Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Precious Fragrance of Easter

Reflections on the Readings
April 28, 2013 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year C

The Precious Fragrance of Easter

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." - Jesus

With the Resurrection fresh in their memory, the early disciples filled Jerusalem with the precious fragrance of Easter. Through them the fragrance of  making Christ known spread everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14). Rehearsing the events of the betrayal, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the nascent witnesses preached fearlessly and powerfully of Incarnate Love. The claim of death, even death on a cross, was not more powerful than the Life of Love. Up from the grave Christ arose and the early church shared that news with hearts filled with love for Christ and for one another.

The believers of the early church initially gathered in community in Jerusalem. They were, as it is described in Acts, of one heart and soul. Sharing with each other, they had everything in common. An extraordinary sense of unity and belonging prevailed among all who professed faith in Jesus. The apostles guided this community and with great power gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

It is Paul who gave untiring effort to promoting the unity of the faith. The common bond within the body of Christ is love. However, contrary winds to the teaching of Christ blow everywhere. The cunning and crafty ploys of the enemy are all about. Nevertheless, the follower of Christ speaks the truth in love. It is our high calling in Christ Jesus. The body of Christ is joined and knitted together when every part is supplying what is needed. The Church, as St. Paul says, builds itself up in love; all that is good, true, and beautiful, resides in Christ's Body, the Church.

The Church is not a political power. Her strength does not come from connections with human powers. She is not a compassionate NGO seeking the approval of the state. The strength and purpose of the Church resides in the affection Christ lavished upon the whole world. And he did so from the Cross. As Pope Francis reminds us, "When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly."

Daily we are called to remember that Love is a cross; the only cross our Lord asks us to carry.After the Resurrection, the Church picked up her cross of love, and became the face of Jesus and a community created in the love of God. Jesus left us a commandment, a new commandment is what he called it: "Love one another and your neighbor as yourself." He left us the gift of love that must be shared and given to others. Jesus said, "This is how they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." They will know. Our wife and children will know. The neighbors and coworkers will know. 

St. Paul wrote the greatest treatise on love ever written. If we do not have Christ like love we become a clanging cymbal and a noisy gong. That's an indictment against supplanting Christian love with any other way. But there is no other way. Christ is the way of love, the truth of love, the life in whom love has no measure. "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more," and with these words Jesus absolved a lifetime of sin and invited a woman of the streets into his mercy. 

There is no greater need in the world than Christian love. Paul says, "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality."(Romans 12:9-13)

We owe our families and parishes the love of God. In his love we recognize the dignity and worth of each other. May it please God that we may have a new  baptism of that love that is patient and kind. Let us pray for a new awareness of the new commandment, of love that is not jealous or boastful. God wants to give us that love that is never arrogant or rude. Neither is it ever selfish, resentful, or irritable. May we owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law of Christ.(Romans 13:8)

Too many walls divide us. Sometimes we barely know each other. It seems we are only lukewarm at best at times and the love of many has grown cold. But today, this day, we hear again the commandment, a new commandment, from him who sits on the Throne. Christ reminds us of the Fire of his Love. It warms the heart and refreshes the soul. My Christ's love burn fervently in us. The Holy Spirit is sent to fan this flame of love so that we will overcome all that is evil in this world God's way. From his Throne of Love and Grace, Jesus says to us again, "Love one another. This is my way. This is your way. It is a new day and behold, I make all things new!"

The Precious Fragrance of Easter is in the air. The Resurrected Christ, our Bridegroom, invites us to his Table. Let us come to this Love Feast today and be made new again! And after we have been nourished with love divine, let us be for our family and friends the sweet aroma of Christ. 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, April 20, 2013

The Easter Voice

Reflections on the Readings
April 21, 2013 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year C

The Easter Voice

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand." - Jesus

The terrorist attacks in Boston this past week remind us how powerful and destructive the voices of hatred are in our world. The young men who perpetrated this violence have deep roots in a part of the world where the voice of hatred is violently strong. In this very young century we have heard from those who speak very clearly, loudly, and violently, calling for our destruction. Our hearts go out to those grieving and hurting. We lift up our prayers for those dead and surviving. 

One wonders how much longer our world can endure the voices of the Hitlers, the Mussolinis, the Stalins, the Pol Pots, the Bin Ladins, the Castros, the Gosnells. You may not be familiar with his last one. Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, is an abortionist in Philadelphia undergoing trial for what went on in his abortion clinic. Investigators describe Dr. Gosnell's abortion clinic as a "house of horrors." The grand jury report contains 58 graphic details that I cannot list here. But as I think for a moment about my first 58 years in this world, I am alarmed at how prevalent and pervasive the voices of destruction have been. These thoughts convince me that now more than ever I, we, need the Easter Voice - the voice of Jesus.

I remember when I heard the voice of Jesus calling me to follow him. It was about 1964 when I was only nine years old. In our Pentecostal tradition, it was taught that one must be born again. That's what happened to me. I heard the voice of Jesus in the immense crater of my heart inviting me to know and follow him. And in that great moment I reached up to his great hand reaching down to me and grasped it.

The Gospel today is filled with great hope and promise. We need to hear the voice of Jesus. Everyday we should pray that our hearts will be ready and willing to hear what Jesus wants us to hear. A relationship with Christ is this real and personal. We have a lifetime to have a conversation with Jesus and to hear what his heart wants to tell us. He wants to speak into our heart of hearts about his love and reconciliation he wills for us and for the whole world. His voice is too small in our world, his light in our lives is too dim, his love in our thoughts and words and actions is too often absent. And when the Voice of Easter is missing, hope is missing too. And instead of Easter there is despair. And hurtful and destructive and deadly things happen.

Martin Luther King, Jr, heard the Voice of Easter. The children's chorus, 'Red and yellow, black and white; Jesus loves the little children of the world,' was sung in churches of all colors in the 1960's. Martin Luther King, Jr, asked us to believe what we sang. He asked us to understand how colorblind God is. He asked us to let the freedom of Christ ring in our hearts and in our lives, and in our voices. The mighty Voice of the Risen Jesus spoke powerfully in the heart of this man. Prison could not squelch it. Riots could not impede it. Martyrdom has not defeated it.

Mother Theresa heard the Easter Voice. She communed with Christ everyday in prayer before the Tabernacle. In that time of prayer she listened to the Voice - the Voice of Easter. She heard Jesus say, "I am thirsty, I am hungry, I am sick, and lonely, and in prison." And then she got up and went outside her door and found Jesus on the streets of Calcutta. She bathed him, and fed him, and clothed him. Love is a cross - the only cross Jesus asks us to carry.

We are like sheep to Jesus. And to us he is like a shepherd. He is the great Shepherd of the flock of God. His voice, his magnificent voice is filled with the power and victory of Easter. It is his voice our families, and parish, and work places need to hear in us. Perhaps we can pray today to hear better the Easter Voice. How will we recognize his Voice? Perhaps the words of this hymn written by Horatius Bonar will help answer that question:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down,
Thy head upon My breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, Stoop down
and drink and live."
I came to Jesus and I drank
Of that life-giving stream.
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's Light.
Look unto Me; thy morn shall rise
And all thy day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found 
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that Light of Life I'll walk
Till traveling days are done.

We can hear the voice of Jesus and when we do let us pray that we will never again listen to another. Easter reminds us that we must never seek the living One among the dead. The dead voices of hate and destruction and death will not, do not have the last word. He who is Risen speaks with the authority of an endless and indestructible life. It's that power, the power that raised Jesus from the dead that must animate us, and fill us, and give to us the courageous voice of love, and forgiveness, and reconciliation. May we too be the Voice of Easter. 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, April 13, 2013

Our Easter Mission

Reflections on the Readings
April 14, 2013 - Third Sunday of Easter - Year C

Our Easter Mission 

"Do you love me?" With these words, Jesus searches the heart of Peter. 

Only a few days ago, Peter vehemently denounced the Lord. "I don't know him!" he declared. Warming himself by the fire did nothing to impede the chill growing in his heart. Someone else recognized him, and yet a second time Peter denied the Lord. Then, like clock work, just as Jesus predicted, the cock crowed when the fateful words of denial escaped Peter's lips for the third time. At that dreadful moment the eyes of Peter and Jesus met and Peter ran from the comfortless fire and wept bitterly.

By the seaside Jesus sits closest to Peter as they eat breakfast together. And three times Jesus asks Peter for his heart. Three times Peter declares his love for Jesus. The symbolism is too obvious to miss. But more on that below. 

It seems to me there are at least three points to be made about today's readings. 

The first has to do with fear. Like Peter we can be paralyzed by fear. We seek the comfort of familiar things. We play it safe. We may not let our light shine as we should because we are afraid that we might be misunderstood or labeled. This fear is not imaginary. It's real. It's potent. And it's promoted. Moral beliefs in the United States are increasingly characterized as hateful and bigoted. Opinion and belief couched in a moral framework is assailed and dismissed as archaic and out of touch with reality. Sometimes, people are even labeled dangerous who embrace what is understood as traditional values.

Peter and company appeared before the Sanhedrin and were warned to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. "You've filled Jerusalem with your teaching. Now stop it!" they demanded. There was a time when Peter might have complied. But no longer. Jesus had met with him in grace and in the power of resurrection life. This personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus gave new life and freedom to the once fearful and timid disciple. And we too must have that relationship with Jesus. When we know Christ, I mean really know him, and the power of his resurrection, we too can count it a privilege to suffer for knowing him; to obey God rather than men.

The second point has to do with failure. There was that time in Peter's life when he wept bitterly for denying Christ. Like Peter, we have sometimes denied the Lord complete and full residence in our lives. There are times when we have not picked up our cross and followed Jesus wherever he may lead. But like Peter we can know the grace of God that is greater than our sin and failings. Where sin and failure is great, God's grace is greater, stronger, and woos us back into the Father's heart.

On that seashore, Jesus woos Peter back into the power of his love. "Yes, I love you," Peter assures Christ, somewhat distressed. The memory of leaving his first love brings pain and distress to Peter. But Jesus asks Peter for all of his heart and for all of his help to feed the precious flock of God. "My sheep know my voice and they will hear my voice in your words. Tend to my sheep and feed my lambs, and I will be with you always," Jesus assures his servant, Peter.

When we love Jesus as we are invited to love him, there is no failure that is stronger than Christ's love. You may think yourself doomed to live forever in your mistakes and failures and bad decisions. But there is a Savior who is not willing that you should perish. He is in fact not willing that any one should live outside of his love, but he invites all of us into repentance and salvation.

I'm reminded of the hymn: Come Thou Fount. In that hymn is the prayerful plea to God to help us be strong and faithful. The second stanza in part says:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love,
Here's my heart. O take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.

And that brings us to the third point. It has to do with faithfulness. We must always pray for the grace and power to be faithful. Inviting the spirit of the Gospel to penetrate deeply into our hearts will give us more desire and strength to be faithful. The Good News of the Kingdom of God forms and shapes our hearts, our words, and our actions. The stories Jesus about love and forgiveness are timeless. His power to heal both body and soul has not diminished these 21 centuries. The Gospel remains the Good News of a loving Father who sent his Son into a world filled with hate, and violence, and scorn for all that his true, and good, and beautiful. And to that world he still says, "Come unto me all of you and find rest for your souls." It is this message of Christ we are asked to faithfully share with everyone.

As I grow older, it seems to me that the Christian life is more like a marathon than like a sprint. The scriptures are filled with promises of salvation to all who endure. As we plod along we can ask the Holy Spirit to be with us and to teach us and to guide us and to glorify Jesus through us. Praying that prayer will help us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) 

A vision of Christ is given to us by John in the reading from Revelation today. It is a vision of Jesus as the Lamb of God who was once slain. But he no longer suffers the ridicule and wagging heads on Golgotha. Now, right now, he is at the right hand of the Father, high and lifted up. In that regal setting he receives blessing and glory and honor. A countless number of living creatures and angels and elders sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" And the elders fall down and worship him in that holy place. Let us join them at the altar of Grace. Let us receive the body and blood of Jesus and become for the world a living sacrifice of his presence even him who loved us and gave himself for us and for the whole world.  This is our Easter mission until he comes again! 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, April 6, 2013

Easter Mercy

Reflections on the Readings
April 7, 2013 - Second Sunday of Easter - Year C

Easter Mercy

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

In this Gospel passage is the second time we read where God's breath directly contacts humans. The first time is when God brought Adam into a living relationship with himself. Through this action Adam became a living soul. This second time, Jesus, the God-Man, breathes on his disciples. What is the purpose of this divine breath Jesus breathes on his disciples? Through his breath Jesus gives to his apostles the grace to forgive sins. 

We experience this living breath when in confession we hear the priest proclaim: 

God the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins; 
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from you sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. 

These words of absolution are spirit and life. They bring to our soul new life. They give to us a deeper living relationship with him who loved us and gave himself for us. In confession the Paschal Mystery breathes into a new flaming fervency the gift of faith given to us in baptism. 

The Mystery of Easter is a new day of mercy that has come upon the world. It is a mercy that is long suffering, invoking a kindness that is pure and gentle. One might think of God's kindness like the unconditional cuddling a mother gives her baby when she draws it to her breast for nourishment. Such is the heart of God where mercy is; it is more than abundant, it is without measure; it is sufficient and greater than all our sin. The fervent charity of God's heart is open for whosoever will; all are welcome.

Mercy is not something God withholds. It is something however we may find difficult to seek or think ourselves unworthy. This would have merit if it were not the fact that the first reading today shows God's love and help and mercy accessible and powerful in its effects even in the shadow of Peter. In Peter's shadow Easter Mercy heals the afflicted in body and soul and spirit. None were left out. Peter wrote of God's closeness to his people in his first epistle. To his parishioners at Rome he invited them into the very bosom of the Father saying, "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you." (1 Peter 5:7)

These words from Peter are filled with the memories of a shadow he cast many years before. In his shadow he witnessed the living Lord of Calvary continuing his ministry of healing the sick, casting out unclean spirits, healing them of their infirmities of heart and mind and body. Human need has not changed nor has Christ for he is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

The power of mercy is possible because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He suffered the ignominy of the cross because of the joy of Easter that loomed in his future. Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith bowed his head on an old rugged cross and crowned a new day of mercy with his inimitable words, "It is finished." From his pierced side, redemption flowed in the form of merciful water and blood. And one day we'll stand in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene looking on the only things that are manmade in heaven, the wounds of Jesus that procured for us mercy and forgiveness. On that day we shall  proclaim in the words of Thomas: "My Lord and my God!"

Shouldn't we who are recipients of such boundless mercy be disposed to show mercy to others? If Christ forgives us in a spirit of mercy shall we not also forgive those who trespass against us? This is the power and mission of Easter. It is God's power in us. It is our mission. For all who have freely received are asked to freely give. 

Easter Mercy is the great wonder and joy of knowing Christ. It is this Christ who with infinite mercy invites all who are burdened heavily with sin and despair to come to him. In the shadow of the steeple on our churches reside many who are dead in trespasses and sins. Let us invite them into the protection and shadow of Easter Mercy. Let us say to them and to each other: Fear not, He who is the first and the last lives now and forevermore. He died, and behold He Lives and holds in his hands the keys of Death and Hades. And his mercy is without end!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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: