Monthly Archives: December 2011

Where the death sentence was given – Holy Innocents

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A view over the Judean desert, from King Herod's fortress

When I was in the Holy Land, I remember standing on the site of King Herod’s castle near the desert.Holy Innocents - Rachel Weeping

It was sunset. The silence could cut you through. My eyes looked out over the Judean desert, and with awe I realized that King Herod’s eyes looked out over this very place. Then, from the tents of the shepherds on the desert floor, I heard a baby wail.

Today, the fourth day of Christmas, we remember the Holy Innocents – King Herod’s massacre of infants when he heard the Messiah had been born. Out of jealous desire to destroy a possible threat to his kingship, Herod ordered that all boys under age two in the Bethlehem area be murdered.

Can you imagine what I felt when I heard the baby’s cry from Herod’s fortress, that night?

Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.’ (Matt. 2:17-18)

Be ‘Fully Alive’ This Christmas Season

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"The Holy Family with the Infant St. John" by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Through the centuries, God called upon ordinary people to become extraordinary people in His service so that, in the fullness of time, the Word of God would become flesh and dwell among us. This, of course, is what we celebrate this Christmas until the Solemnity of Epiphany in a liturgical way. However, the reality that Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life should cause us to celebrate every day of our life.

In the Gospel, we see again how Almighty God chose ordinary people to fulfill His great plan. Even though Mary was conceived without sin, she did not see herself as extraordinary. She would have been praying for the coming of the Messiah just like all other religious Jews, not knowing that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God. Joseph also did not consider himself to be special. Even after they came to realize they had been chosen to fulfill a special purpose in the plan of God, they still humbly desired only to be faithful without receiving any special privileges.

Through the ages it has been the desire of Almighty God to accomplish His plan with the help of His creatures. It is amazing what human beings can do when they cooperate with the grace of God. That why it is so important for us to read the lives of the saints, so that we can see how God worked in the lives of those who loved Him and were faithful to His revelation.

God has always had a great plan for humanity. However, even though His love for us is unconditional; salvation, forgiveness, and complete happiness and fulfillment are conditional. The great plan of God can only be realized if we keep the Greatest Commandment. We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart and strength. There can be nothing in our life more important than God. That means we must spend time in prayer everyday; that we must receive the grace we need to be faithful by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharist; and that we read the Scriptures daily, even if only a few minutes. This may seem difficult at first, but it is not. If we desire to draw close to God we must make the effort, but this effort soon becomes a source of joy as we become more aware of the presence of God.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Word of God became man so that so that we might become like him. He established this Church so that we would have every means available to us to overcome sin and to grow in virtue, so that we may reach our potential for happiness according to his great plan. St. Irenaeus, who was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Apostle of Jesus, once said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” When we are fully alive, we give God glory – and we can only be fully alive when we are in the state of grace; when we are united with God.

We may be ordinary people, but God wants to accomplish extraordinary things through every one us. With the help of His grace, we can overcome our selfish tendencies to live for ourselves and instead, put the Kingdom of God first. With the help of His grace, we can forgive even the most painful hurts so that God’s love will grow in us, and we can be liberated from unforgiveness. With the help of God’s grace, our families will be more important to us than any material possession or form of entertainment.

So as we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s give God glory by being fully alive. Make a New Year’s resolution to go to confession at least every other month, if not monthly. Try to go to daily Mass at least once during the week. Jesus waits for us to receive him so that he can pour his grace into our souls. He is a great problem-solver if we come to him in humility. Pray together as family every day; especially it is important for husbands and wives to pray together. We are all called to be holy which means we must make sacrifices. We cannot do and be everything we want. When we faithfully follow Jesus, he will help us discover our vocation so that we can fulfill his plan for us and experience happiness now and forever.

The word “Christmas” comes from the two words “Christ” “Mass” and the word “merry” means happy. Perhaps if we would say Happy Christ Mass we would not lose the meaning of the celebration. The Mass should be the most important part of our celebration because Christ is the source of our temporal and eternal happiness. So, have a Happy Christ Mass.

Rejoice! The Lord has come to save us!

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Artwork is from the Chapel of the Angels at Shepherds' Field in Bethlehem, Palestine - in the Holy Land, where we prayed for you this year.

Dear brothers and sisters, ‘The Word became flesh’; he came to dwell among us; he is Emmanuel, the God who became close to us. Together let us contemplate this great mystery of love; let our hearts be filled with the light which shines in the stable of Bethlehem!
– Pope Benedict XVI (Urbi et Orbi)

May the Christ Child of Bethlehem bring you and yours His Love, His Peace, His Joy and His Light!
May the Holy Family guide and bless you in the New Year!
Receive Jesus in your heart!

A Blessed and joy-filled Christmas Season,
The Pilgrim Center of Hope staff
Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox, Gloria Chapa-Solano & Angela Santana

You’re invited to our New Year’s Eve event: A New Year’s Eve tradition at the Pilgrim Center of Hope every year is spending the last two hours of the year (10:00 pm-12:00 midnight) in Eucharistic Adoration and having Benediction at midnight. Deacon Tom will lead the Benediction at midnight. Great way to end the year and welcome the new year, at the feet of Jesus in the Eucharist. Feel free to send us your intentions to be offered during this time of prayer.

P.S. Download a free bookmark from the Pilgrim Center of Hope!