Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Highly Recommend It! - Pentecost Sunday

Reflections on the Readings
May 19, 2013 - Pentecost Sunday - Year C

I Highly Recommend It!

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 
(1 Corinthians 12:7)
(Second Reading)

Who are your friends? Do you know anyone outside of your belief system? Do you eat lunch with them or hang out with them in any meaningful way? Do you let your kids play with the Pentecostal kids, or the Catholic kids, or the Muslim kids. In a conversation sometime back, I asked some Protestant folks, "How many Catholics do you know? Do you have any Catholic friends?" At that time they did not have any meaningful relationship with a Catholic person.

Sometimes we think we know what someone else believes or embraces concerning holy stuff. Too often what we think we know what Catholics or Pentecostals or other religions believe is based on unsubstantiated biases. Unwarranted fears or misconceptions drive many of our decisions as to who we are going to talk to and who we are going to avoid. I know this is true because I was/am one of those folks. Several years ago I told my children, "Don't you dare bring me any Catholic grandchildren!" I'm still doing penance for that brilliant statement of profound ignorance.   

There is some risk in getting to know each other. Misunderstanding can occur. An unexpected response or the lack thereof is always a possibility. For example, I recall explaining my conversion to the Catholic Church to another Catholic. I shared that my decision was based on prayer and conviction. And although I had great peace in that process, I wanted my Catholic friend to know a little something of the enormity of that decision and some of the difficulty that attended that decision. I said to this person, "It would be like if you left the Catholic priesthood and became Pentecostal!" Unexpectedly he responded, "Oh, I would never do that!" Like I said, there's risk in being just a little bit vulnerable; challenging the blind spots in ourselves and others. Still, it is a risk worth taking; a necessary effort we must embrace if the prayer Jesus prayed for our unity is to be real for us. 

In our yard we have several trees. We have Oak, and Hickory Nut, Dogwood, and a couple of Tulip Poplar trees. They provide shade and beauty and variety. All of these trees share the same yard and space. Some of them are really close to each other and their limbs intermingle. You might say we have a tree version of ecumenism. And as far as I can tell, all of these trees in our yard do not argue or express any attitudes of superiority against each other. So what does treeology have to do with theology? More than we imagine I suspect.

Making room for the Holy Spirit is something I witnessed in my Father. Daddy was always quick to acknowledge God and his presence in a matter or a prayer or song or a sermon either he or I preached. Later in life he was called to pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church. Aware of his Pentecostal background, the UMC Board of Ordained Ministry asked him how he would handle his experience and belief about speaking in tongues. Daddy responded in a manner that I can imagine they didn't see coming. My Father explained that he could not deny what God had done for him. He also put their minds at ease by saying he would never push it on anybody. And without missing a beat he added, "But I highly recommend it."

It has always struck me as a little bit curious why the UMC Board of Ordained Ministry asked my daddy that question. I'm sure they had important reasons to quiz him about his Pentecostal beliefs. But looking back on that interview I wish my Father might have asked them, "Do you have any Pentecostal friends? Do you invite the Pentecostal pastor down the street to your Ministerial Association Meetings?" In all of his 30 years of Pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church, I observed him living and preaching, and pastoring, never denying what God had done for him and always recommending a relationship with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are three other very important reasons why I highly recommend inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts and homes. 

First, Jesus reminded Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, "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." It this wind, this Holy Spirit wind that descended upon those gathered in the Upper Room. Luke says it was the sound of a mighty rushing wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And tongues as of fire came over everyone and rested upon each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. We don't need to explain that away, but rather desire it, to ask again and again, "Holy Spirit, come! Come and fill our lives, inspire our words, empower us to give our families and our world Jesus!" 

Pentecost lets us see the Church in its nascent moment - the Church's birth and life in the Spirit. From Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost unto the ends of the earth, the witness of the Church has spread out over the world. For what reason? To make known the Jesus she knows and to invite the world to love him as she does. 

Secondly, we need the Holy Spirit to help us in our prayers. St. Jude advised the Church along this line. He said, "But you beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." 

The sainted Apostle Paul shared with the Corinthians, "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all..." I think that Paul experienced that in a deep and profound prayer life. Some have called this reference to speaking in tongues 'Paul's prayer language.' (1 Corinthians 14:18) Paul taught that the Spirit helps us when we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words...for the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) I know that in my life I've had the Spirit help me pray in some very dark moments and hours for a sick wife or child. Praying in the way Paul describes has also helped me as I have faced life changing decisions.

Thirdly, we need the Holy Spirit to help us to truly worship; to help us 'lift our hearts up to the Lord.' Jesus said, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4: 23-24) 

John the Beloved, was exiled to the Isle of Patmos because of his faith in Jesus. Nonetheless, John opens the Book of Revelation saying, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day..." The Revelation to John is filled with notable allusions to the Eucharistic Celebration. As we enter into the same Spirit as John the Beloved, we too ascend with the offering from the Table, joining our voices and songs with the angels and archangels, and with all the saints of heaven. 

And then we go back to our homes and jobs more aware than ever that to each one of us the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. The good Spirit is given to us to know the goodness of Jesus in our hearts and thoughts. Then with the Spirit's assistance we are able to bring the gentle goodness of heaven wherever it is most needed. 

The Holy Spirit? Well, let me say, "I highly recommend knowing Him better!" I hope my daddy up in heaven heard me tell you that!  Amen.   

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at:   Visit him at:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

An Easter Farewell…Until

Reflections on the Readings
May 12, 2013 - The Ascension of the Lord - Year C

An Easter Farewell...Until

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. 

We do not have great joy when we are separated from someone we love. Especially this is true at the loss of a loved one to death. This brings us pain and sorrow. We know that tomorrow we will wake up without their smile or phone call or daily presence in our lives. Yet, as Jesus ascends into heaven, his closest followers attended his departure into heaven with reverence and great joy. Why is this? How can this be? Is it not because he left them with a farewell filled with purpose and  promise and peace?

Jesus explains to his disciples that they are witnesses. Mary, the Mother of Jesus is the foremost witness to his coming into the world. Mary said to Gabriel, "Let it be to me according to your word." With that fiat the Holy Spirit made Mary the dwelling place of the mystery of our salvation. She is the first witness of these things. Without her we would not know the goodness of God in the forgiveness of our sins. So Mary, along with all the apostles and the whole Church profess that 'For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.'

This is our faith. We are witnesses of this. God came down from heaven to love us, to show us his mercy, and to forgive us our sins. This is the good news we are invited to live with our lives and to share in our conversations with our family and friends. From his cradle in Bethlehem to his cross in Jerusalem, Christ descended into humanity's great abyss. Reaching his hand of mercy into the dark night of our separation from the Father he lifted us up into the Merciful Rays of his Sacred Heart. This is good news. It is a conversation that needs to be reignited in our hearts. In all the world, every where that man is, into every heart let us plant the seeds of amazing grace. 

Many years ago I worked a short stint at doing sales by phone. My job was to contact pharmacies and to describe a new spill proof measuring spoon for dispensing liquid medicines. These spoons are common place today, but back then we were telling pharmacies that this would endear them to their customers. We wanted them to believe that moms would be loyal customers everafter their Pharmacist gave them a special no spill spoon to administer the medicine to their little bundles of joy. I didn't last long in that job. I became somewhat skeptical of being successful after a call to a Pharmacist in south Arkansas. He was kind in his own way and gently advised me that if I couldn't come in person to persuade him of the value of my product that he would not be interested. Something about those words from the Pharmacist struck a note deep in my deepness. 

I think that God in his unfathomable depts of his selfness loved us from an old rugged cross. From the environs of His Holy Being, where the boundless mercies of Mercy is, there stood a Lamb who was slain. That Lamb came into the world to take away our sins. Not from afar off, but near, God came near, so near that Mary would kiss his face. And under the cross, Mary would catch his tears. We, the Church, are witnesses of these things, of the cross and of his resurrection on the third day, and of the forgiveness of sins he offers us. He became man and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. And now he appears in heaven itself as our Advocate and our Friend. 

Pope Francis spoke about the Ascension recently. He explained that Christ did not abandon his followers. The Pope shared, "Jesus remains with them and, in the Father's glory, He sustains them, guides them, and intercedes for them." We have an Advocate at the right hand of the Father. 

Jesus left his Church a promise as he ascended into heaven. He called it the Promise of my Father. We will explore this promise more fully on the Feast of Pentecost next Sunday. But Jesus' ascension assures us that through the Holy Spirit Jesus is not confined to one place in one period of time. Throughout the whole world the Holy Spirit is sent among us to bring us the friendship of Jesus. This is why we can pray, "Come, Holy Spirit. Guide us. Teach us. And Glorify Jesus." 

To be a Christian, (whether a Catholic Christian or a Baptist Christian or a Pentecostal Christian,) to be a Christian is to be all about Jesus. The Holy Spirit helps us to know Christ and the love of his Father, in a powerful and deeply personal manner. The incomparable Friendship of the Holy Trinity is offered us and it is the Holy Spirit who will help us to know that Friendship. 

Friendship with Jesus is what we really crave. Whether we know it or not, everyday the desire of every heart is to know true, deep, and unending Friendship. We may seek for it in all the wrong places or in all the wrong ways, but as surely as we have breath, Jesus is not very far away. He is as near as the mention of his name. And every day he's the same; he never changes. He invites us into his life. He will clothe us with power to love as he loves, to forgive one another as he forgives us, and to be his face, his voice, his hands. This is the Promise of the Father before there was Time. This is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.

There is in Christ's Ascension a blessing of Peace. It is not a sentimental kind of peace, but rather it is a Peace that passes all understanding. God's peace builds bridges of faith, hope, and love. It is this peace that sustains us through trials and temptations. It is this peace that reconciles us to God and to one another. 

We do not always avail ourselves of the benefits of Christ's peace. To our own hurt we may choose to be vengeful or to retaliate. Often it is necessary to remember that vengeance belongs to God. Paul says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." We are called to peace. The Church is on a mission of peace; not the kind of peace the world gives. No, my friend, the terms of peace in this world too often seeks a truce with evil, rather than overcoming evil with goodness. 

Goodness is the sister of Peace. Christ sends us into the world to be his witnesses. He chose us to be messengers of the mission of his Kingdom of Peace. Paul says, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." If we do these things, the Kingdom of righteousness, joy, and peace will grow and of that Kingdom there will be no end.

Let us go forth into all our little worlds with the Easter Farewell of Purpose, Promise and Peace fresh in our hearts, 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, May 4, 2013

An Easter Benediction

Reflections on the Readings
May 5, 2013 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year C

An Easter Benediction

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." - Jesus

Pope Francis said, "And now I would like to give the blessing. But first I want to ask you a favor. Before the Bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me - the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer - your prayer for me - in silence." A serenity descended upon everyone. Even those watching felt the effects of that holy moment. It seemed as if the peace of Christ became tangible; not a worldly peace, but a peace from another world, a heavenly place.

Before Jesus ascended to the Father's right hand, he did a remarkable thing. Standing before his closest followers he promised them his presence, his power, and his peace. 

Jesus promises us that he will never be far from us. "I am with you always," he said. He is never far from anyone. He is close even to those who do not know him. When in faith anyone reaches out to him, they will know that he is near. Christ offers his friendship to all of us. And when we invite Christ into our lives and living, we have a friend who will never leave us, nor forsake us. 'There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.'(Proverbs 18:24)

To know Jesus is to know his strength. Every day we need the courage and strength to live as a follower of Christ. Jesus gives us the power we need to be his witnesses. He sends us into the world with a measure of his divine power, the very power that raised him from the dead. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified. (Romans 8:14-17)

Even in times of misunderstanding and resistance to the love of Christ we give, we are filled with Christ's strength. We can do all things through Christ who gives us his strength. (Philippians 4:13) In the powerful name of Jesus we can pray, live, and give a joyful witness to his love. In the matchless name of Christ we are more than flesh and blood, we are a new creation, citizens of a heavenly city.

We have the promise of Christ's life and love, his very presence. Christ gives us the energy of his life to keep us strong in the face of temptations and trials. And in this world he gives us his peace, but not the kind of peace the world gives. He gives us a peace that is mutually and spontaneously proceeding within the fellowship and friendship of the Blessed Trinity: Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23) Everyday let us invite and claim for ourselves this life of peace known and given to us in Christ.

Jesus taught, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children God." Jesus, the Prince of Peace, calls us to himself. He charges us to be his emissaries, to be his people sent on a special mission of spreading the Gospel of peace. In St. Paul's spiritual armor listed in Ephesians chapter 6, the foot ware of the Christian is the gospel of peace. That means we choose the road of peace and reconciliation.

The insane arsenal of the way of war is enough to blow up the world several times over. Now I ask you, which is better, the landscape in a nuclear winter, or green pastures enhanced by the calm waters that refresh the soul? I know your answer. And I agree. 

When we choose God's peace, and invite his peace into our lives, his peace gives us the way to say, "I'm sorry. Will you please forgive me." I've tried the other way more times than I care to remember. When Jesus said, "My peace I give you," the words came from deep inside him where there was no conflict between the divinity he shared within his humanity. He gives us his peace to help our humanity to not war so much against his divine nature. Now that's peace. That's the peace that comes from him who is alive forevermore. The Risen Christ blesses us with a different peace, an unworldly kind of peace, a peace that passes all understanding. This kind of peace will give us hearts and minds that are filled with Christ's love - a love that covers a multitude of wrongs - and afterward fills our lives, our homes, our work places, and our parishes, with an Easter Benediction of Peace!  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: