Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Religion Celebrating an Empty Tomb

Standard
A Religion Celebrating an Empty Tomb

Christianity; the only religion that celebrates an empty tomb.

The holiest site for all of Christianity is the Holy Sepulcher Church, because it is built over tomb of Jesus Christ from where he resurrected. Our faith is founded on the reality that Jesus rose from the dead, and the reality of our own resurrection.

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.”   1 Cor. 15:13-14

However, since Christ has been raised from the dead; our faith has flourished for two thousand years!

17895836672_f893cfc76a_o

Deacon Tom venerating the tomb of Jesus.

From the fourth century, the tomb of Christ has been the destination for millions of pilgrims, many of whom made the journey at great expense, for some even the cost of their lives.

It is truly one of the great experiences of a life time to visit Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher Church; to have Mass in the tomb where Jesus resurrected and to kiss the stone above where his body laid.

On Easter Monday, we will lead a group of forty persons on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and look forward to repeating that experience in the tomb again, as well as visiting other sites important to our faith. The Holy Land continues to be a place where people can experience a divine presence.

“He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.” Luke 24:6

The Institute of Pilgrimages we founded is based on over 25 years of experience in organizing and leading pilgrimages to the Holy Land (we have been there 46 times!), to Rome, Shrines of Italy, Marian Shrines such as Fatima, Lourdes and others. The Institute of Pilgrimages also offer presentations to schools, organizations, groups and ministries on these destinations marked by the history of the Church.

One of our favorites? “The Holy Land – the Fifth Gospel” (of course). Give us a call for a presentation. We would love to share more of all that we have discovered with you! May God bless you as you continue on your own faith journey.

Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox

Advertisements

Turn to Me

Standard
Turn to Me

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we remember how Jesus was gloriously received as he entered Jerusalem amidst the shouts of “Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

It was the only time that Jesus was received with great jubilation by the crowds as he entered Jerusalem. However, we have just read the “Passion of Christ,” and we know that these same people who shouted Hosanna will also shout “crucify him.”

Today, during the reading of the Passion we also shouted “crucify him” and it is fitting that we did. It was our sins also that he bore on the way to Golgotha. He carried the weight of the sin of all humanity for all time with him to his death. He died for my sins and for yours, so that we might be saved from eternal death.

Even though he died for all humanity, all humanity will not receive the same benefit from his death. He, himself, has told us the condition of discipleship,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow after me.” Mk 8:34.

We can’t just live for ourselves. He has entrusted his plan of salvation to his Church. He expects those who believe in him to be a light in the world, sharing the Good News of salvation with others, so they might also believe in him, and their lives be transformed by his grace. We each have a free will and we each must make the choice to turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel.

Next weekend during the Easter Vigil, there will be thousands of people received in the Church throughout the world, including many here in our own parish. In a way, it will be a little like Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As these people joyfully welcome Jesus into their minds, hearts and souls, the whole community will proclaim, “Alleluia!” as it was proclaimed for each one of us as we were baptized. During the Easter liturgy, we all will renew our baptismal vows together as a reminder of what Christ has done for us, what we believe, and our need to put our total faith in him.

The reading of Christ’s Passion today reminds us that our baptism is not only about the joy of welcoming Jesus Christ. It is about believing in him, trusting in him, and being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church.

Our purpose in this life is to know, love and serve God, so that we can be happy now and forever. Jesus Christ shows us how to live our life close to God, so that our faith will influence all the decisions we make. When we refuse to be faithful to Jesus Christ, and what he has revealed to us, we once again say, “crucify him.” We invite you to become more aware of Christ’s presence in your life. Find ways to encounter Christ by visiting our website, pilgrimcenterofhope.org

How much time should I spend praying?

Standard

Kitchen

Do you feel that you don’t pray enough?

As modern-day Christians, we’ve become quite scrupulous about how much time we spend “in prayer” versus tending to our daily tasks.  I’ve frequently heard catechists send folks on guilt trips: “How much time every day do you spend in prayer?  Look at everything God has done for you!!  How much are you doing for God??”  Not enough, their tone of voice seems to say.

While it’s true that we tend to forget the Lord or take his gifts for granted, it’s also true that our Western culture has completely ripped apart what is sacred from what is profane, so that they are 100% separate.  But it is that right?

Magic

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me stories about a magic bubble.  This wonderful, enormous, magical bubble would float into someone’s backyard and whisk them away on adventures.  Mom’s stories opened wide the endless depths of my imagination.

Every so often, we’d visit Mimi, my mother’s grandmother.  She was over ninety years old, but with a mind as sharp as ever.  Mimi convinced me that every Irish grandmother is a master storyteller. Her stories transported us from her sitting room. Toward the end of each visit, she would scoot over to her piano keyboard and sing—frequently that resounding hymn, “How Great Thou Art”: Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands hath made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed…

On lazy afternoons, I used to walk around my neighborhood and observe everything around me. I’d marvel at the colorful veins in the rocks, and the patterns in the leaves.  As the breeze would blow through and rustle the trees, I’d whisper a prayer, because I certainly knew that God was there.

That innocent sense—of magic, imagination, and seeing the sacred in everything—is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve received from my Celtic heritage, and a great gift that we as Church have received from the Celts. I’ve heard it said that a strong example of Irish spirituality is this: A simple woman in her home, churning butter, conversing with Our Lord and the saints.

Delight

“I spent eight hours at my job, an hour driving, six hours sleeping, two hours eating…”
“I spent an hour vacuuming, dusting, and washing, another hour mopping, and an hour laundering.”

Kitchen_ButteringBreadWhy do we assume that God is not pleased with our everyday activities?  That God is not present in these mundane moments?  Or that God does not delight in our care for our bodies, our families, and our homes?  Why do we act as if prayer is always a completely separate activity that God demands from us?  The truth is: God is pleased with you.  God delights in your daily chores. God is present there.  Saint Patrick said, “Our God is the God of all things.”  He is as assuredly the God of St. Peter’s Basilica as he is the God of your dirty dishes, the God of your car keys, and the God of a good night’s sleep.

Throughout Scripture, God insists, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the LORD’s command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

“You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

“…Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

“…Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

Yes, it is good and right to set aside time to give God the worship he rightly deserves. Yet at the same time, the number of minutes that we spend reciting prayers or reading spiritual books pales in comparison to the amount of time God desires that we spend united with him in everyday moments.

Perhaps rather than asking ourselves, “How many times today did I say my prayers?” we should ask, “How many times today was my heart open to God and neighbor?  How did I seek to listen to God, rather than the voice of temptation?  How did I encounter God today?  When did I give God thanks?”

Remember our God’s omnipresence. Enter into his delight with you. Marvel wide-eyed at his gifts. Seek God, and live as his beloved child. This is Christian prayer.

For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit […] all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. […] And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives. – Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 901

To help you keep the faith alive in daily life, the Pilgrim Center of Hope produces a weekly broadcast series, Catholicism Live!  You can access the live shows or watch/listen to past episodes at CatholicismLive.com.

Your Name Here…”Do You Love Me?”

Standard

“Do not forget: In front of us, there is no sin, just the repentant sinner, a person who feels the desire to be accepted and forgiven.” Pope Francis to the ‘Missionaries of Mercy’

I will be honest, for a long time I did not understand when Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” (Mk 12:31) because for a long time, I hated myself. It made no sense to me because I thought either Jesus wanted me to hate my neighbor or the second greatest commandment did not apply to me.

Thanks to many people, conference experiences, a pilgrimage and much grace, our Lord has convinced me that He totally loves me!

What finally convinced me of this reality was when I visited the Holy Land with the Pilgrim Center of Hope. One day, we sailed on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus chose His Twelve Apostles. We walked along the shore and came to the place Jesus sat and asked Peter three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” (Jn 21:15-19)

At that spot, there are three heart-shaped stones leading from the shore and ‘out to the nations’ reminding us that with every, “Yes, Lord you know that I love you,” confessed by Peter, Jesus told His friend and denier, “Feed My sheep.” Our Lord’s decision to build His Church upon the rock of Peter had not changed despite the reality that this ‘rock’ denied our Lord three times.

IMG_0442

Photo of the 3 heart-shaped stones located along the Sea of Galilee outside the Primacy of Peter chapel, custody of the Franciscans.

What Peter discovered that day was Mercy.

Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

For many of us, if not all of us, the hardest one we find to be compassionate towards and to forgive is ourselves. This is why looking at Peter’s ‘conviction’ is such a great help in understanding how God teaches us to approach Him in our sinfulness.

When we go to confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are not going just to face God’s justice; though we will face Him in ‘Persona Christi’ through the priest. We are not going so we can tell our sins to a priest, though that is certainly part of it. We go because we understand that we are not able to save ourselves. We need grace, and our faith teaches that the Sacrament of Reconciliation provides special graces not at our disposal outside the Sacrament and this grace washes us clean and gives us the armor to fight future sinning.

There is a final reason and the verb we use is so telling. We ‘visit’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can sit with Jesus, one-on-one, and tell Him we love Him, exactly how Peter did.

Christian ‘conviction’ is when a sinner stands guilty before God, knows he cannot save himself and that He is totally loved. It is this last part that we need to embrace.

For many Catholics, including myself, it is very difficult to kneel in the confessional and confess our sins. But if we can view the encounter as our way of loving, praising and thanking Jesus who took the punishment for us, it may help us to see the Sacrament of Reconciliation for what it is: an encounter with Mercy.

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has commissioned thousands of priests to be ‘missionaries of mercy.’ In the February 21st edition of The National Catholic Register, journalist Father Raymond J. DeSouza reporting on their commissioning ceremony at the Vatican writes,

“We often have the pious thoughts that we leave our sins in the confessional, but the truth is that we don’t carry them into the confessional in the first place. It is not sin itself that presents itself to Jesus in the person of the confessor. Sin cannot stand in God’s presence. Rather, it is the repentant sinner, a person in the image and likeness of God who comes before Christ in the person of the priest. The reality is that the penitent, even if burdened by shame, is already close to God simply by coming to confession, for the person desiring to be close to God can be confident of God’s closeness.”

When Jesus answered the question, “What is the greatest commandment,” with, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these,” (Mk 12:30-31) we can now better understand that to love our neighbor as our self, we must first love God through the reality of His Mercy.

Peter discovered this very thing that day on the shore of Galilee and this revelation of God’s unfathomable love gave him the confidence to lead the Catholic Church as our first pope.

Let Peter’s confidence in God’s love inspire us to take advantage of this rich treasure of Mercy instead of dreading it. We are obligated to receive this Sacrament once a year, but why not ‘visit’ monthly so you can spend time with our Lord telling Him how much you love Him?!

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Archdiocese of San Antonio is offering more opportunities to encounter Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If the idea of walking where Jesus walked intrigues you, consider a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Visit pilgrimcenterofhope.org and discover the many pilgrimage opportunities available.