Reflections on the Readings

January 18, 2015 – Year B Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

How Will We Respond?

By Dennis S. Hankins

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

Does the Lord speak to us sophisticated 21st century folks? I think he does. Why? Because he really does want us to ‘hear’ his voice. I’ve heard it. Please don’t think me weird or arrogant. It’s humbling, if not frightening, but always liberating. Sometimes he speaks in that ‘still small voice’ in the depth of our soul and we know, that we know, that we know, that we’ve heard something we needed to hear.

There are many ways in which we may hear the Lord speak to us. For example, we can hear the voice of Jesus when we read the Scriptures. We can stand beside Mary and Martha and listen to Jesus say to us as he said to them, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he is dead, yet shall he live.” We can take our place among the multitude and listen to Jesus say to us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And as we stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross, we can hear for ourselves the holy and sacred words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them.” And he does.

Sometimes God speaks to us in the simplicity and faith of a little child. For those who insist that children should be seen and not heard, please read this:

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant; and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise’? (Matthew 21:14-16)

Sometimes the children get it even when we don’t.

John the Baptist announced Jesus as the Lamb of God two days in a row. On the second day two of his disciples finally ‘hear’ it. Andrew and John, the Beloved, then seek to live for and with Jesus. And in the process, Andrew finds his brother, Simon Peter, and enthusiastically explains, “We have found the Messiah!”

So, how will we respond to the voice of Christ calling us to himself and his Church? Do we recognize the voice of Christ? We can, you know! We hear his voice in the teachings of the Church, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in the Scriptures, particularly in the four Gospels. Therefore let us pray that we will have the grace to respond like young Samuel. Let us hear him who calls us by name and be courageous and quick to say, “Here I am. Speak, for your servant is listening.”


Readings for this Sunday

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The Baptism of the Lord – January 11, 2015 – Year B

The Sign of Faith

By Dennis S. Hankins

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” (Mark 1: 9-11)

Jesus is baptized in order to say that he is one with us and invites us to be one with him in baptism. In doing so, Jesus shows the truth of John’s words, “One mightier than I is coming!” John preached the greatness of Christ and invited all to prepare for his coming by repenting and receiving his baptism. As Jesus walks into the waters to John the fulness of communion with God is revealed as Jesus embraces the baptismal waters and sanctifies them as the new and living way to know the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Christian baptism is that sign of faith that marks us as a son and daughter of God. Its a date to remember and to celebrate every year and to think about what Christian baptism speaks of and ask ourselves if we are living up to our baptism. Allow me to ask you a question. Does the glory of Christ’s life that this sacrament of faith gives us capture your imagination? Think about it. Through this divine initiative, this sacrament bring us into a living relationship with God. We encounter the living God, Father, Son, and Spirit! We are a new creation! A once barren sinner now drenched with the life giving waters of Christ and his Spirit.

After the good Deacon Philip explained the meaning of the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading the prince of Ethiopia asked, “Here’s some water. Why can’t I be baptized right now?” And he was and he went home a brand new Christian. The old was gone and the new and living Way, even Christ, now possessed his heart. In this conversion we see three things happening. The eunuch who is searching for Christ. A Deacon who brings understanding about Christ and his love. Then the desire to be baptized is expressed. Forever marked as one with Christ, the Ethiopian eunuch brought home more than he left with.

For those who were baptized when a baby let me say something to you. First, thank God for those who brought you into the womb of the Church and gave you the greatest gift anyone can give another person. Nothing short of something miraculous happened on that day. Prayers for you and your future in Christ were prayed and vows were made by parents and god-parents to accept their responsibility to teach you about Christ and his Church. In fact the whole community promised to be an example of what it means to be a Christian. So from day one you have had family and friends and people you may never meet this side of heaven praying for you and trying their best not to be an obstacle to your life in Jesus. Second, if you don’t know the exact date of your baptism then celebrate it the whole month in which it took place. Third, cultivate the relationship that is yours through the sign of faith we call Christian baptism. Come to Christ again and thank him for the gift of new life in the Spirit. Give praise to the Father for the love with which he loved the world in giving us his Son, his only Son! Ask for more of this life in Christ. Invite the Holy Spirit to take you further and deeper into the faith. Stay open and docile. Let the Lord lead you and help you to be his hands and his feet and his voice. For this sign of faith that marks you brings to you an energy able to make you courageous and valiant for Christ who embraced you when you were baptized.

Now love him back!


Readings for this Sunday

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The Epiphany of the Lord – January 4 – Year B

Thy Perfect Light

By Dennis S. Hankins

When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

King Herod was not as thrilled about the Star of Wonder as the Magi. For the Magi, the Star in the heavens was a guiding light. To Herod it was frightful news and prompted him to ask the religious authorities where the Christ was to be born. Herod was a ruthless leader and power hungry enough to kill members of his own family including his wife whom he suspected were undermining his throne. So he was not happy about the Star in the heavens nor the Morning Star born in a manger in Bethlehem.

Light is important. Any room or space is improved when adequate lighting is installed. I remember my daddy saying that when I was trying to update some lighting in a little Assemblies of God church I pastored many years ago in Greensburg, Indiana. Outdated lighting in the classrooms, fellowship, and worship areas made those spaces feel gloomy and uninviting. What a difference the new and improved lighting made. When people are coming in from a world of temptation and trial, the last thing they need is the inside of the house of worship dull and drab.

In our modern way of living, we mostly take light for granted. Flip a switch here or point a remote there, and Voila! Headlights, automatic lights, motion lights, lights on timers, everywhere we go we have the light we need to function wherever we need it.
Even the light named the “greater light” to rule the day, comes up and on every morning. We give little thought to it, if any, and never have to ask or wonder if it is not going to work tomorrow when we go to bed at night. But did you know that it takes about 8 minutes and 20 seconds for the light of the sun to reach us? That means that if the sun were to turn off as it were, it would be about 500 seconds later before we would grab a sweater and a flashlight. The Light of Christ, that Perfect Light, has been shining in our world now some 2,000 years, and many do not yet know that it’s not dark anymore!

Gifts of love have been given and received this Christmas season. Today we celebrate the greatness of that Perfect Light that drew the Magi to himself – for in Him is life, and his life is the light of all mankind – the greatest gift of all. (John 1:4) The mystery of that Perfect Light is that it is the gift with a name tag on which we may find the name of every person, regardless of race, age, creed, color, sexual orientation, or gender – for we all have sinned and need a Savior. St. Paul speaks of the mystery and stewardship of grace entrusted to the holy apostles and prophets. He explains the mystery to mean that all may partake of the promise of Christ, and all are welcome in the same body of Christ.

With devotion like that of the Magi, may we also come to that Perfect Light, and worship Jesus with gifts of ardent love and faith, and the sweet aroma of the sacrifice of praise. Amen.

Readings for this Sunday

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December 25, 2014 – Year B

Away in a Manger

By Dennis S. Hankins

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20)

God ever invites us to come and see! He sent a choir of angels to invite the shepherds to come and see. A spectacular star led Wise Men from the regions of Persia to come and see. And for roughly 2,014 years folks of every race, tribe, and nation under heaven have responded to the invitation to come and see.

Come and behold him, born the king of angels. Born that man no more may die; born to give the sons and daughters of earth a second birth. All the great hymns of Christmas marvel at the power emanating from that baby lying in a manger. So, yes, we must come again and see for ourselves on this Christmas day this babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Come and see and worship him because, well because, born in the city of David is our Savior who is Christ the Lord! Everyone is invited. No one is excluded. That is the remarkable sense and feeling almost everyone understands this time of the year when the soul feels treasured and special. It’s the most inclusive time of the year. It’s that Christmas spirit everyone gets – the real reason of the Season that comes alive again.

Christmas is when we peek once again into that feed trough and look into the wonderful face of God and feel the immeasurable mercy of his love. There we see for ourselves the Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing – our flesh – a body like our body, yet without sin. It’s this truth that makes this the most wonderful time of the year, the mystery of Emmanuel, God with us, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. He is full of grace and truth, mercy and love, life and light. It is this holy baby lying in the manger who is drawing all of us to himself. Its the holy tug we feel especially at Christmas, to be reconciled to God and to one another.

In scripture we read: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all. (Titus 2:11) Let us therefore rejoice on this holy day of celebration of Christ’s birth, even Jesus, our Emmanuel. For to you and me and to all who will come after us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in saddling cloths and lying in a manger. So come, come and behold him! Come and adore him! And then go and tell this amazing story of grace to everyone; the story of Christ whose law is love and whose gospel is peace. Amen.

Readings for this Sunday

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