Thursday, February 28, 2013


Reflections on the Readings

Third Sunday of Lent - March 3, 2013 - Year A Scrutinies

The Year of Faith 

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday


Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."

Saturday was a work day for me. I was about 13 or 14. I cruised my paper route visiting my customers and collecting for a week's worth of the Dubois County Daily Herald. Sometimes I combined Saturday delivery with collecting for the paper, catching some of those folks who lived on top of the big E. 4th Avenue hill or others who weren't home in the morning. 

I remember one particularly hot and humid Saturday afternoon. The heat of the sun beat my brow and body with unrelenting strength. It seemed that the rays of that Southern Indiana sunshine were sucking the water right out of me. I began to search for some way to relieve the dry cotton swelling up in my mouth. My body screamed from dehydration. So I stopped at the local Dog 'N Suds root beer stand and had a very cold and syrupy root beer from a frosty mug. 

It didn't help. To this very moment every time I think of that day on my paper route I cringe and imagine my mouth becoming dry and dusty like a desert. The cold, syrupy, sweet, root beer went down the hatch and the inside of my gut was begging to come out. I know. It's more than you needed to know. So I climbed onto my Western Flyer Newsboy Special bicycle and headed for my next customer on E. 4th Avenue hoping I could find a big glass of water my body was screaming for. I imagined what it would taste like. There was nothing like Huntingburg City water. 

Gratefully, the old folks were home. My customer, old enough to be my grandmother, took the paper I delivered and paid me for the past week. With appropriate manners I asked if could have a drink of water. My body was ready to receive the life giving drink of water it begged for. My customer said she would be glad to get me a glass of water. Then she suggested she could get me a cold Pepsi. I said no thank you, and assured her that a glass of water would be fine. She insisted that she would get me a cold Pepsi and was pleased that she could offer what she believed would be a treat for me. I continued to say, "No, no, no. Just a glass of water, please." My body went into agony and my tongue felt parched as I pleaded for a glass of water to no avail.

So I drank that cold, syrupy, sweet, Pepsi and accepted the growing reality that I might soon succumb to dehydration. 

Today about 1 billion people wake up thirsty. One in 6 people on this watery globe have to spend a good portion of their day transporting unsafe and unsanitary water drawn from water holes 3 or 4 hours away. Mothers and children often have to take care of this task. This means that children don't get an education. It means that life is a daily struggle for survival. In the mean time sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, eduction, and death remain huge issues for more than a billion people who have no adequate and safe water for themselves or their daily needs.

Charity is an organization whose goal is to provide for the waterless one billion people safe, clean, and accessible water. They are accomplishing this goal by raising awareness and money to drill wells in remote villages where thousands of men, women, boys, and girls wake up everyday with thirst, dehydration, and death. One hundred percent of the public money Charity raises goes to equipment and efforts to find drinkable, life sustaining, water. In many places the gift of water lies underground waiting to be tapped if someone will bring the equipment needed to build safe, and reliable wells. You can check out Charity and its mission at and learn why they believe that water changes everything.

Who would have thought that hundreds of years after Jacob built his well that the Son of God would sit on that well exhausted and thirsty and hot and ask a social outcast for a drink of water. Twice in scripture we read that Jesus is thirsty. The first time is in today's Gospel reading. The next time we will hear again on Good Friday. I remember when our little Heidi suffered from dehydration. We spent eight grueling hours in the ER at Children's Hospital in Knoxville on a Good Friday about 6 years ago. My little six year old daughter looked at me and said, "I'm thirsty." Somehow in that moment we were one with him who said from an old rugged cross, "I thirst."

God still thirsts for us. He reveals our need for living water by asking us for a drink for himself. St. Augustine says that Jesus first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Augustine explains that Jesus asking for water arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Pointing at Jacob's well Jesus said to the woman from Samaria, "Every one who drinks this water will thirst again." Then our Lord paused and looked deep into the soul of the Samaritan woman and said, "But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Those words are not just for this woman. They are for us too. To all who ask him he gives his life and love; a well of living water.

Let us repeat the words of this Samaritan woman and make them our very own and say to Jesus, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst."  


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, February 23, 2013

Inhaling the Divine Breath

Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Lent - February 24, 2013 - Year C
The Year of Faith 

What is Prayer?
(Inhaling the Divine Breath)

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! Thou hast said, "Seek ye my face." My heart says to thee, "Thy face, Lord, do I seek." Hide not thy face from me. (Psalm 27:7-9) RSV

I did an informal survey before writing this Reflection. I asked several people to give me a short answer to the question, "What is prayer?" Their brief and thoughtful answers included: Acknowledging God; Speaking to the Lord; Private time with God; Communication with God. Others said that prayer is faith or asking for mercy. One suggested that prayer should be for the most part a non-selfish expression in which the petitioner finds hope even if his particular requests are not answered promptly or in the expected way.

One person suggested with a smile of knowing that prayer is love to God. The beloved apostle John wrote, "We love him, because he first loved us." The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that love is the foundation of Christian prayer. St. Augustine used the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well to teach about the wonder of prayer. He said that the wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is Christ who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. (quote from CCC #2560)

St. ThéRèse of Lisieu said, "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy." Cardinal Ravisi in leading the Papal Lenten retreat this past week compared prayer to the verb "to breathe." He said believers need to look on prayer the same way as they do breath, as a physical necessity rather than an optional free-time activity. He quoted Kierkegaard: "Why do I pray? Why do I breathe? Because otherwise I'd die."

Prayer is to inhale the divine breath:

The same breath of God that hovered over the chaotic earth and created a new world;

The same breath of God Jesus breathed on his disciples giving them the ministry of reconciliation;

The same breath of God that filled the upper room on the Day of Pentecost as a mighty, rushing wind.

Sometimes Christian prayer is too intense, too deep, for words. We sometimes do not have a vocabulary to make a prayer. We may not even know how we ought to pray. However, even to acknowledge this is to pray. To pray this way is a prayer of the heart. This prayer of the heart is an invitation for the divine breath to breathe deeply in us until we and the ones we pray for are filled with an awareness of the height, depth, and width of the immeasurable, immortal, and immense love God has for us and for his creation.

Jesus said, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

O breath of God breathe in me that I may live. 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: 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It Is Written

Reflections on the Readings
First Sunday of Lent - February 17, 2013 - Year C
The Year of Faith 

It is Written

The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" (Luke 4:3, 4)

I suppose it's not very cool nowadays to believe there is a devil. But every Lent we read of the confrontation Jesus had with the serpent of old. Lent reminds us that we are in a warfare. However, though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war. (2 Corinthians 10:3) And the weapon of our warfare is not worldly either, but rather it is filled with divine power. That weapon is Holy Scripture as Jesus used in his encounter with the devil.

Paul describes our warfare as a fight not against flesh and blood, but against a whole host of organized malicious powers. For this spiritual battle we must be strong in the Lord and in the strength he gives us through prayer and knowing the Scriptures. Our strength is not sufficient. For this battle we need the whole armor of God including the shield of faith to quench the flaming darts of the evil one and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Our sophistication does not change the fact that our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  That someone is you and me. (1 Peter 5:8) Each one of us must resist him, firm in our faith, and filled with the arsenal of Holy Scripture. Praying the Scriptures in times of spiritual suffering and temptations is a way the Spirit helps us to overcome the devil. 

And Satan will come.

He came at Adam and Eve.

He came at Jesus.

He comes at you and me. 

He comes to you and me as he came to Adam and Eve and Jesus, distorting and perverting the very Word of God.  "Hath God said," or "Didn't God say," is still his modus operandi. He quoted Scripture to Jesus out of context. He questioned the Love of God for those created in his image to bring doubt and fear into Adam's and Eve's world. He masks our days with the urgent to keep us from the vital and important and necessary nourishment of God's Word - And Jesus answered Satan, "It is written," 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" Even the necessary daily need of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, must not prevent us from praying over and receiving the daily bread of God's instructive and living word.

Paul and Silas preached at the Jewish synagogue in Berea. The Bereans received the word eagerly, searching the Scriptures daily to see if Paul's preaching stood the test of Holy Scripture. As a result, many of them believed, including men and women of high standing.(Acts 17:11-12) This hunger for the truth of the Word of God demonstrated by the Bereans is an inspiration for us. 

Like those folks in Berea we need to keep growing in our knowledge of Scripture for the following reasons.

1. We can resist Satan better by praying the Scriptures. Take portions of God word and make them into a prayer to resist the devil and to overcome temptations. Prayers based on Holy Scripture include: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. (Luke 1:28, 42, 48; James 5:16) For contrition and repentance the Jesus Prayer is: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. (Luke 18:38; 17:13; 18:14) A prayer helpful in preparing for confession is Psalm 139:23 - 24: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Prayers filled with the words of Scripture reflect the incomparable dignity and power of praying with words that are God-breathed. All scripture is inspired by God and they help us to pray more fervently and effectively for ourselves, for our families, and for our neighbors.


2. Hearing and reading the scriptures helps us to have a better spiritual sense of hearing. We can hear the voice of God in the Scripture that has its inspiration in Him. So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.(Romans 10:17) Whenever we hear the reading of God's word or when the Pastor or Priest preaches or when we read it for ourselves, let us be receptive and of ready heart and mind to receive the word of God as the precious seed that it is. May it fall on the good soil of our soul and bring us into the fruitful life of holiness.

3. We are fed by every word spoken from the mouth of God. Psalm 119 is a great meditation on the relevance and necessity of God's word and law: How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!(Psalm 119:103)

4. We receive direction from God's word: Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.(Psalm 119:105) The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes and the Fruit of the Spirit are all found in Holy Scripture and give great light on our daily walk through this world on our way to heaven. When God's word shines its great light into our heart, our thoughts, words, and deeds will reflect more faithfully what God's word teaches us.

It is written, "Man cannot live by bread alone." Let us enter this Lenten season of prayer and fasting with a greater hunger for God's word and love. Bread alone cannot meet all of our needs. We will find the power of the Spirit in every word that comes from the mouth of God. 


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, February 9, 2013

I Am Not Worthy

Reflections on the Readings

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 10, 2013 Year C

The Year of Faith 

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

I Am Not Worthy

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

Dottie Rambo was a prolific gospel song writer. Among her most moving songs is He Looked Beyond My Faults: "I do not know, just why he came to love me so. He looked beyond my faults and saw my need." 

In today's Scripture readings there is a common theme of a personal awareness of sinfulness. Isaiah cries out, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips." Even as an apostle, Paul remembers the grace that found him: "For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain." And then in the Gospel today, Peter in the presence of Jesus and the miracle catch of the fish falls before the Lord and declares, "I am a sinful man."

This coming Wednesday we will receive ashes on our foreheads. We will hear one of two liturgical formulas: "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return,"(Genesis 3:19) or "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."(Mark 1:15). Both remind us that without distinction all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We also remember that grace is the gift of God given us through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

We are called to walk in holiness, to put on Christ. Adam and Eve, after they sinned, hid themselves from the presence of Lord God among the trees of the garden. Out of mercy the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them. In his great love for us, aware of our great need for that love that covers a multitude of sins, God gave us his only Son, the Son of his love. 

Every day is an opportunity to grow in grace. To grow in our love for Christ and the Church he gave us. To understand better what it means to be witnesses of Jesus. To  ask for a greater work of conversion in our hearts. May we always remember that the work of grace in our lives is not a single event. Every day we learn about something else to put off, to repent for, so that Christ will be in us more profoundly. If there is one thing that marks the earliest followers of Jesus Christ it is their undivided loyalty to follow Christ, to know him and the power of his resurrection. The imperishable seed of the living and abiding word of God took root in their lives and grew in them the salvation of Christ.

That same imperishable seed is in you and in me. Through humility and deference to the things of Christ, a life of holiness emerges. Gentle, yet firm warnings remind us to not be deceived, to be aware that whatever we sow we shall reap. If we put on the spirit of the age and hide among its lures and enticements, the light of Christ is diminished. As we avail ourselves of the means of grace like confession, we are renewed in our mind; we are transformed by the Spirit of the living God. 

The renewal of the Church in our day will come as we humble ourselves before the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and walk in a new baptism of love for God and neighbor. Paul asked the Church at Corinth to enter into an examination conscience. Paul's exhortation was, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test! This examination may reveal as Paul told the Romans: ...I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do...Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Since the earliest days of the Church, the practice of examination of conscience has been an important aspect of growing in holiness.  Some features of self examination include:

1. Thanksgiving: Gratitude replaces self importance, and imprudent judging of others.

2. Intention: Honesty with oneself is important. Am I truly inviting Christ to be my Lord and my Savior every day?

3. Reflection: As I let the Spirit of the Lord search me and examine me, did I show the love of Christ to all I met today?

4. Contrition: Ask the Lord for a greater awareness of the power of his love. Ask for Jesus to forgive everything you've done today that was not his face, his voice, and his love. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins.

5. Hope. I will take my place again in the pilgrimage toward heaven. I will ask again for the gifts of faith, hope, and love; to be more the person I'm meant to be and pray that others will have hope because I've helped them to know the love of God.

My dear friend, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when Christ appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.(1 John 3:2) Until then, I with you, shall pray at every Eucharist, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." As Dottie Rambo's song says: 

"I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary, to view the cross, where Jesus died for me. How marvelous, His grace that caught my falling soul. 

He looked beyond my faults and saw my need." 

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1John 3:3) 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, February 3, 2013

My Wife's Best Friend

Reflections on the Readings
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 3, 2013 Year C
The Year of Faith 

My Wife's Best Friend

So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The call came this past Monday evening. Cindy had been moved to a comfort room in the nursing home. Vibrant, busy, involved with life and loving others describes Cindy. Now she was nearing the end. A massive stroke had struck her down 27 months ago. Marvin explained to my wife on the phone that they had run out of options.

Debbie and Cindy met in 5th grade at Merriam Grade School.  It was a country school outside Fairfield, IL, and still had two grade levels meeting in the same classroom.  Debbie and her family had moved from town out into the country into a new home built by Debbie's Dad and Grandpa. Moving from the community grade school in town Debbie discovered she was behind. The country kids were smarter and the lessons were more demanding. But Debbie was up for the challenge and her new friend Cindy lived in walking distance on the same road where Debbie lived.  

After 8th grade graduation, Debbie and Cindy continued their education at Fairfield High School. Now the country girls were back in town. Their days at Merriam had prepared them for High School. They studied Latin and Algebra together and were some of the best students in High School. Those country girls had come back and were ready to show those 'city' girls a thing or two about Math, and English, and Latin.

For a wedding gift, Cindy crocheted for Debbie twelve very fancy and beautiful pot holders.  They are so beautiful in fact that they have remained in Debbie's hope chest. Debbie told me she thought she would get them out soon. Through the years Cindy continued crocheting afghans and blankets and potholders for family and friends. Marvin told Debbie that every one in their church probably has something Cindy crocheted.

This past Wednesday night Marvin called to let Debbie know that Cindy had entered into her eternal rest. In many ways, the Cindy he knew, the Cindy we all knew, had been taken away from us 27 months ago. Her husband of almost 19 years lost her.  The Veterinary clinic where she loved God's creatures great and small lost her. In the end, her tired and worn out body lost its battle that began many months ago. It would all seem very bleak until we remember the relationships we make and the things we do in the great Spirit of Love endure. Around the church were the many friends and family she had embraced in her big heart. And truly a modern day Dorcas, around the church were the beautiful examples of Cindy's talents. Even on her casket lay an unfinished afghan. (See Acts 9:36-39)

When we came into Little Prairie Christian Church it was so obvious. The air was thick with it. The indestructible power of love was in that Church Friday morning. And the good Pastor spoke of it and described it and helped us to see it - the hope, the faith and the love of Cindy Goldman. Every day for 27 months Marvin was at her bedside. The Pastor spoke of the commitment and faithfulness of Cindy's husband. He reminded us of the faith and commitment of Cindy. He spoke of her love for Christ and for her family and for her friends. He reminded us that no one ever left Cindy's presence without a hug. And somehow it seemed that the bright spot in the room glowed from that person we were saying good bye to. The life and love and laughter and hope and faith of Cindy Goldman had brought us all together. 

In her brief 55 years Cindy had learned and lived the power of love. And somehow in the end she managed to give us a hug before she left us - in the things she had made and given away. In the care and concern she poured into everything and everyone. But most especially in the way she lived and loved. Most importantly in her love for Christ and for her husband and for all of us.  

Eternal rest, grant unto her, O Lord, 
and let perpetual light shine upon her. 
May the souls of the faithful departed 
through the mercy of God rest in peace. 

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: