Saturday, September 20, 2014

That Amazing Grace! - Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost
September 21, 2014 - Year A

That Amazing Grace!

"Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? (Then Jesus concluded,) "So the last fill be first, and the first last."

By the end of this past work week I was saying to myself and to those who asked about my well-being, "I'm learning again how to live in grace." It's amazing how quickly I can drift away from the safe harbor and be tossed about because I strayed from the peaceful shore of God's love. It's tempting to ask in such times, "Where is God?" A Psalm of David affirms however:

   You set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
You make the clouds your
    you ride on the wings of the wind,
You make the winds your messengers,
    fire and flame your ministers. (Ps. 104:3-4)

Yes, God is near us; he's with us in the storms of life. It is absolutely true that He is never far from any one of us. But sometimes we think God is not near because we feel so far away from Him. And this is why we should take to heart Isaiah's words and "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near." It's grace we need; a moment with him who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. (Psalm 145)

The words of the prophet Isaiah from today's first reading are especially descriptive. It is a invitation to repentance and renewal: "Let the wicked forsake their way and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." That's an announcement of amazing grace for anyone and for everyone, even 'whosoever will may come.' That includes me and you!  

Yet too often we choose our way, we choose the sword; take things into our own hands and pursue justice in our own strength. Ignoring the still, small voice of grace we huff and we puff and then find ourselves out of wind, out of kilter, and outside of God's plan. The power of the sword is deceptive and the power of Love is left untapped. G. K. Chesterton summed it up this way, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." Is it perhaps time that we ask God for the humility and the courage to try it His way?

Perhaps we should take a few moments looking at a crucifix and stand in amazement of that selfless Love that shed prodigious blood for us? We find pardon, we find mercy, we find amazing grace at the foot of Christ's cross and hear the standing invitation, "Come unto me all of you who labor and are burdened down, and I will give you rest." It is the power of the Blood of Christ we experience every time we go to confession. In this sacrament of grace we encounter God's generosity. 

We sometimes measure out God's mercy and love according to our measurement. Some say, "I don't see how God could ever forgive me." Another says, "I don't see how God could forgive that person!"A few years ago I preached in a medium security prison in southern Indiana to what some humorously say was a captive audience. There was, however, in that room, an immeasurable presence of grace. It was amazing. I preached like a house on fire as my Pentecostal friends would say. All kinds of brokenness and sin filled backgrounds was represented in that room of about 75 or so inmates. Yet in that secure environment, the doors being locked, Jesus walked among us, and once again I was reminded just how amazing God's grace is. 

My dear friend, on that Day when the Friend of Sinners meets us at the Gate, I won't be asking for fairness. No, my brothers and sisters, I'll be asking for a generous portion of mercy and grace. 

Until then, may our manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ; the gospel of mercy and grace and pardon. Amen

Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, 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:

No comments: