Author Archives: Deacon Tom Fox

About Deacon Tom Fox

Deacon Tom Fox is the co-founder of The Pilgrim Center of Hope. The Pilgrim Log is the blog of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry, providing weekly spiritual reflections to help you journey toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Learn more about the Pilgrim Center of Hope by visiting www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

Re-Focusing Our Lives

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If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In our readings at Mass this Sunday, it is clear that God’s ways are not our ways.

How God Confounds Our Logic

God can choose whoever he wants to accomplish the things he wishes to accomplish, as we see in the first reading, when Moses complains to God that the mission of guiding his Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So, God shares the spirit that he has given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God. The Spirit of God is more important than the instrument he chooses.

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen year old girl, who lived in poverty with her family, was of poor health, and had difficulty with her studies in school. Yet, she was entrusted with a message from Heaven. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago, a bishop was celebrating Mass near the Grotto, and during his homily he said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette, a simple girl from a tiny village.” Through the ages, God has chosen people of little significance to be his instruments. His ways our not our ways. There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God, in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions – thinking that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes, we also can be like that.

We see something similar in Sunday’s Gospel. John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’ name, because the exorcist was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him, and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor, we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things.

How to Re-Focus

Our focus must be on why we do what we do. God has revealed his plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church…

  • We know that through baptism, we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way in the sacraments of the Church, which are the source of the grace that we need to live a life close to God in prayer and to discover his plan for us.
  • We know that God wants us to be holy, and has made it possible for us to be holy if we are faithful to what he has revealed to us, and this faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity.
  • We can be certain that this plan is true, because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages, who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God.
  • There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our self, we will lose our life; and not only our life, because we will give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blessed than Catholics because we know that God has given us every possible means to live a life close to him! We have his Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have his Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity; because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to be Catholic and have what we have?

About 30 years ago, someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic, and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time that I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually, I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment, I knew that I wasn’t really sure of what I believed. As I pondered that for a few days, I realized that I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a “one-hour-a-week Catholic,” and my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all.

Thank God for the wake-up call. It was not long after that, that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife, Mary Jane. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together, and opened up new possibilities. Now, our important decisions are influenced by our relationship with God, and we have great hope.

I challenge you now to pray the Creed, and while doing so, reflect on the words we say. Ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy he offers us in his Church. Let us pray, then, for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

If you would like more help and simple tools for re-focusing your life in Christ, we invite you to subscribe to Pilgrim Center of Hope’s monthly newsletter; visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

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Serving the Lord

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“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

My wife, Mary Jane and I would often see these famous words from Joshua at the doors of many homes as we went door to door throughout our parish boundaries over thirty years ago. I think Joshua would once again like to rally the people of this generation and ask us who we will choose to serve. However, today the gods are not “beyond the river;” as stated in the first reading; they are in our midst. They are often within our own ideas that are no longer faithful to the Word of God. We have seen the consequences of unfaithfulness to the Word of God in the Old Testament and we can see the consequences in our own time. We know of the powerful work of God in the Old Testament, but we also know of the powerful work of Jesus Christ. We know that he spoke with great authority and worked many miracles to show that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. We also know that he died on the cross for our sins so that we might have eternal life, and he made it possible for us to experience his love and mercy right now and have a personal relationship with him. However, he also says,

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jn 15:14

In the second reading we get a glimpse of what the love of God looks like. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church.” This is a supernatural, sacrificial love that is only possible if we love “The Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.” If we make God a priority in our lives we will experience an abundance of His love and mercy, and then share His love and mercy with others so that we also might be “holy without blemish.” God can do this in us if it is the desire of our hearts.
In the Gospel we see that many of Jesus disciples found his teaching on the Eucharist too difficult to accept and would no longer follow him. When he said to the twelve;

“Do you also want to leave?” -John 6:68

Simon Peter answered him,

“Master, to whom shall we go? -John 6:68

You have the words to eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” They did not understand the teaching of the Eucharist any more than those who left, but they remained because their faith in Jesus was stronger than their need to understand the mystery he had just taught them. We also are called to believe things we do not understand.
In baptism we received the theological gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts that make it possible to believe the things we do not understand, however, no matter how precious these gifts are, they only benefit us according to our use of them. What we believe right now about anything, especially the mysteries of our faith, is a consequence of the choices we have made throughout our life. Have we chosen to be formed in our faith; to become mature Christians? We saw a statistic stating that less than ten percent of Catholics read Catholic books or periodicals. Our Catholic Faith is the “Pearle of Great Price”, but we must be invested in it if it is to produce good fruit in our lives.

 
In His Church, Our Lord has given is everything we need to remain close to Him and to experience an abundance of his love and mercy. The sacrament of confession is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through his minister the priest. We not only have our sins forgiven, we receive the grace necessary to make progress in overcoming sin so that we can love God, our neighbor and ourselves with the supernatural, sacrificial love mentioned in the second reading. During Mass we hear the Word of God which is the seed of life that wants to take root in our hearts and souls so that it will bear fruit. However, we must listen with a desire to believe.

 
After we profess our creed together in a few minutes, we begin the second part of the Mass, the liturgy of the Eucharist. The Word of God and the Holy Eucharist connect us to Calvary where Jesus shed his blood for us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the passion, death and resurrection of Christ are made present to us as we worship him along with the angels and saints. Through the prayers of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ will change bread and wine into his own body and blood so that we may receive him in Holy Communion. We for our part must prepare ourselves for this holy encounter by being properly disposed and by going to confession if we have committed any serious sin.
Serving God is not a matter of convenience. It is a matter of being faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures. It is the same journey that saints have taken through the ages; there is no easier path. There is also no other path that brings so much peace, joy and happiness. Jesus not only wants to transform our hearts and souls when we receive him during Mass; in his humility he waits for us to visit him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where we can rest in his presence. We know what Jesus has done for us. What are we willing to do for him? The reality is we cannot do something for him without him doing even more for us. Try spending one hour a week in the chapel for a month and learn for yourself the value of spending time with Jesus. This is one of the best ways to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

A requirement of our faith is not only believing what has been revealed to us, but also sharing what we believe. If we do not share our faith we will be like the seed that produced no fruit. Which is the fundamental purpose of our life and the only way to true happiness.

 

 

Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Coming Together as A Faith Community

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In the Gospel of John, the Evangelist often refers to the miracles that Jesus performs as signs because they point to something more significant and some of the signs or important events happen near the time of Passover. The Passover was and is the Jewish celebration of their deliverance form their captivity in Egypt. After the Angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites that were marked with the blood of a lamb, he struck down the first born of Pharaoh and all the Egyptians. After this event, Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt.

Jesus is not only the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, he is also the fulfillment of the Passover, because he is the Lamb of God who shed his blood to save us from eternal death. That’s why the Feast of the Passover is so significant in the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus’ first miracle took place at the wedding feast of Cana. We remember how he changed the water in six stone jars, each holding twenty to thirty gallons, into wine. A Scripture commentary states,

“The vast quantity recalls the prophecies of abundance in the last days.”

This miracle or sign not only fulfills prophecy, it is Eucharistic because it points toward the wine that will be changed into the blood of Christ

“…which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”

After this first miracle of Jesus, the Scripture says that he and his mother and disciples went down to Capernaum for only a few days. The next sentence says,

“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”

Today’s Gospel also mentions that the Jewish feast of Passover is near and the miracle, or sign that Jesus will perform, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is also Eucharistic because it points to the bread that will be changed into the Body of Christ which will feed the multitudes until the end of time. An interesting point in this Gospel is that Jesus asks Philip,

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat,”

even though he already knew what he was going to do. There is a message here for us. When we are confronted with challenges and trials and we ask the Lord for help, he may ask us what contribution we will make to resolve the difficulty. Perhaps it is our prayer and fasting or it may be the use of the gifts that we have received from the Holy Spirit in baptism. We all have something that the Lord can use and he wants us to be involved in the resolution.

Another interesting point;

“Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.”

This abundance of grass means it was spring time, which again is the time of Passover. About three weeks ago our pilgrim group visited the Mt. of Beatitudes where we could over look the beautiful Sea of Galilee and this very spot where Jesus performed this miracle. As you look down from the mount toward the Sea you will find an area that is almost shaped like an amphitheater which could easily accommodate thousands of people. This is where Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish in order to feed thousands of his followers. This was a real miracle that showed Jesus power of matter and it happened in a real place that you can visit today.

This miracle of the multiplication is a prelude to Jesus discourse on the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, which he proclaims to the crowds that seek him out the next day. He admonishes them because they were interested primarily in the food he had provided. He then explains to them at great length that he is the Bread of Life which they must eat if they are to have eternal life. Four times he tells them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they are to live forever. Many of his followers found this teaching to difficult to accept and would no longer follow him.

The final Passover that Jesus celebrates is what we call the Last Supper. This event ties together the miracle of the wine and the miracle of the loaves. At the Last Supper Jesus not only teaches his Apostles that they must be servants of one another by washing their feet; he also institutes the priesthood and the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

The Apostles who faithfully stayed with Jesus because they believed in him will finally understand how Jesus will give them his blood to drink and his flesh to eat. They become his first priests and Jesus will change bread and wine into his own body and blood through their hands and the hands of all the priests who will follow them.

The Holy Eucharist is a mystery of God’s love for us. At this Eucharist which we celebrate today and at every Eucharist celebrated everyday, every where in the world, Jesus Christ makes present to us his passion, death and resurrection. When we come to worship our Triune God we transcend time as we join the angels and saints offering praise and glory to Almighty God. We also have the opportunity to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ if we are properly prepared and disposed.

This is not an empty ritual as some may think. Jesus loves us so much that he gives us himself under the appearance of bread and wine, but not all who receive Holy Communion receive the same benefit. It depends on how we have prepared.

Have we fasted for one hour from everything except water and medicine?

The purpose of this small fast is to remind us that we are about to enter into a supernatural experience.

How long has it been since we have gone to confession?

We cannot receive the Lord in Communion if we have serious sin on our soul. Sin is an obstacle to the grace that Jesus wants us to receive.

Are we dressed as if we were going to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ?

Sunday Mass should be the high point of our week because we come together as a faith community to bear witness to our love for God and one another and His love for us. Jesus wants us to receive a super abundance of his grace, but he also wants us to be prepared to enter into intimacy with him so that we can be transformed by his love and then truly live our faith and share it with others.

This blog was Deacon Tom’s homily for the 17th Sunday (B) in Ordinary Time

You’re invited to Day’s and Evening’s of Hope! The relic of St. Benedict of Nusia will be available for veneration at Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Gethsemane Chapel!

Join us on Tuesday, July 31st from 6:00 -8:30 p.m.

 

Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. 

 

The Birth of St. John the Baptist

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 We only celebrate three birthdays according to the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church: first, the birth of Jesus Christ, December 25th; the birth of the Virgin Mary, September 8th; and today, June 24th, the birth of St. John the Baptist. We celebrate his birthday because of his great importance in the plan of God. He was the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first prophet of the New Testament as he announced the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

St. John was prepared for his ministry by the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to his mother Elizabeth. We recall that when Mary greeted Elizabeth, John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Of this event, a Bible commentary states the following: “Although he was conceived in sin like other men, St. John the Baptist was born sinless because he was sanctified in his mother’s womb by the presence of Jesus Christ (then in Mary’s womb). On receiving this grace of God St. John rejoices by leaping with joy__ thereby fulfilling the Archangel’s prophesy, “…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” Lk 1:15

The birth of John the Baptist was similar to the births of other prophets and holy people called to be a part of God’s salvation plan by the fact that his parents were childless and had reached an age beyond child bearing years. Here we recall the words of Jesus, “…for God all things are possible.”     Mt 19:26. All things are possible for God, but they must serve the purpose of the “coming of the kingdom”.

We might see John as having a difficult life, living in the wilderness eating locust and wild honey, however he knew his purpose. Because he faithfully fulfilled his purpose, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”

His only purpose was to prepare the way for the Lord by baptizing with water and preaching repentance. As John was becoming popular with those who were willing to repent, Jesus came to him to be baptized in the River Jordan. At that point his disciples began to leave him and follow Jesus. John’s response was, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Jn 3:30

Although we are probably not called to live a life like John in the wilderness with his meager diet, we are all called to bear witness to Jesus Christ. We did not receive the Holy Spirit in our mother’s womb, but we did receive the same Spirit in baptism. We not only received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we also received the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity which connect us intimately with God and we exercise our baptismal priesthood by participating in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king.

We participate in the priesthood of Christ by being united to him in our prayers and sacrifices, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We fulfill our role as prophet by being faithful to what God has revealed to us through His Church and the Scriptures. The truth is prophetic in every age and will win for us friends and enemies just as it did for John. The truth is necessary for our happiness now and for all eternity. We share in the kingship of Christ by being obedient to the will of the Father as Jesus was and by serving God and neighbor. Jesus said, “I came not to be served, but to serve.”

Through our baptism and our participation in the life of the Church we have all we need to discover our true purpose and be a faithful follower of Our Lord. Of course like John we must choose to repent; to overcome sin and grow in virtue. In our prayer we should ask John the Baptist to help us to be heroic in living out our Christian faith and to have great zeal in sharing our faith with others. As we become spiritually mature, like John we should be able to say, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

In a few minutes we will be receiving the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion. We pray that we will have a profound awareness of his Presence which will move us to find our purpose in him.

 

“Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.”

 

 

The Mystery & Majesty of the Holy Trinity Is Calling You

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From the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

Even though the Holy Trinity is a mystery beyond our understanding, it is the means God has chosen to unite himself to those who chose to believe what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We do not have to understand in order to believe, as a matter-of-fact, the opposite is true. Much of what God has revealed to us is mysterious, and yet these mysteries touch our lives in such a profound way that it is possible for us to live in a supernatural relationship with Almighty God.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he reminds them that if they are children of God, they are also heirs with Christ, “…if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” Rms 8:17 Being a child of God does not make us immune to suffering. However, when we unite our suffering with Christ he gives us the grace we need to persevere and even at times to experience joy during our trials.

At Baptism

We have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our purpose for being on this earth is to bring to completion the good work that was begun in us at our baptism. God has a great plan for humanity that can only be realized in relationship with him. It is for this reason he has given us the Church and the sacraments. We must remember that in our humanity we inherited a fallen nature and often we are tempted to want to live for ourselves at the expense of others. God has made it possible for us to overcome these temptations that lead to sadness and even hopelessness. He desires to pour his grace into the hearts of those who believe in him. We need God; he created us to be in relationship with him. For this reason Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.

The only way we can discover God’s plan for us that will allow us to reach our potential for happiness and peace in this life is by being connected to Our Lord through fervent prayer, faithfulness to what he has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures and living the sacramental life.

Be Disciples

In the last paragraph of the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew it states, “When they (the Apostles) all saw him (Jesus) they worshiped but they doubted.” What was it they doubted? I believe they doubted in themselves to continue the mission of Jesus once he left them. However, Jesus didn’t doubt in them. He said, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you until the end of the age.”

The doubt that the Apostles had about themselves was removed at Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit. What Jesus expected the Apostles to do did not so much depend upon them, but on their cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

And so it is with us. When we are confronted with challenges and trials we may be tempted to doubt our ability to preserver, but when we turn to the Lord and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit we can be confident he will give us the grace we need, even if it is for one moment at a time. He may not give us everything we want, but he will give us what we need. That is his promise.

Be Transformed In the Eucharist

It would be good for us to make note of the promises that God has given us in the Scripture. One of those promises is a mystery of our faith. Through the prayers and actions of a priest, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ himself changes the bread and wine into his own Body and Blood during the Holy Mass. He loves us so much that he gives himself, body, blood soul and divinity to those who believe in him and are properly disposed. It is no casual thing that we receive this true and real presence of Jesus into our body and soul. Jesus wants us to cooperate with his presence and be transformed so that we can be his faithful disciples and experience the peace, joy and happiness reserved for those who remain close to him.

Share Your Belief

Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice. If we truly believe, we will live our faith and share it with others. That is the basic message of the Gospel and our purpose for being on this earth.

Six Steps that Lead you to Choose Belief

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“Gleeson, Marian” The Holy Steps

1. Pay attention to God’s prompting
I was almost forty years old when I came to realize that the Catholic faith in which I had been raised, had very little influence in the decisions I made. I thank God for that wake-up call (prompting), because it changed my life.

2. Accept God’s Invitation to Discipleship
The encounter is not just about a moment of intimacy; it is an invitation to discipleship that requires us to order our lives to him, who created us and loves us. God has revealed this order, his plan, to us through the Scriptures. We’ve even seen how it is lived in the lives of the saints.

3. Get Your Priorities in Order
However, all of us are tempted to put our appetites, desires, and our personal interests as our priority. The question to each of us is: Do we want Jesus to be our companion on our journey through this life? That, of course, requires our conversion.

Everything we need to live our lives close to Jesus, he has given to us through his Church, but it depends on our desire to remain close to him.

When I had my wakeup call, I bought a Bible, joined a prayer group, and began talking to people about God. Through this, I developed an appreciation for the gift of my Catholic faith. Once God became a priority for me, I was able to discover his plan for my life.

4. Love God Above Everything Else
We can’t just live for our-self. It is for this reason that we have been given the commandment that we must love God above everything else. It’s a commandment, not a suggestion, because we all have inherited a fallen nature that will lead us to sadness if we don’t order our lives to God.

5. Go to Confession & Work to Overcome Sin
If we don’t make an effort to overcome sin, it will dominate our lives and become an obstacle to experiencing the love and mercy that Our Lord offers us every day and is necessary for our journey with him. We can receive his love and mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; an encounter with Jesus, who forgives our sins through his minister the priest, and then gives us the grace we need to make progress in our spiritual life.

6. Make Jesus Christ Your Companion
Jesus Christ longs to encounter every one of us, so that he can be our companion on our journey through life. If we are willing to make God our priority, then he will help us to discover great happiness in this life and for all eternity. Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice.

Renew Your Approach to Lent

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These forty days are a time for all of us to take God seriously and to make a new beginning with the God whom we often take for granted. There are three focal points to help us during this Lenten season; prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Let’s take a fresh look at each of them. Consider how you are living these:

Prayer

No prayer, means no faith. One measurement of our faith is the amount of time we spend in prayer. We should, “pray without ceasing,” as Saint Paul said (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

  • We should begin our day in prayer and pray throughout the day; prayer is our connection to God and we need His help in all we do.
  • We should pray in private, but we also should pray with the people we love.
  • It is critical that husbands and wives should pray together, because in Holy Matrimony, two became one in Christ. It is Christ who will help your marriage and your family to overcome every challenge.
  • Of course, we should pray together with our faith community. The highest form of prayer is the Mass, because it makes present to us the Paschal mystery and gives us the opportunity to receive the real presence of Jesus Christ. If daily Mass is not part of your routine, Lent is a good time to make the effort; you will be glad you did.

Almsgiving

This does not mean dropping a dollar in the collection basket. Almsgiving is having a generous heart because you realize the source of your blessings. We trust that, as we are generous, God will continue to be generous with us.

Almsgiving helps us overcome our temptation to be selfish, as we become more aware of the needs of others. Almsgiving helps us to learn the great lesson of divine providence and develop a profound trust in God.

Fasting

Fasting is denying ourselves of something. The purpose is to take charge of our senses; to gain control of our passions. Without self control, we will never reach spiritual maturity. Jesus said that if we are to be his disciples, we must deny ourselves, and that is exactly what fasting is about.

  • When we think of fasting we usually think of food, but it could take other forms. We could fast from television, from excessive computer time, from things we enjoy but do not need.
  • We could fast from being impatient with the people we love, and with others as well.
  • We could even drive the speed limit as a form of conquering our impatience!

Why We Need Lent

The Church has given us this season of Lent because she knows we need it. Jesus knows we need it. We all need a new beginning with God.

If we take God seriously during these forty days and, from our heart, we “repent and believe in the Gospel,” these could be the best days of our lives because we will certainly draw closer to God-and there is nothing more important than being connected to God, who is the source of our happiness and our eternity.

The ashes that are placed on our forehead today are a reminder of our mortality, and at the same time, they are our testimony that we take our faith seriously and want to be a witness of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lord, give us the grace to be your faithful disciples.

God’s Surprising Plan for You

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Jesus speaks with an authority that is unlike any other; an authority that astonishes. It is not only what he says, but also what he does: he has power over unclean spirits and power to perform miracles, and “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:28)

If this were the only Gospel message we heard, we would think that all went well with the public ministry of Jesus. However, because we are familiar with the entire Gospel, we know his ministry did not always go well. Even though he spoke with authority and the people were amazed at his power, he was not accepted by most of the people—because his message challenged everyone to change, no matter who they were.

God has a great plan for humanity, but it requires all of us to change—to be transformed. He is the one who creates the change in us with his grace, but he needs our cooperation. Because of the gift of faith we all have received through baptism, Our Lord expects us to develop a trusting relationship with him that will take us beyond our understanding and outside our comfort zone.

The Word of God in the Scriptures is still alive and still speaks to us with great authority. We should be astonished at the Good News that the Lord has for those who believe in him:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Astonishing! Jesus says that those who believe in him will do greater works than he, the Son of God! This is because through baptism, we have become members of the Body of Christ and have received the theological gifts of faith, hope, and charity, as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are invited to participate in the very life of God and to help the kingdom of God to unfold around us. As a matter-of-fact, we are commanded, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

No matter who we are or what we do, our we are called to:

  • be intimately connected to God through our commitment to daily prayer
  • live the sacramental life
  • read the Word of God
  • continue to be formed in the faith

Only in this way, will we discover the special plan that God has for each one of us, as well as the gifts he has given us for the sake of his Body—the Church. We will only reach our potential for personal happiness when we are good stewards of the time, talents, and treasure we have received through the generosity of the Lord.

God has a great plan for those who believe in him. Do you believe this?

Dear Jesus, I find it hard to believe that you call me to do such amazing things. But I know that you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I believe in your words. Help my unbelief. Send your Holy Spirit to uphold me amidst my daily struggles. Guide me to seek you today. I want to choose your plan for my life today.

WE INVITE YOU to DISCOVER GOD’S PLAN at…

Catholic Seniors’ Conference – FEB. 24 – Seniors of all ages & family, friends, caretakers: Archbishop Gustavo invites you to this day of prayer, learning, fellowship, and laughter. Come join us and learn about God’s calling for senior citizens; discover a message of joy and hope!

Catholic Men’s Conference – MAR. 16-17 – Men of all ages: Every man is welcome to join over a thousand other men seeking God. Find answers and peace. This is a weekend for you; step away from the busyness and stress of your daily routine. Excellent speakers, food, music, vendors, and more. Come encounter true strength in Jesus.

Why Ashes?

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More people enter Catholic Churches throughout the world on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year even though it is not one of the days that we are obliged to worship. The ashes are meant to be a sign that we have committed our life to Christ and we want to be a witness to that reality.

One of the phrases that the minister says as he traces the sign of the cross on the forehead is, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. This of course is a call to conversion which the Bishops of the United States define as the following: “Conversion is the change of our lives which comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit. All who accept the Gospel undergo change as we continually put on the mind of Christ by rejecting sin and becoming more faithful disciples in his Church. Unless we undergo conversion, we have not truly accepted the Gospel.”

That is the real purpose for the ashes; they are a sign that we are going to take our Lenten journey serious and refocus on the real purpose of our time on this earth. The Gospel highlights three areas that are especially important for our journey; Prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As Jesus points out, the intensions of our heart is what gives merit to whatever we do. He points out the difference between hypocrisy and sincerity.

This brings us back to the necessity on conversion. There are somethings that our faith requires of us that we will only be able to do if it is our desire to undergo conversion; to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. When we are ready to say with all sincerity, “Lord I surrender myself to you, I desire to serve you,” we begin.

The Lord will give us the grace to do the things we could not do on our own. Is there someone you cannot forgive? He will give you the grace to forgive. Have you been selfish? He will help you to be generous. Do you sincerely want to follow Him? He will give you the grace to be faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures.

Should someone ask why we are wearing ashes on our forehead, we can say, “Because I realize that I need to repent and believe in the Gospel so that I can be a faithful disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Increase your relationship with Jesus this Lent by attending or encouraging men to go to the annual Catholic Men’s Conference on March 18th. This event encourages men from all walks of life to encounter Christ and fulfill the plan that God has for their life. He calls us all by name to open our eyes to the goodness of the Lord.

10 Questions to ask yourself this Advent season

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Homily for 1st Sunday in Advent

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Am I living for myself or for God?

“As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

People were living as if the only thing that matters is the way they are living. They were living for themselves; not for God and neighbor. They were swept away by the flood.

As Jesus says, it will be the same when the Son of Man comes; in the field and in the mill –one will be left and one will be taken. Was God`s choice of who He would take arbitrary? Were both men the same and both women the same?

Jesus then says, “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come….So to, you also must be prepared…”  It seems that the ones he took were prepared.

What does it mean to be prepared?

Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Mt 7:21.

If you asked people if they believed they were going to heaven, almost everyone would say yes. And yet Jesus says only those who do the will of His Father will enter heaven.

How do you know what God`s will is?

We begin with the Scriptures. Jesus says, “Blest are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.

To keep it is to hold it in our hearts, to believe it and to live it. In a letter from the Bishops of the U.S. they tell us “…if you have not undergone conversion, you have not accepted the Word of God.

In what authority do we place our trust?

To be prepared is to be changed. Jesus also gave his authority to the Church so that it could guide us, but if we refuse to listen to the Church how can we know the will of God?

Through the Church, Jesus gives us the Holy Mass, which is the greatest of all prayers and he gives us the sacraments as the source of grace we need to discover and do the Fathers will, which is often in conflict with our will.

We have the Scriptures, the Word of God to guide us. St Jerome once said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” If we don’t know Christ we aren’t prepared.

We have the lives of the saints as models of what faithful discipleship should look like. Ignorance of the saints is ignorance of the Church and the powerful presence of God it has been through the ages.

What commitments am I willing to make to God?

A commitment to daily prayer is a necessary aspect of our relationship with God. No prayer means no faith. St. Paul says — “we should pray always; we should begin everything we do with prayer”.

Being prepared is not something that will just naturally happen; it’s a choice we must make and it will take a great deal of effort on our part. God has not asked something of us that is unreasonable.

Do you need a wake-up call?

Many years ago when we were going door to door we met a woman who was in her last stage cancer and in much pain; death was imminent. Even so she thanked God for the cancer because it brought her back to God and the Church. She said it helped to save her soul. In that sense cancer, or any crisis can be a blessing because it can help to save souls.

Do you have any hatred, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.?

If so you are not prepared!

Do you love God more than anything else and your neighbor as yourself?

During the Advent season we pray for the second coming of Christ with the emphasis on being prepared. The reality is, the same Jesus Christ who will come in glory at the end of time is coming to us in this Mass; are we prepared to receive him. We will not be receiving just a piece of bread, but the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ! We prepare ourselves by being free of all serious sin through frequent of the sacrament of reconciliation and by preparing ourselves spiritually and mentally in our personal prayer before Mass and by active participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This is the best preparation for the coming of Christ.

What is the purpose of all of this?

The purpose is not only to be prepared when Christ comes for us. This preparation will help us to experience our greatest happiness now. Being prepared not only has a transforming effect upon us, but on all our relationships, our community and so on. When we are prepared we will help others to be prepared. Then we can all say, “Come Lord Jesus, come! “

How can I serve this Advent season?

We invite you to give your time, talent, and treasure to a cause that means something to you this Advent season. As a non-profit, we are very grateful when people offer themselves or their resources to help us help the community. When we work together, great things happen. Find out more about how you can volunteer at the Pilgrim Center of Hope. May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas season!