Friday, March 29, 2013

Too Good To Be True?

Reflections on the Readings
The Resurrection of the Lord
March 31 - Easter Sunday - Year C

Too Good To Be True?

But their story seemed like nonsense, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:11)

All of us have experienced unbelievable moments in our lives. Perhaps you've even said, "I just can't believe it! It's just too good to be true!" Maybe it was the gift of your first car. Maybe Dad gave you the keys to his car without you asking when you were about to have your first date. Or maybe you were given an opportunity that until that moment could only be a dream. It's really fun and joyous when dreams come true; when unbelievable events happen and we experience a boat load of happiness. 

The very first Easter was initially an apprehensive time for the disciples. We could even say it was a time of unbelief and darkness. At least it was at first. Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and several unnamed women exclaimed, "He is risen!" Many of the eleven simply did not believe their exciting news. To them it was nonsense.

Before we take them to task let's remember that betrayal and denial and accusation and finally the crucifixion preceded that first Easter morning. Skepticism was thick in the air and fear ruled the hearts of those who were closest to Jesus. When Thomas was told, "We have seen the Lord," he responded with a heart filled with incredulity, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." I think we are supposed to hear that with all caps, "I WILL NOT BELIEVE!" 

For Thomas it simply was just too good to be true. But Jesus took Thomas at his word, because eight days later Jesus came again to the house where his disciples were staying. He didn't knock. He didn't use the door at all. He simply stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." And then he invited Thomas to touch him. Thomas heard Jesus say, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas replied, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus asked, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." 

How faithful and loving Jesus is. He would not leave Thomas in his doubts nor would he allow Peter to live forever wounded in his denial of the Lord. You see, Easter is for all of us. It is for all who hurt; for all who are in pain; for all who suffer and doubt and struggle to believe. Easter is for all who are wounded in heart and mind; it is for all who live marked with the scars of violence and terror. Easter is for all who battle with the powers of addiction to alcohol and drugs and pornography. 

Easter is also for those today who will lose their battle with some dreaded disease. It is for that mom and dad who will bury their child today. Easter is for a faithful wife who is dying with a disease given to her by an unfaithful husband. Easter is for all those who died in the senseless violence against innocent children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Easter is for all those who are left to grieve in that precious community. Easter is for all who endure genocide, and wars, and rumors of wars, and famine and disease, drought, and destruction.

Easter is good and true and powerful! In the name of the risen Jesus you and I can clothe the naked, and feed the hungry, and give water to the thirsty. In Christ's name we can comfort the hurting and console the dying. In the name of Jesus we can pray for the sick and suffering. Through Christ we can heal broken hearts and preach the Good News to the poor. 

It's important to remember that Jesus did not buy a grave. He did not pick out a sepulcher for his burial. There was no need to make such arrangements. Joseph of Arimathea loaned him his tomb. Jesus borrowed a tomb because he knew he wouldn't need it very long. Christ lives! And because he lives every man and woman and boy and girl is invited to claim for themselves his love, his strength, his mercy and forgiveness. 

Too good to be true? Peter wrote some years later after the Resurrection of our Lord and said, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." Yes my friend, it's true. It's all true. It's all very powerful and very good and very true!

Now may the God of peace
who brought again from the dead
our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep,
by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you
with everything good that you may do his will,
working in you that which is pleasing in his sight,
through Jesus Christ; 
to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
(Hebrews 13:20-21)


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, March 23, 2013

The Family Table - Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reflections on the Readings
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
March 24, 2013 - Year C

The Family Table

When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer..."

Jesus breaks bread with his disciples only a few hours before he is betrayed, denied, and crucified. Yet he approaches the hour of eating Passover with his closest followers with an eagerness. He will transform the meaning and the substance of the bread they eat and the wine they drink, saying, "The bread is my Body; the wine is my blood." My friend, Bruce, recently shared in our small group Lenten study about this eagerness of our Lord. He explained it was like the Lord saying, "This was my plan since the creation! I can't wait to do this! This is how we will always be together!"

The Passover observance and meal is celebrated by every family in Israel. The family gathers together to partake of the Seder. The Seder is a meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs, salt water, bread, and four cups of wine recounting Israel's life of slavery in Egypt and their dramatic deliverance from the hand of Pharoah. 

On the night before the angel of death visited the land of Egypt, every family in the tribes of Israel killed a lamb and applied its blood on the doorposts and lintel of their dwelling. They roasted the meat of the lamb and ate it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were commanded to eat with their traveling clothes on and with their shoes on their feet. Moses advised the people, "It is the Lord's passover." 

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13)

The Passover Seder meal enabled Israel to stay connected as a people and to their history as the people of God. Jesus celebrated this memorial of his people with his closest followers. Jesus revealed in the celebration of the Passover a new meal celebrating the union of his people with God made possible by the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Paul, teaching the Corinthians explained, "Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed." 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read:  In the Church, the celebration of the Christian mystery of the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover. In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them. In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.(Section 1362 - 1364)

I read a book a few years ago entitled, Journey Back to Eden. In it, Fr. Mark Gruber, O.S.B., recounts his life and times among the Desert Fathers. One of his excursions included taking a jeep into the desert area surrounding Egypt's oldest Monastery, the Monastery of St. Catherine. The jeep was not in good working order and after a while the engine died. Providentially he discovered an encampment of Bedouins who receive him with a generous, if not excessive, display of hospitality.

Gruber recalls, "Part of the hospitality of the father of the tent-dwellers was to pour out at my feet the equivalent of a bushel of cakes of bread!"

Nomads in the region bake large quantities of bread whenever they are near a generous supply of water. There are no microwaves, no refrigeration, no Saran Wrap to help keep the bread. Rather, the bread is baked in such a way so that a thick crust covers the bread keeping the bread inside moist and fresh. Gruber continues, "The father of the tent-dwellers picked up one of the cakes of bread at my feet and broke it open for me. I scooped out the insides and ate the delicious bread. Even as I was eating the first cake, he broke another and put it before me. I thanked him and said that I had had enough, but he urged me to a third one, even though I was only nibbling on the second. I told him that I was really satiated, and that I would need to leave soon."

This hospitality continued unabated by Gruber's protests to the contrary. Gruber states that the head of the house opened all the cakes of bread lying before him. All of the bread of the family, each and every one of the cakes of bread, were broken open in front of him by the head of the house. Gruber concluded, "The gesture was unmistakeable. He wanted me to know that he had withheld from me nothing, that he had put before me everything at his disposal. He wanted me to know that I had been well received, and by this gesture, this extravagant waste, this complete sacrifice, I would be persuaded, convinced, of his kindness. I would be certain of his hospitality."

On the night our Lord was betrayed, he took bread and wine, and blessed them and gave them to his fledgling Church and said, "This is my body; this is my blood, given for you." Why? He wants us to be certain of his hospitality. He wants you and me to know that he has withheld nothing from us and that this is how we will always be together! 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, March 15, 2013

The Tears of Jesus

Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday of Lent - March 17, 2013 - Year A Scrutinies
The Year of Faith 

The Tears of Jesus

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept.

I'm beginning this Reflection remembering a sorrowful and tearful time that happened July 16, 1995. Only a night or two before that fateful and intensely hot summer Sunday in 1995 I saw my mother in a dream. She was dressed in white and ascending into the heavens. I knew her battle with Lou Gehrig's was nearing the end.  

Arriving at the Funeral Home, I asked to be alone. Graciously, my wife and the Funeral director, closed the door and left me alone with my mother. It had taken 12 hours to make it to south Arkansas from southern Indiana. I felt a deep need to be the first person at the Funeral Home before the evening visitation began. After all, I was the first-born son. But something else, something deep inside me was pushing me to get there as soon as possible. Grief not yet released was locked up in my heart. 

Standing before the coffin where my mother lay, a lifetime of love, and memories, and son and mommy talks, paraded through my heart. With these came a torrent of tears unlocking the grief that squeezed my heart. I lifted my face toward heaven and raised my hands in prayer. My tears flowed freely mingled with anger, and grief, and thanksgiving. Anger, because of the enemy called death took my mother away from us. Grief, because of the deep loss I felt in the pit of my stomach. And my heart overflowed with thanksgiving because of love. The gift of a faithful and godly mother makes memories that never fade.

There are three moments in scripture that speak of Jesus shedding tears. Jesus expressing the emotion of shedding tears speaks deeply of the reality of the Incarnation. In his flesh Jesus participated in all of the alienation and heartache of humanity. So we see Christ, one with us, God in flesh, shedding tears.

Coming to the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus is deeply moved in his spirit. Our Lord feels the tentacles of death in his person and expresses his indignation with death in deep guttural sounds. Seeing the place where Lazarus is entombed, Jesus weeps. He weeps at this awful scene of disruption and heartache. The sacred ties of friendship and family now severed by death is highlighted by the sacred tears that flow down the face of the Son of Man. 

The poignancy of this scene is not lost by some observing who say, "See how he loved him!" Tears are like liquid words. They cannot be uttered; they can only flow unspoken upon the cheek. Jesus weeps for the loss exacted by an enemy he intends to defeat. Thus he assures Martha, "Your brother will rise again."

Jesus also wept over the city of Jerusalem.(Luke 19:41) Matthew records Jesus saying, "How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" His tears over the City of David expressed the deep attachment he felt to the people he first brought up out of Egyptian bondage. He was to them a Pillar of Fire by night and a Pillar of Cloud by day. He was the rock in the wilderness from which came life giving water for the children of Israel. And now, the Shepherd of her history, weeps as the Good Shepherd of the lost sheep of the House of Israel. 

During our Lord's Passion we know from the Gospel accounts that our Lord prayed intensely in the garden. It is the writer of the Book of Hebrews that gives us the depth and magnitude of that time of agonizing prayer. We read: In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.(Hebrews 5:7) Christian tradition recounts: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.(included in some translations of Scripture as Luke 24:43, 44) 

Our Lord wept with those who wept. He shed tears of love for those whom he came to save. The love of Jesus is not something he kept inside of himself, rather he poured out his heart so that from the cross he cried out in the midst of his saving anguish, "Father! Forgive them, for they know not what they do." The soldier pierced the Lord's side with his lance and from the riven side of Jesus flowed blood and water; tears from deep within the Son of God.

"A quote attributed to Washington Irving reminds us, "There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love." But in that day when time shall be no more, He who is the uncontested victor over death, hell, and the grave, shall wipe every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more. For the former things will be no more. 

And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." 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, March 8, 2013

Now I See

Reflections on the Readings
Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 10, 2013 - Year A Scrutinies
The Year of Faith 

Now I See

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see."

The gift of sight. To be truly able to see things and others and ourselves as we should is a gift we seek this Lenten season. In the first reading Samuel is impressed with the appearance of Eliab. Sent on a mission to anoint a King for Israel from among the sons of Jesse, Samuel takes one look at Eliab and says, "Surely the Lord's anointed is here before him." Then the Lord speaks to his servant, Samuel, and says, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

Things are not always as they appear. Not until David was called from the fields where he was tending the sheep did Samuel hear in his heart, "This is the one, anoint him!" Samuel poured the oil over David's head in the presence of his brothers and then the Spirit accompanies David in a mighty way. God confirms what he wants us to know with signs following. His word does not suffer loss nor fall short, but accomplishes its meaning and brings to pass the destiny God ordains. David would recount this scene many years later and sing: "Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows."

The great light of Christ heals us of spiritual blindness. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we are children of light. He describes the blindness of sin and how such blindness is a world of unfruitful darkness. In that darkness shameful secrets exist. We have been healed of that blindness, yet Paul is quick to admonish us to 'walk as children of light,' for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true. 

Speaking to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of how the gospel is veiled only to those who are perishing. "In their case," he says, "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God."

Remembering the first words of the dawn of creation Paul recalls God speaking, "Let light shine out of darkness." It is this same God who shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The call of the gospel of light is meant to bring healing in every way we live in the blindness of sin. In our Lenten journey we are encouraged to pray for a greater and deeper presence of Christ in us, in our families, and in our communities. Jesus still gives new eyes to those who seek him. 

As we come out of the lethargy of winter, Lent helps us to find our way out of our spiritual torpidity and blindness. As Paul concludes in the second reading: "Awake , O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." 

The Gospel reminds us of that saying: 'There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.' Despite strong evidence to the contrary, the Pharisees go out of their way to suggest that the man born blind was never blind at all. They talk to the man Jesus healed, then they talk to the parents, then they talk to the man Jesus healed. All the while they are daring anyone to say what they may want to say about Jesus, that he is the Christ. On threat of being thrown out of the synagogue everyone speaks in measured ways.

Pressed on the matter, however, the man whom Jesus healed says, "Look, I once was blind. From the day of my birth I was blind. But that is all gone now, for now I see. You get that? I once was blind, but now I see."

Someone with only an argument is no match for someone with an experience. The gift of sight made a profound impact on this man. This Gospel is read today in view of the catechumens (unbaptized) among us who will be baptized this coming Easter Vigil and receive the gift of seeing Christ. It will be a profound and moving moment for all of us to witness the gift of new sight imparted to our new brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, we will praise God for what we see again with our eyes, the gift of life and love given to those who swear allegiance to the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners. 

May we ask again for the gift of a true vision of Christ. For this is truly the gift of sight we need. Let us ask him to touch our eyes so that we can see him again in the gift of the Church he has left us; so that we can see him again in the gift of each other; so that we can see him again in the gift of his body and blood; that we may see those who live with us and around us as those for whom Christ also died. 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: