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:


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