Monthly Archives: April 2018

“Can You Hear Me Now?”

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Can you hear me nowGod Wants You To Be Connected To Him

 When it comes to our cell-phones or cable TV, we all insist on having a good connection without any interruptions! When you have a good connection you get crystal clear sound and a life-like picture. We love the clarity because it intensifies the message and the experience!

And so it is with God. If we are to reap the benefits of what God has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures, we must have a constant – uninterrupted – connection to Jesus Christ who is the source of everything that is good.

Fortunately for all of us, we have complete control over how to insure that we maintain a strong connection with Our Lord.

He Is the Vine We Are the Branches

 Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5)

Long before modern technology, Jesus gave us the image of the vine and the branches to emphasize how critical it is to be connected to him. Using this imagery, we could say that when we are baptized we are grafted onto the vine which is Jesus Christ and we are sustained by his very life. Everything we need, so that we can be living branches connected to Jesus Christ is present in the sacraments of his Church.

Nourishment comes in the form of:

  • The Word of God as proclaimed at Holy Mass every day
  • Holy Communion – his true and real presence
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation – gives us the grace to overcome temptation
  • A choice to be faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Church
  • Daily Prayer
  • Associating with godly people

When we stay connected to Christ, he gives us the grace to do what we cannot do on our own. Only then can we bear fruit, which is the purpose of every branch.

Saints In-tune and Connected With the Wisdom of God’s Plan

 Before they were saints, Bernadette, Catherine Laboure, and Therese of Liseiux experienced trials comparable to or greater than what you and I have to deal with in our daily lives.

Each of them could have let their connection to Jesus Christ wane or worse grow interrupted by distancing themselves from God, the sacraments, and the Church.

But instead they did as Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16: 24)

The other thing that they all had in common was that they loved God more than themselves and made him the priority of their lives. By choosing to stay connected to Jesus Christ and in-tune with his plan for them they grew in virtue and in holiness.

When we stay connected to Jesus Christ, as living branches we bear fruit and glorify God in our daily life. In the words of St. Irenaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

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The Best Servants Know Who They Are In Christ

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In her book Where there is love, there is God, St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote,

“How do you know, love, and serve God? How do you prove that you love him? In the family, the father proves his love by all that he does for his children, for his wife. We prove our love for Jesus by what we do, by who we are.”

Each and every one of us is called to service. In fact, our growing in Christ-like character is dependent upon our giving of ourselves to others.  A servant is one who, even when in positions of leadership, seeks to lead and influence others through a life given in ministry for the blessing of others and their needs. At the heart of the servant is unselfish servanthood.

Being of service requires that we step outside of ourselves – our self-importance and our self-satisfaction – and that we reach out to meet others in need; devoting the time, attention, and positive attitude necessary to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Have you considered how God may be calling you to serve? Service comes in a wide range of ways: volunteering of your time, writing someone a note of encouragement, paying someone a hospital visit, providing a meal for a homeless person, sharing a hug with a friend or family member who is hurting, or perhaps a thoughtful random act of kindness.

Service Requires Time, Effort, and Heart

On the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2016, Pope Francis used the occasion to speak of Mary’s encounter with her cousin Elizabeth as a lesson in service and joy in the Christian life.

“Serving others is a Christian sign […] For Mary, a teen girl, to travel without hesitation to help her cousin shows great courage […] Mary teaches us with her Visitation how to show concern for others.”

During the same homily, Pope Francis gave his audience words to contemplate: “Persons who describe themselves as Christian and who are unable to reach out to others, to go and meet them, are not totally Christian.”

Our Model of Service

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”(Mark 10:45) During his public ministry, our Lord demonstrated time and time again the words of Matthew 23:11 – The greatest among you will be your servant.

The washing of the feet on the night before his crucifixion is perhaps the most striking example of the message of being a servant to others no matter how menial the task. In Christ’s time, washing the feet of one’s house guests would have been reserved for a slave. John 13 best illustrates the source and nature of the servant heart, especially the directive given to the disciples: “And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other.” (John 13:14)

On Holy Thursday of 2017 – as if to underscore this message of service to others, Pope Francis travelled 45 miles outside of Rome to the penitentiary in Paliano to wash the feet of inmates.

Our Call To Service

When we make the conscious choice to serve others, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be the presence of Christ for those we serve. When serving others, our motives need to be pure. We cannot and must not be concerned with gaining status or recognition. And we must serve all people equally, regardless of their state in life. Our mission must be to build up the People of God.

At the end of our journey, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have or how much money we made, but by our service to others. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Sharing God’s Forgiveness

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forgivenessTO FORGIVE OR NOT TO FORGIVE?

It seems that the world has become an angry place. When it comes to offenses committed against us or against someone we care about, people are too quick to rush to anger and in turn to allow resentment against the perpetrator of the wrongdoing to build up.

In today’s society, not only are we less willing to forgive, but sadly, we are too quick to pass judgment, cut-off contact with or even seek revenge against the person who has been hurtful towards us.

The fact is, we all make mistakes and if we wish to be forgiven, we need to show forgiveness. More importantly we need to remember that God is the one true judge.

POPE FRANCIS ON THE TRUTH ABOUT FORGIVENESS

 Recently Pope Francis said, “Christians must let go of resentments and forgive those who have wronged them so that they may experience God’s forgiveness.” As part of his homily on March 6, 2018, the pontiff pointed out how difficult this can be: “We carry with us a list of things that have been done to us… Grudges make a nest in our heart and there is always that bitterness.”

The words of Pope Francis seem to mirror those of St. Paul, when he said, “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 31-32).

As hard as it is to share forgiveness with others, to forgive another is pleasing to God. If we are to have peace, hope, and joy, we must follow God’s example. He sent his son to die for all men, including those who put him on the cross.

IN LIFE AND IN DEATH, JESUS SHARED FORGIVENESS

The greatest example of sharing forgiveness we will ever know occurred when – hanging from the cross – our Lord Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).

Throughout his public ministry, Jesus took every opportunity to emphasize to the Apostles, the importance of sharing forgiveness with others:

  • Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18- 21-22)
  • When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone.” (John 8: 7)
  • Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,”  while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Matthew 7: 3-5)

SHARING FORGIVENESS BRINGS SPIRITUAL GROWTH

The next time someone wrongs you or someone you care about, it’s okay to be upset, to point out to the person who hurt you their wrongdoing and how it made you feel – but in the end you must forgive.

While we don’t always forget the wrongdoing, forgiveness allows us to let go of negativity, allowing us in turn to become more compassionate, patient, and loving.

Sharing forgiveness is essential to our spiritual and personal growth. Receiving God’s forgiveness is dependent on our sharing forgiveness with others.

If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6: 14-15)

Consider these final words from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else.” (Colossians 3: 12-14).

 

 

Do Not Be Afraid To Receive God’s Forgiveness

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forgivenessDon’t Allow Guilt & Shame To Separate You From God

While God takes sin very seriously, no matter how horribly we think we may have sinned or badly hurt others, our loving and merciful Father will still forgive us completely and repeatedly.

Many of us have a hard time believing in God’s forgiveness, but we need only look to the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, Church teaching and the bible to make us confident in the words from the Apostle’s Creed – I believe in the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus Is the Sacrifice That Atones For Our Sins

Of course, our Lord Jesus Christ shed his blood for the salvation of the world throughout eternity, and in so doing left us with a pathway to receive God’s forgiveness.

Forgiveness and compassion are at the heart of two of the most vivid stories from the bible; the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32) and Jesus & the Woman of Samaria (John 4: 7-29).

In the story of the forgiving father and his two sons, despite the fact that his younger son had run off and squandered his inheritance, recall what happened once that son, recognizing he had sinned, asked for forgiveness: “…while he was still far off his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him…this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found (Luke 15: 20, 32).”

In the case of the woman from Samaria, just by speaking to this worldly woman and offering her the “living water,” Jesus enables her to experience the freedom and relief of forgiveness. She is so grateful for the second chance (clean slate) that she runs back to the nearby town (Sychar) to tell people about the Messiah!

Our Channels For the Grace of Forgiveness

Christ had the power to forgive sins (cf. Mark 2: 6-12). Fortunately for us he passed it on. Sending the disciples to baptize and forgive sins, he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (John 20: 22-23).”

After Pentecost, Peter urged the Jews to do penance and “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 38).”

From the Church

The first and chief sacrament for the forgiveness of sins is Baptism. For those sins committed after Baptism, Christ instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance through which a baptized person is reconciled with God and with the Church (Compendium 200).

There is no offense the Church cannot forgive since God can always pardon; and he is always willing to do so as long as we turn to him and ask for his for forgiveness (cf. Catechism, 981-982).

Thanks to our Church, both holiness and sanctification are accessible, which enables us to grow closer to Christ. We in turn through our words and deeds can help others to come closer to Jesus Christ.

Always remember that it is through the blood of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit that our sins are ultimately forgiven.

Two Keys & A Prayer

The two keys that unlock God’s forgiveness are: 1) Recognizing the sin in our life, and 2) Asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In Prayer, we ask God for the grace to deepen our awareness of our sinfulness. And together with our Blessed Mother we ask for an increase in confidence in the forgiveness of sins. And finally we ask for the courage to avoid sin in our lives.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus urged all to, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4: 17).” Over two- thousand years later, that message still applies. Repent; turn back to God.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope has two books available which offer reflections and preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For men, Son of Man To Man by Deacon Tom Fox and Come To Me by Mary Jane Fox.

 

 

 

 

Practicing Humility Leads To Peace And Freedom

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Practicing Humility Leads To Peace And Freedom

Jesus Christ Is the Ultimate Definition of Humility

During this Easter Season, consider how the Gospel depicts Jesus after his resurrection; retaining his wounds of crucifixion (cf. John 20: 25, 27). By walking with Jesus—in the way of humility—through his Passion, Death and Resurrection we are able to rejoice and arrive at freedom. In his addresses to Christians, Pope St. John Paul II often said, “We are the Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!” It can be said that the virtue of humility is the breath which enables our Alleluia’s.

When we outstretch our arms, like Jesus on the cross, in the service of others, and only when we are able to shed all the masks we wear; can we recognize how much God loves us, how highly God thinks of us and how greatly God believes in us! “God proves his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8).

God’s love enables us to restrain our pride and ego, which in turn prepares the soil of the heart to be watered by God’s grace.

A powerful truth is embodied by Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection: Only when we offer ourselves naked—with all defenses stripped away—before God and others; accepting the reality of our frailty, woundedness, and weakness, in the light of God’s mighty love, can we experience the Kingdom of God and eternal life in the Holy Spirit.

How To Shed the Layers That Separate Us From Peace And Freedom

There are several actions we can take to bask in the peace and freedom that is available to all of God’s children. First and foremost we should partake in the Sacrament of Mercy: Reconciliation. Within this encounter, we can shed our accumulated layers of pretense.

  • As Oscar Wilde said, “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
  • Humility is the foundation of prayer: “We should go to God in prayer as ‘a beggar,’ asking Him to bestow on us ‘the gift’ of prayer.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2559)

Examples From Our Popes

In his later years, Pope St. John Paul II conveyed his humility through his physical vulnerability. Pope Benedict XVI demonstrated his humility by making the unprecedented decision to resign the fullness of religious power to live in seclusion and quiet.

During his Easter General Audience in 2016, Pope Francis remarked, “It is enough to respond to the call with a humble and sincere heart. The Church is not a community of perfect people, but of disciples on a journey, who follow the Lord because they know they are sinners and in need of his pardon.”

A Closing Thought from St. Francis de Sales

In his book Roses Among Thorns, St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Humility makes us accept pains with meekness, knowing that we deserve them, and good things with gratitude, knowing that we do not. Everyday we ought to make some act of humility, or speak heartfelt words of humility… either in our homes or in the world. We need to do as Jesus asked, “Learn of me, for I am meek, and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29).