Saturday, June 28, 2014
Friday, June 20, 2014
A Communion of Love
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NRSVCE)
Growing up in the Pentecostal church I became familiar with the question, "Do you know Jesus?" Any fervent witness for Christ with a desire to make Christ known will begin a conversation with almost anyone with these questions, "Do you know Jesus? Do you have a personal relationship with Christ? Are you aware that Jesus loves you, and died on the cross for you and rose again on the third day for you so that you could be with him forever in his heaven? Do you want to go to heaven?"
It's a good question, "Do you know Jesus?"
A couple of guys leaving Jerusalem were making their way back home to Emmaus. Their minds racing with confusing thoughts, doubts, and wonder, Jesus caught up with them just on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Overhearing their conversation their unknown companion inquired, "What are you talking about?" Startled they stood still and with a retort Cleopas asked, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened here in the last few days."
Jesus asked, "What things?" Still keeping their eyes from recognizing him, Jesus said, "Let's keep walking. Tell me more." And how anxious they were to bring this 'visitor' up to date. They explained how Jesus, a mighty prophet in word and deed before God and all the people was cruelly maligned by their chief priests and rulers and was condemned to death by crucifixion. They told their stranger how their hopes had been dashed as they thought that Jesus was the one who would redeem Israel. And then breathlessly, Cleopas said, "Today, some women of our little group told us something amazing. This morning they discovered the tomb was empty. Furthermore, they startled all of us as they shared they had seen a vision of angels who told them that Jesus is alive!"
"Alive! Can you imagine?" they said to the stranger.
"You seem to be foolishly slow of heart to believe," the stranger chided gently. And for the rest of their walk to Emmaus, Jesus opened up the scriptures to explain how it was necessary for the Christ to first suffer and then enter into his glory. Nearing the entrance to the village of Emmaus, Jesus appeared that he was going further. But they pleaded, "Stay with us, there's hardly any daylight left."
So the stranger entered their home. In a moment supper was ready and he took his place with his hosts at their table. Reaching for the bread the stranger took the bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
What should you say to your evangelical friend who's concerned whether or not you really know Jesus? Share with her that you commune with him like Christians have done since the beginning of the Church; that you know Jesus in the bread that you eat and in the wine that you drink, true food and true drink - the body and blood of our Lord - for He said, "the one who eats me will live because of me." (John 6:57) Is there any greater Love?
So tell everyone you can what Love's unfathomable depths is and where they can find it too - a Communion of Love that makes us one with Christ and with one another! Amen.
Cyril of Jerusalem, 350 AD wrote:
[Jesus Christ] by his own will once changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee. So why should we not believe that he can change wine into blood?. . . We should therefore have full assurance that we are sharing in the body and blood of Christ. For in the type of bread, his body is given to you, and in the type of wine, his blood is given to you, so that by partaking of the body and blood of Christ you may become of one body and one blood with him.
- From Catechetical Lectures given to those preparing for Baptism
Saturday, June 14, 2014
There is another birth, a birth of the water and of the Spirit. In Christian baptism we are immersed into the very heart of the infinite Love of the Thrice Holy God and are born again. In paragraph 233 of the Catechism we read: Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity. Through the years we learn more and more what this Holy and Redeeming Love looks like. We find it and know it in the Sacraments of the Church. Especially this is so in the confessional. In that Sacrament we feel again and again God's Love for us in the forgiveness of sins. This Love came looking for us when God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
In the Incarnation God in his fulness came close to us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit He became flesh in the womb of the most blessed Virgin Mary, and assumed our humanity. Upon his birth, His mother and ours, bathed the face of the Savior of the world with her joyful tears. In that moment we see in the welcoming arms of the Virgin and in the close and protective presence of her most chaste spouse, Joseph, what Love, Holy Redemptive Love, looks like. Amen.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Reflections on the Readings
Pentecost Sunday - June 8, 2014 - Year A
I Highly Recommend It!
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4 NRSVCE)
"Someone with an experience is no match for someone with an argument!" my Pentecostal friend declared. My friend was bolstering his claim that non-Pentecostals who argue against the Pentecostal experience (the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in other tongues as understood by most traditional Pentecostals) need a deeper encounter with Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
My Pentecostal roots reach back for four generations; a movement of the Holy Spirit that broke out at the turn of the 20th century. This is my heritage. I was Pentecostal back in the day before the modern Charismatic (whether Catholic or Protestant) movement; before it was acceptable and cool.
David du Plessis, a South African-born Pentecostal minister was invited to the Vatican in the days of Pope Paul VI to offer an explanation of what Pentecostals meant by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pastor du Plessis was instrumental in introducing the Pentecostal blessing to the established historic churches including the Catholic Church. Consequently, broad acceptance of the Pentecostal message began to take place. I'm personally convinced that had it not been for David du Plessis, an anointed ambassador of the Pentecostal movement, there may not have been a Charismatic movement that has swept into every major Christian denomination including the Catholic Church in the last 50 years.
Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service reported on the recent June 1st gathering in Rome of 50,000 Catholic Charismatics in the Olympic Stadium in that city. According to the the CNS report, the crowd included charismatics from 55 countries of the world. Pope Francis invited them to come to St. Peter's Square in 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic movement. The news story notes that the Catholic Charismatic movement traces its origins to a retreat held in 1967 with students and staff from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
Pope Francis told the gathering that, "In the early days of the charismatic renewal in Buenos Aires, I did not have much love for charismatics." "I said of them: They seem like a samba school." Little by little, however, the Pope explained that he came to see how much good the movement was doing for Catholics and for the Church.
CNS reports that the celebration in Rome's Olympic Stadium began with the song, "Vive Jesus, El Señor," (Jesus, the Lord, Lives") a Spanish-language song which Pope Francis — who claims he is tone deaf — joined in singing with his hands open like many in the crowd. The pope says he likes the song, which charismatics in Argentina also sing.
"When I celebrated the Holy Mass with the charismatic renewal in Buenos Aires cathedral, after the consecration and after a few seconds of adoration in tongues, we sang this song with such joy and strength," he said.
Dr. Alan Schreck, professor of theology at Franciscan University in Stuebenville, OH has written a very helpful book Your Life in the Holy Spirit (What every Catholic needs to know and experience.) He suggests in the appendix of his book a way to invite the charismatic expressions within the Liturgy. Indeed, when I was a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, this was invited within the context of the Liturgy. It seems to me this, the charismata and their expression, is also a gift of the Eucharistic Liturgy and of the renewal of the Church in both its worship of God and its witness to the world.
The scripture reading says that on the day of Pentecost 'they were all together in one place.' Who are 'they?' In Acts 1:12-15 we read that it was a company of about 120 persons, including the Apostles, together with the women witnesses of the resurrection and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers. And when the Holy Spirit descended with the 'sound' of a mighty rushing wind, every last one of them spoke in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
In 1974 my dad accepted a call from the South Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church to become a UMC pastor. Dad sold the house to the next door neighbor and he and mom and my siblings packed their lives and memories and moved to South Arkansas where daddy accepted his first appointment in the UMC. Not long after he arrived the Board of Ordained Ministry interviewed him to outline daddy's educational formation for ordination. Knowing his Pentecostal background they asked him how he would handle his understanding of the Holy Spirit and of speaking in tongues. I don't think they saw it coming. Daddy responded, "I can not deny what God has done for me and I would never force it on anyone. However, I highly recommend it!"
Me too, daddy. Me too! 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com