Saturday, January 26, 2013

A New Era of Faith

Reflections on the Readings
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 27, 2013 Year C
The Year of Faith 

A New Era of Faith

In the Protestant tradition there is something called 'revival.' Revivals in my Pentecostal days were marked with superb preaching, boisterous singing, fervent invitations to know Christ, and uninhibited prayers lifted up by repentant sinners. Such times in the life of our church were a new era of faith.  That's what revivals were for - a time of spiritual renewal!

Some of my favorite memories are of the summer Camp Meetings. The Camp Meeting was a special event that occurred during the lazy days of summer. If revival was a high point in the life of the local church, Camp Meeting was the revival of all revivals.  Great Bible teaching in the morning and some of the best exposition of Holy Scripture in the evening fed the people of God.  And rounding it all out was great seasons of prayer, planned and spontaneous, and shouts of joy unspeakable and full of glory filled the songs of the happy hearts of  the 'campers.' If 'revival' in the local church was the cake, the Camp Meeting was the icing on the cake.

And in the Catholic faith I have experienced Parish Missions, Eucharistic Adoration, and Men's Cursillo events. These opportunities also have recharged my spiritual batteries. Essential in my walk with the Lord is the grace and peace I find in going to Confession. Every time is a new season of grace and faith. In the annual Lenten observances is another opportunity to draw near to the Lord in faith and penance to mark yet a new era of faith in my journey toward heaven.   

The scripture readings for today speak of a new era of faith. As we are in the Year of Faith as announced by the Holy Father I suggest that there are at least three components to a revitalized faith we find in todays readings.

First, reading and knowing the Scriptures informs us of God's love and law.  In Verbum Domini (concerning the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church)Pope Benedict XVI says, "We find ourselves before the mystery of God, who has made himself known through the gift of his word."  

God talks to us through the Holy Scriptures.  He reveals himself to us in the Bible.  The Holy Father continues, "Indeed the Church is built upon the word of God; she is born from and lives by that word. Throughout its history, the People of God has always found strength in the word of God, and today too the ecclesial community grows by hearing, celebrating and studying that word."

Knowing the Scriptures is indispensable in the life of a follower of Christ and to a vibrant life of faith.  St. Jerome, a Monk and Bible scholar of the 5th century, reminds us that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. Every renewal of the faith includes a return to and a hunger for the word of God.

Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of how to approach the Scriptures reverently, in a meditative and contemplative manner.  This way of reading the Scriptures helps the reader to have a quiet time with the Lord where we begin to hear his voice and his love shapes our hearts and minds.  Here is a link describing this powerfully ancient way of reading the scriptures:

If you are looking for a Lenten Study of the Scriptures I invite you to check out Living the Eucharist at Sacred Heart Cathedral.  This 6 - Week Lenten Study of the Scriptures will use Lectio Divina in small group gatherings for this important Lenten spiritual renewal.

Secondly, a new era of faith is not just about me. It is about us. In the second reading St. Paul paints a picture of the Church. It is relational. It has structure and leadership. It is charismatic. 

St. Paul speaks not of the pieces of Christ but of the body of Christ. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.(1 Corinthians 12:12) Every part of the human body contributes to the wholeness of the body.  So it is in understanding the body of Christ. You are my brother and sister.  We are the family of God. And like any family we have our ups and downs, our warts and pimples.  Nonetheless, adorned by grace and forgiveness we are the body of Christ, the Church of the living God.

God guides his Church through his Bishops, the successors of the Apostles.  The Bishop ordains Priests to assist him in loving, serving, and guiding the sheep under his care.  Those whom God called as apostles, prophets, and teachers in the earliest days of the Church guarded the deposit of faith and taught it to those who professed faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is this faith handed on through the centuries that is the gift we receive in communion with Christ's Church.

Additionally, the love gifts of the Holy Spirit: mighty deeds, gifts of healing, assistance and administration, and varieties of tongues are given for the building up of the body Christ.  There is, no doubt, an infinite number of gifts of the Holy Spirit in that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. There is no end to the love disseminated by the Spirit who crowns the Church with the goodness of the God who is love. 

The third component to a new era of faith is having a new awareness of the ministry of Jesus. Through prayer and corporeal works of mercy we do the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus said, "He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father."

The Church believes as it is written in Hebrews: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. After Jesus read from the scroll the words of Isaiah the prophet, the eyes of all looked intently at him. We find out next week in the reading of the Gospel of the incredulity of these same people.  But today we should hear the Scripture Jesus reads with wonder and awe.  Jesus tells us that these gracious words of the prophet are embodied in him.

Our faith finds nourishment and inspiration from the Altar. We know Christ in the breaking of the bread. This personal relationship with Christ is possible in our  communion with the Church. Here we receive the Savior not as strangers and sojourners, but as fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.(Ephesians 2:19)

Many live in a spiritual vacuum. Around us are people yearning for truth and meaning and authentic examples of faith. A new era of faith is for these as well. If we do not become the face of the Son of God, who will? And if we don't love sinners as Jesus did, who will? A new springtime of faith in the Church is not just for us but for our children and their children and to every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.(Acts 2:39) And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.(Acts 2:21) 

May our Lord bring all of us into a new and refreshing time in the Spirit and a new awareness of the love of God cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.  Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at   His website is:     

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Sign of Abundance

Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 20, 2013 Year C
The Year of Faith 

A Sign of Abundance

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 

I often write of my memories of growing up in the Pentecostal church. In that church manifestations of the Spirit were expected. I was taught and we believed they were a sign of the abundant life promised by Jesus and given in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church on the Day of Pentecost. In that community of faith we embraced the promise that as followers of Christ we were 'called by a new name,' as we read in the first reading from Isaiah. We were a new people with a new identity and destiny. Our expectation of the presence of the Holy Spirit gave us an awareness that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Life in the Spirit is forever new.

God himself holds us in his hand, as we hear in the first reading, like a glorious crown: we are a royal priesthood as St. Peter writes. (1 Peter 2:9)  The abundance of a new life is described by Isaiah.  The former life of Forsaken and Desolate is just that.  The old is passed away and behold, all things are new.  "For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse."  On real estate called Mount Calvary this all comes to pass. On an Old Rugged cross outside of Jerusalem our Maker married us. In his last words he finished his solemn passion to bring us into a deep encounter with God. Through the eyes of faith we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father and from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.

In his book, Toward a New Pentecost For a New Evangelization, Father Kilian McDonnell, OSB, writes: "This life in the Holy Spirit is spirituality among others in the Church. It is the spirituality of the Church." We all drink of one Spirit, Paul writes. And from the same Spirit are varieties of gifts given to each one for the common good.  These varieties of gifts have a common origin: they come from the same Spirit. There are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. Thus do we hear in the second reading: All of the love gifts of the Spirit are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Do you ever have that gnawing feeling that you're running out energy? That the light of Christ could be brighter in your life? That the 'running on empty' light has come on in your life yet there seems to be no way to stop long enough to fill up? Have you looked at your personal or corporate or church three and five year strategic goals and realize that not one goal has been reached yet?

The story is told of a delegation visiting the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England where the well known Charles Haddon Spurgeon pastored.  The famed pastor greeted his visitors and then offered to show them the heating system of the church.  The visitors looked at each other but did not want to offend their host. Spurgeon led them down into the lower recesses of the huge Tabernacle.  Momentarily he opened the door into a room where there was a gathering of folks praying for the minister and ministries of their church in the midst of London.

We become aware of God in prayer.  Fervent expectant prayer makes us aware that there is an abundance in God the like of which is beyond and above all that we can ask for or imagine. David captured this when he sang, "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not cup runneth over!" 

In Cana there was a marriage and the reception was in full swing. However, they were running out of wine. And the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." Blessed John Paul II, in a 1997 catechesis, said that Mary's words "expresses her concern to him about the situation, expecting him to solve it.  More precisely, according to some exegetes, his Mother is expecting an extraordinary sign, since Jesus had no wine at his disposal." 

Without pressing him, Mary, who is the first to believe in him, lets her faith rest in her Son's providence.  She does so by saying to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."  
John Paul II continues: Mary's request: "Do whatever he tells you," keeps its ever timely value for Christians of every age and is destined to renew its marvelous effect in everyone's life. It is an exhortation to trust without hesitation, especially when one does not understand the meaning or benefit of what Christ asks. 

As in the account of the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:24-26), Jesus' apparent refusal exalts the woman's faith, so that her Son's words, "My hour has not yet come", together with the working of the first miracle, demonstrate the Mother's great faith and the power of her prayer. 

The episode of the wedding at Cana urges us to be courageous in faith and to experience in our lives the truth of the Gospel words: "Ask, and it will be given you" (Mt 7:7; Lk 11:9). 

I began talking about living in an expectation of the Spirit's working.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus gives us a reason to trust in her Son and to have an expectant faith in Him.  A vibrant faith in Christ helps us to live in a personal awareness of his love and his life in us through the Spirit.  This first miracle of Jesus is a sign. This miraculous turning of the water into wine teaches us that there is in Christ all we need.  It is a sign of abundance and that in Him we will have all we need.  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:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Mystery of the Water and the Spirit

Reflections on the Readings
The Baptism of the Lord
January 13, 2012 Year C
The Year of Faith 

The Mystery of the Water and the Spirit

And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." 

Quasars are the brightest and most distant objects in the universe as we know it. Recently, astronomers fixed their sight on the biggest thing in the universe.  It is a cluster of quasars so big that it is challenging the current understanding of the scale of the universe.  How big is this light cluster?  It would take a vehicle traveling at the speed of light 4 billion years to cross.  Powerful telescopic computer navigation of the heavens keeps discovering places out there that would astound even Captains Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard.  

We come today to the last scene of Epiphany bringing a close to the Christmas season.  Jesus presents himself to John for baptism at the Jordan river.  He does this not because he needs it.  It is an important moment of revelation.  A revelation we do well to consider.  The mystery of Christ's baptism is a cluster of light in which we continue to discover God's infinite love for us.  The Church in her faith invites us into an abyss of a love - a baptism of life, newness of life - where in the arms of God we find a welcome home. 

Jesus is baptized not for his sake but for ours.  He reveals in this ritual a new genesis for all mankind; a union of our nature to the Father through the waters of baptism. St. Paul ascribes to our Lord the term: the last Adam. Paul explains, Thus it is written,  "The first Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit...The first man was from earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.  In our baptism we become 'new creatures in Christ Jesus.'  We enter into the Trinitarian life through baptism.  We come to baptism as women and men bearing the image of dust to receive the image of the man of heaven. 

Baptism reveals a first resurrection of sorts.  Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and he who believes in me shall never die."  Baptism is that sign of faith revealing a deeper and abiding mystery.  The mystery of the Water of the Spirit reorients us to the kingdom of God, a kingdom that flesh and blood cannot inherit, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  We must be changed and our transformation begins in the Holy Water of Baptism.  Through baptism we are born again not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  In His Love he welcomes us into his life and there in his heart he calls us his Friends.

The Father speaks from an open heaven, "This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased." The Father expresses this joy at his Son's baptism in the Jordan because it foreshadows everlasting joy in heaven.  What joy is that?  Every time a prodigal son of Adam or daughter of Eve returns to the House of Love, the angels erupt with great joy in the presence of God.  And we sing: 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see.  

In the bath of baptism Jesus reveals to us the gateway to heaven.  The same Spirit that renewed the face of the primordial earth hovers over the Baptismal font of the Church renewing the hearts of the children of men.

In the second reading from Titus we hear about the reality of our new life in Christ.  The mystery of a new life in Christ Jesus comes to us by the spiritual waters of baptism.  Because of his undying mercy, Jesus saves us through the bath of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. We live our new life with the power and example of godly living: temperance, justice, and true devotion.  The grace of God appeared in a time and place in Bethlehem of Judea, Jesus our Emmanuel.  He brings to us the joy of righteousness.  He empowers us to live through the animation of his Spirit the life appropriate to those who are filled with his life. 

Today let us be renewed in the mystery of the Water and the Spirit.  In this majestically simple act of baptism, where the Holy Trinity is invoked, Jesus brings into the Father's House the children of the first Adam.  Christ brings us into the glory of His Church. 

The waters of baptism are life giving.  In our Baptism we encounter the gateway of life, Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.  He who believes and is baptized lives no longer for himself but for him who loved us and gave himself for us.  Let us live therefore in the way that pleases him and see and love him in those who have yet to know that Jesus loves them too.  

I began this reflection talking about the immensity of the cosmos.  He who created everything out of nothing, also created the heavenly bodies out of nothing and took each of one them and called them by name and then hung them on nothing and told them to stay there.  If God in his Love arrays the heavens with breathless displays of his imagination how much more awaits us who have tasted and seen his goodness.  Indeed it is a mystery and grace more amazing by the moment for:

When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise, Than when we first begun.  

Such is the mystery of the Water and the 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:    

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Birthday Gifts for the King

Reflections on the Readings
The Epiphany of the Lord
January 6, 2012 Year C
The Year of Faith 

Birthday Gifts for the King 

"Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him."  

It was not just any star.  

"We have seen his star and have come to worship him," the Magi said.

His star inspired their journey and filled their hearts with joy.  His star brought them excitement.  His star defined their pilgrimage.  His star ignited their heart with a desire to bow before him.    

His star, the star of Bethlehem, led them to the very place he dwelled with Mary and Joseph.  The message of the star, positioned as it was at its apex, was that they had come to the end of their way.  Finding Jesus, a little less than two at this time, and exhausted and exhilarated, they prostrated themselves before him, offering  themselves, their reverence, their lives - and gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh - treasures filled with meaning and appropriate for a King.

Gold makes us think of royalty and majesty.  Frankincense speaks of adoration and worship.  And myrrh reminds us of sacrifice.  Each of these gifts of the Magi, gentiles from the East, reflect the depth of the wonder of the Incarnation.  We confess in the Creed the meaning these gifts portend.  Namely: that '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.  For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried...'

To these first gentiles God gave the light of revelation in the heavens and in their hearts.  We place stars and lights and angels on our Christmas trees to remember that long ago the heavens declared the glory of God; the very glory and wonder and hope that the Magi discerned in the heavens.  Every Christmas season we embrace anew the real story of Christmas - the joy of the star of Bethlehem and the extraordinary meaning of the gifts of the Magi. 

When I was a little boy I would stand outside my house and try to count the stars.  I remember laying in the yard to get a better view and to take the crick out of my neck.  I thought looking straight up would help me see more and to see the stars better.  It still is exciting for me to look up and see the wonder of the cosmos.  One time, many years ago, we had a visitor from Atlanta to our home in southern Indiana.  I picked him up at the airport in Evansville.  It was a cold night.  When we got out of the car at my house my friend looked up into the clear, cloudless night time sky and asked, "What is that?"  I said, "Those are stars!"  Walking down city sidewalks engulfed with city lights wash out the night sky.  We start to forget the canopy of wonder looking down upon us.  

Sentimental feelings and holiday songs like city lights can also blur the true story of Christmas.  I hear folks say things like, "It's too warm.  It doesn't feel like Christmas."  And Bing Crosby reminds us he's dreaming of a White Christmas.  If you live in Hawaii or go to Florida during the Christmas season you will not have a White Christmas and may actually hit the beach or the golf course on Christmas Day.  But the real meaning of Christmas brings us back to reality.  And with true joy we hear it again and gasp with wonder and awe at the generous and sacrificial visit of the Magi - Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.    

The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that first Christmas to Jesus.  In this Christmas season, is there a stocking for the Christ whose birth we celebrate.  One of my favorite movies this time of the year is the 1947 movie, The Bishop's Wife."  My absolute most favorite Christmas homily of all time is the one given in this movie at the very end.  Here is the Youtube link to watch that segment  And here is the transcript of that homily:

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we're celebrating. Don't let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.


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: