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:     

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