Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Living God

Reflections on the Readings

May 31, 2015 - Year B
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

The Living God

 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. (Romans 8:14-15)

Today we ponder anew the God who gives life to all things and to us, his most reluctant of creatures, the breath of life. I say reluctant because from the beginning we regrettably are prone to wander from the God of love. You will recall the great work of God in forming man from the dust of of the earth. "Let us make man in our image," said God, revealing a conversation within himself because there was no one else with whom to converse. But it was not a conversation like we have on occasion of talking to oneself. This was a conversation involving God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When God said let us make man in our image, that conversation concluded with Adam formed from the dust of the earth with God bending over him and breathing into him the breath of life and thus Adam became a living soul. That, my friend, is worthy of our deepest reflection.

The apostle Paul ministered in Athens, a city full of idols including an altar with the inscription, 'to an unknown god.' Paul's response to this spiritual confusion is clear and confident: 

What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'(Acts 17:23-28)

Paul's evangelical witness is as relevant today as it was in his own day. We must begin a new and clear conversation with the children of this age about the Living God who gives to all the sons and daughters of Adam life and breath, and that He is not far from each one of us. Our generation needs to hear about the God who shows his mercy in appointing the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, and how his watchful eye is on the sparrow, and that like a shepherd he watches over us. These truths help us understand the worth and destiny of every soul as seen in the light of the indiscriminate love of the Author of life.

The beginning of faith and rebirth for each of us is Christian baptism. It is the turning around point for every repentant follower of Christ. At the Trinitarian invocation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we become new sons and daughters of the Father through the Son of his love, and the infusion of the Spirit, the Breath of the Living God.

In this intimate reunion we cry, "Abba! Father!" 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:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Like The Rush of a Mighty Wind

Reflections on the Readings

May 24, 2015 - Year B
Pentecost Sunday

Like The Rush of a Mighty Wind

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

I was raised in the faith and experience of the Pentecostal church. I'm still Pentecostal - a Catholic Pentecostal! My Pentecostal and Catholic readers will have something in common in reading that last statement. Both will say, "How can that be"?

Thank you for asking!

I can't imagine that Jesus wants less for his Church today. No where do I know of a prayer that says give us less of your Spirit. I don't believe that any of you get up some mornings and say, "Just go light on the Spirit today. I'll try it in my own strength for a while." If we are not filled and animated by the Spirit of Christ, we aren't really a Christian. As St. Paul reminds us, anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)

Pope Francis stated in his first Pentecost Sunday homily as Bishop of Rome: The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. 

In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, our Lord speaks of the wind blowing wherever it wills - "you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or wither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Sprit."(John 3:8-9) The Spirit draws us into the mystery of the life and love of God. In that deep fellowship of the Trinity every heavy and burdened soul finds rest. It's not a rest from something but rather a rest in Someone. It's the friendship of leaning on Jesus much like Adam and Eve snuggled up to God in the cool of the evening in the Garden. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to restore our soul, to renew our heart, to refresh our spirit with the friendship of Jesus.

Jesus charged his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "You have heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4) At 9 a.m. on the Day of Pentecost, about 120 were gathered in prayer including the apostles, several brethren and women and Mary the mother of Jesus. And a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Tongues of fire appeared to them and came to rest upon each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles of similar outpourings of the Holy Spirit in Samaria (Acts 8:14-20), and on Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-44), and at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). St Paul writes about the richness of the gifts of the Spirit which build up the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12 - 14). Peter saw the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. Peter said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…" And before he finished his Pentecost sermon, Peter assured his listeners and us that the 'promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off.' (Acts 2:39) 

St. Pope John XXIII prayed in 1962 for a new Pentecost. Let's claim the promise of the Spirit for ourselves and our children and pray for a new Pentecost in 2015 by making the prayer of St. Pope John XXIII our own: 

"Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. 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:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis S. Hankins

6th Sunday in Easter -Year B
May 10, 2015

Let Us Love One Another

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

Beloved, let us love one another! 

It is John who speaks most intimately more than 25 times in his epistles. In the Gospel bearing his name he refers to himself five times as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” This is from a man who learned a thing or two about love after he had led the chorus to call fire down out of heaven on the inhospitable Samaritans. (Luke 9:54) He learned as we must that the love that is from above is a consuming fire of a different sort; a fire that blazes a trail of forgiveness and reconciliation.

I think that the power of this kind of love is immeasurable. Like faith the size of a grain of mustard seed can move mountains, love this big moves the sun and other stars as Dante suggests. Too often it is untapped and untried. It is my hope that we will leave here today to let a little more love in our living. 

I have that hope because the Easter season continues and because Jesus lives, God’s love remains. God’s love is alive. It can fill us with the sweet aroma of the risen Jesus whose love never fails to lift, to inspire, to make better, to mend, to heal, to restore — to feed, to clothe, to give a drink of water, to say, “I forgive you.”

Some may think God is too extravagant, too indiscriminate, maybe even wasteful in the way he loves the world. Jesus forgave the penitent thief and welcomed him into Paradise in the last hours, perhaps, minutes of his life. Unfair? Wasteful? Perhaps we should ask Dismas. Or let's ask Angela. 

Chesterton registered the indictment that the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. Although I think I understand what the good apostle of common sense meant I don’t entirely agree. For example, Calvary Hospital is located in the Bronx, NY.  It is here where Dr. Michael Brescia has for many years assisted those in their last days and hours of terminal illness where every patient is approached, loved and cared for as if Jesus was the patient. The staff genuflects upon entering the patient's room, because the folks at Calvary Hospital believe the words of Jesus, "I was sick and you visited me.” One such patient was Angela.  She was brought to Calvary Hospital because the other hospital said they couldn't take care of her. Angela could not speak had no immediate family with her nor anyone of authority who could speak for her.  Dr. Brescia described her as having matted hair, rotten teeth and effusing from every orifice of her body. He volunteered to be her Physician.  

Protruding from the side of  Angela’s neck was a large tumor and she was consumed by AIDS and lung cancer.  

After Angela was admitted and bathed and made comfortable in her room, Dr. Michael Brescia made his first visit. Taking her by the hand he tenderly spoke to her from a heart filled with the love of Christ and said to her, " I hope you had a daddy who loved you. I hope you have had people in your life who valued you and cherished you."  With these and similar words he poured the healing love of Jesus into this emaciated, tormented woman.  

About 8 O'clock one Sunday night, Dr. Brescia made his last visit to Angela.  When he walked into her room he realized she was dying. As he had done in the past, he put down the bed rails and took Angela by the hand. Again he spoke with the love of a man who believed he was holding the very hand of Jesus. About 90 minutes passed and Angela, who had never spoken, said, "Dr. Michael."  Startled, Dr. Brescia heard Angela again say, "Dr. Michael." Standing closer to her so he could cradle her head in his hands she said, "In a few hours I'm going to see God and I'm going to mention your name."

Doctor Michael Brescia stated that every one who dies at Calvary Hospital dies in an ocean of love because Calvary Hospital is a hospital love has built.

I understand we spend about a billion dollars a day to keep terror in check.  One billion dollars could help with the costs associated with the kind of care Calvary Hospital provides for the terminally ill and their families for the next 50 years. 

I also think that a mother's love is also a remarkable example of the love of Christ. I think of the love of Mother Teresa and the sisters of Mercy in Calcutta. Their effort to bring faith and hope and love to the lowest of the low in the streets of Calcutta has brought Christ and his exorbitant love with a mother’s affection. This beautiful saint, Mother Theresa left us this advice: "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." You’ve heard it said that dynamite comes in some packages. It that is true, imagine what love the size of a fire cracker may accomplish.

There is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, "Little children, love one another!” After awhile his disciples grew tired at always hearing the same words and ask, "Master, why do you always say this?" 

"It is the Lord's command," was his reply. "And if this alone be done, it is enough!"

Beloved, let us love one another! Amen.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Alive In Christ

Reflections on the Readings

May 3, 2015 - Year B
Fifth Sunday of Easter

Alive in Christ

 Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

It is Easter. The radiant and resurrected Christ is making all things new. Saul of Tarsus, a figure of terror and murder, a persecutor of the followers of Christ unleashes havoc on the infant Church. Then Jesus appears to Saul on the Damascus Road in a blinding light of resurrection glory. Forever changed, a new man in Christ Jesus, with a new name and a new heart, Paul lived out his remaining days growing in Christ and making him known. One of the most strategic figures of the faith in the history of the Church, Paul's love for Christ is still inspiring and bearing fruit.  

We are reminded that Easter is not an event of long ago. Rather, Easter is the very essence of  Christianity. For if Christ is not raised, then our faith is for nothing, because no one dies for a dead leader. Yet, in the history of the Church, multiplied thousands have surrendered their lives out of love for Christ, the one who first loved them. Rather than denying Christ, his disciples have borne witness to him with their last words being words of forgiveness for their persecutors. That kind of life and testimony doesn't just happen. The life of every follower of Christ is Easter life; it is the life of the resurrected Jesus. Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna and the last surviving person to have known an apostle, having been a disciple of John. His last words at his martyrdom serve to remind us of the deep love for Christ that is possible: "86 years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?"

So, brothers and sisters, what is it that animates the Church and causes her to be brave and courageous, even when warned not to even speak and teach and minister in his Name? Because imbued with the life of Jesus, the true Vine, we, his branches, his followers have his life living in us! This life is derived. It is from Christ in us. For the life we now live in the flesh is the very life of Christ — Christ risen; Christ gloried; Christ in whom we live and move and have our existence. 

We speak in defense of life, the life of the unborn, the life of the elderly, the life of the handicapped, the life of the prisoner, because of Christ, Christ who is not dead but who lives! We are alive in Christ as we remain in Christ. United with Christ we live; because he lives we also live. For without Christ we are not truly alive and apart from him we can do nothing. It is this sweet surrender of the heart that is the most challenging and the most rewarding. Yet the continuous invitation of the Spirit is to come and to know Christ whom to know is life eternal. (John 17:3) In later years, Paul, a seasoned apostle, wrote about his overwhelming desire to know Christ. Writing to the Philippians about his former life he said, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

Believing in the name of God's son, Jesus Christ, we are alive as God would have us be alive, as we continue in love for him and toward each other; not with mere words or so much talk, but in deed and truth. Someone has said that folks will not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Let us lead a life worthy of Christ and his gospel, fully pleasing him, bearing fruit in every good work in imitation of Christ who came not to be served but to serve. 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: