Wednesday, April 30, 2014

He opened to us the Scriptures

Reflections on the Readings

Third Sunday of Easter - May 4, 2014 - Year A

He opened to us the Scriptures

They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?"

I love the scriptures. Growing up in the Pentecostal church I breathed air saturated with great preaching and teaching based on the holy scriptures. My mother and father read the Bible and they taught me how to love it too. When my pastor invited me at the ripe old age of 13 to preach my first sermon, I searched the scriptures for what I should share. My first text was Psalm127:1,

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain, Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

Back then I used the King James Version. And verses that I memorized then I still can quote almost verbatim. Why? Because I was taught to 'hide God's word in my heart, that I might not sin against him.' (Psalm 119:11) As a young person I found help and assistance in Psalm119:9 that asked, "How can a young man keep his way pure?" That was the kind of question I had as a young Christian wanting to be pure in mind, heart, and body. So how can anyone at any age keep his way pure? The second part of that verse has the answer: "By guarding it according to thy word."

We find our delight in the 'law of the Lord', and meditating day night on that rich storehouse of God's word we discover that it is indeed alive with the breath of God. (2 Timothy 3:16) As we contemplate the scriptures we become 'like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season.' Then the Psalmist explains, "In all that he does, he prospers."(Psalm 1:1-4)

Recently Pope Francis distributed to a Wednesday audience at the Vatican personal copies of the four Gospels. In doing so the Pope asked the faithful to read a little bit each day from the great stories about Jesus in the Gospels. Oral Roberts, a healing evangelist of recent memory did something extraordinary before he began the ministry God was calling him to do. To become completely familiar with Jesus whom he believed came to save and to heal, Oral read the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles through three times on his knees over the space of 30 days. Then in imitation of the Lord, Oral went all over the world preaching that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! And thousands upon thousands came to know the Jesus who saves and heals!

Cleopas and his companion walked in darkness of mind and heart. Then Jesus joined them on their journey to Emmaus. Even though Jesus was walking right beside them, they did not recognize him. Hearing their bewilderment about the events of the last few days, Jesus scolds them saying, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interprets for them all the scriptures concerning himself. Literally, the scriptures became a light shining on all their bewilderment and fears helping them to understand from the scriptures all that Jesus endured for the salvation of the world.

Jesus used the scriptures when he encountered the devil in his temptations in the the wilderness. Three times Jesus responded to Satan with scripture, saying, "It is written…" Paul defended the resurrection saying that it was based on scripture: 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4)

Jesus shows us how to use scripture to make our prayers and to resist the devil and Paul shows us that Christ's death, burial, and resurrection have a firm foundation based in scripture. Paul used the same scriptures Jesus used - Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets.

Do you know your Bible? The scriptures still shed light on our journey of faith and they still give holy heartburn to all who will read them. In the scriptures you will meet friends in high places; a family of faith that surrounds us now with their love and their prayers. And it is through the scriptures we learn more and more about Christ. For we know him first in the scriptures as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the the world. Then with eyes and hearts made new by scripture we recognize him on our altars in the breaking of the bread.  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 Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:

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