prayer of the Rosary on WLOF in Buffalo, New York, the area where we lived at the time.  

I thought, "What harm could it do?"  

For several weeks I had been praying about a conviction growing intensely within me about uniting with the Catholic Church.  I would be laying aside my calling as a priest of the Charismatic Episcopal Church.  As disconcerting as that thought was I still had a peace that passes all understanding.  My decision process included meeting with retired Abbot John Eudes at the Abbey of the Genesee in Pifford, New York, and praying on that particular evening with Mother Angelica.     

As I joined in praying the Rosary I said, "Boy! This is dry!  How would you ever get anybody to do this?"  

The answer to that question came very quickly.

I'm not sure if I made that statement out loud or if I thought it so strongly that I thought I said it audibly.  It makes little difference for what happened next continues to elude me on how to explain what I experienced.  I sat up in bed and exclaimed, "Woha!  What was that?"  

It lasted about as long as it takes to snap a finger.  Yet it seemed as though time was no more.  This brush with Eternity left me aware that this prayer of the Holy Rosary is one of those prayers heard in heaven.

When Mary made that quick trip into the hill country of Judea she carried deep inside her womb the salvation of the world.  She greets Elizabeth not just as a cousin always welcome in Zechariah's house but now as a willing participant in the salvation of the world.  Mary's voice resonates with an inexplicable joy - a joy that fills Elizabeth and the son in her womb, and continues to fill the world these 21 centuries with the miracle, the majesty and the mystery of Christmas!  

Let us pray:

Hail Mary, full of grace.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  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, December 12, 2012

The Christian Art of Benevolence

Reflections on the Readings

Third Sunday of Advent - December 16, 2012 - Year C

The Year of Faith 

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

The Christian Art of Benevolence

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let all men know your forbearance.  The Lord is at hand.  (Philippians 4:4-5)

My favorite Christmas movie is the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol.  Scrooge unleashes a tirade against all that Christmas is.  He repudiates its joy. The poor and destitute receive his scorn and their plight is of no concern of his. The exchange between Scrooge and his nephew, Fred, reveals the unfeeling, callous heart of a man long ago enticed by the deceitfulness of riches.  

Here's a portion of their dialogue:

Fred:  I said, A Merry Christmas, Uncle!  God save you!

Scrooge:  Bah, humbug!

Fred:  Christmas a humbug, Uncle!  Surely you don't mean that!

Scrooge:  Of course I mean it!  Merry Christmas, indeed.  What reason have you to be merry?  You're poor enough.

Fred:  Come, Uncle.  What reason have you to be dismal?  You're rich enough.  Ha ha!

Scrooge:  BAH!  Away with Merry Christmas!  What's Christmas to you, but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older and not an hour richer?  If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.  He should!

Fred:  Uncle!

Scrooge:  Nephew! Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine. 

Fred:  Keep it!  But you don't keep it.

Scrooge:  Let me leave it alone, then!  A lot of good it has done you.

Fred:  Well, there are many things from which I have benefited, even if they didn't show a profit, I dare say.  Christmas among the rest.  But if anything belonging to Christmas can be considered apart from the sacred source of its name and origin, I am sure I have always thought of Christmas as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time:  the only time of year I know of when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and think of others as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave.  And therefore, Uncle, though it has never put a scrap of silver or gold in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, "God bless it!"


I know your mail box like mine is filled this time of year with endless pleas for those with desperate needs.  There are hungry kids.  Others are facing winter without appropriate coats, hats, and gloves.  Some elderly folks will not have enough money to keep the heat on in their homes.  And then there are the innumerable requests to send surgical teams to folks who have eye problems and teeth problems.  Miracles all over the globe and maybe just down the street or across town or next door are waiting to happen if we will open our hearts.

For Christians, Advent gives us an opportunity to cultivate a joyful expectation.  When Christmas morning dawns in a few days we will greet it with a sense of deep meaning.  On this Sunday of Advent we light the third candle.  The first, second, and fourth candles are purple reminding us of our penitential preparation for Christmas.  But today it's a pink candle calling us to joy.  In the midst of our preparation we express a portion of the joy we anticipate having when we see the baby Jesus wrapped in our humanity and lying in a manger.  We sense a nearness of the Gloria of the Angels and our hearts can hardly wait to celebrate the hope that Christmas gives us.  But delayed gratification does not mean delaying in bringing the joy of Christ's love and healing to those in need among us.  

That's why on this Sunday we are reminded of the importance of social justice.  It is we, the followers of Christ, who are called to bring forth fruit worthy of our baptism.  That means being honest in our dealings with each other.  It means being generous with our resources so that what we have enough of might become enough for someone else when we are benevolent with what we have received from God's gracious blessings.

I witnessed the blessing of Christian benevolence recently.  Many First Tennessee Bank employees participated in the Red Cross Blood Drive at the Customer Service Center where I work.  Men and women gave the gift of life.  For some it was the first time and for others it was routine.  But for those on the receiving end of their generous giving it will be life saving.

The Lord is near.  Paul describes the Lord being at hand.  He's within touching distance of everyone of us.  Jesus is that person we refuse to forgive.  He's near us in that one from whom we wish to extract a pound of flesh.  Forbearance is when we don't press and demand when it is in our right to do so.  The art of Christian benevolence is when we let grace be our vengeance and when Christian love is our weapon of choice.    

Jesus is mightier than the vindictive sword.  He is more powerful than the evil that tempts us to exploit others.  If we will let him into our hearts he will fill us with his joy; the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Into our troubled and joyless hearts he will pour his Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit is our righteousness, our peace, our joy.  

Let us Rejoice!  The Lord is at hand!  He's probably in the next person you meet who needs the  healing witness of Christian charity.  That person may be sitting in the pew with you today.  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, December 5, 2012

Love Will Make A Way

Reflections on the Readings

Second Sunday of Advent - December 9, 2012 - Year C

The Year of Faith 

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Love Will Make A Way

I met a young man on the walking trail.  He hopes to be ready for a big bike marathon by the end of next summer.    

"I'm working on my cardio!" 

That explained why he was riding up the hill in the lower gears of his bicycle. 

He asked how long the track was.  After I said it takes about three rounds to make a mile, he shared with some satisfaction that he had gone six miles.  I was working on one mile.  But he had been there longer.

In our brief conversation he shared that he was preparing to do a 24 hour bike marathon in California to benefit troubled teens.  That explained the cross that dangled from his sweaty neck.  

That young man is doing something to fill up the valley in somebody's life.  He's wants to bring down the towering mountains of addiction and abandonment that so many young people are experiencing.  Because of his efforts some troubled young man and young lady will have a straighter path and less rough spots in their life.

Love makes a way.

I remember a pastoral experience.  It was a desperate moment in my parishioner's life.   With genuine assurance I said, "At the foot of the cross, we all stand on level ground." No one is a big 'I' or little 'You' at that holy mount.  Every level of humankind is brought to a sobering erasing of all that divides us at the Old Rugged Cross.  For everyone is united by the same spiritual predicament at the nailed feet of Jesus.  What is it we have in common?  Sin.  But grace that is greater than our sin washes over us leaving in its wake forgiveness that surpasses understanding. Where there seems to be no way to true joy, love makes a way.

In the second reading, St. Paul addresses the Philippians with 'the affection of Christ.'  It is this same great apostle who gave us the hymn of love in First Corinthians chapter 13.  This man of God is immersed in that love because he is full of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God pours into our hearts the Love that comes from the undiluted and infinite fount of every blessing  - the inner life of the Blessed Holy Trinity.  God is not willing that any should perish; love never gives up.

It is this great affection of Christ for us that enables us to see each other as members together in the family of God.  No one is meant to be a Christian by himself/herself.  We need each other.  We cannot grow into who we are meant to be in Christ without being brothers and sisters in Christ.  In the community of the Church we bear each other's burdens.  If one rejoices, we all share in that joy.  When someone is in the grip of grief, we do not allow that brother or sister to bear their cross alone.  That's why belonging to the community of faith is indispensable.  The affection of Christ compels us to hold each other in our hearts.  Love does not know another way.

Each Sunday we come to the same table and each of us receive the same body and blood of Christ.  The rich come.  The not so rich come.  And those who have never been rich nor will ever be rich come.  All are welcome at this holy meal.  And we receive the tangible reality of Christ's affection for us.  He gives us himself.  No one gets more of Jesus and no one gets less of Jesus.  Together in the unity of the Holy Spirit we partake of the same Jesus.  As Saint Paul says, "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."  God's love makes us one.  

The splendor of Love!  May we receive it and claim it for the treasure it is. And when we leave this Holy Place, let us be that love to as many as we can.  


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: