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:
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.
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 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.
Saint Paul began his letter to the young bishop, Timothy:
I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you. (2 Tim. 1:5)
What a treasure for us, to know the names of both the mother and grandmother of one of Christianity’s first bishops! Thank God for Lois, a woman who was undoubtedly a strong, living witness. Without her, we may have missed out on two Biblical books, 1 and 2 Timothy!
“Today more than ever we need this bridge, this dialogue, between grandparents and grandchildren, between the young and the elderly,” said Pope Francis to youth in 2017. “So this is the task I am giving you in the name of the Church:Talk to older people.”
Our society has largely lost respect for our elders. Yet: How many are homebound, filled with the wisdom of life experiences, while restless young people outside seek answers to life’s ‘big questions’? How many of our elders feel like they are worthless, now that their body—and sometimes their mind—is failing? As Christians, it is our responsibility to remedy this situation; to remind all people of their value, worth, and dignity.
In 2013, San Antonio’s Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, inspired by Benedict XVI’s courageous transition from active Pope to Pope Emeritus prayer intercessor, directed Pilgrim Center of Hope to begin a Catholic Seniors’ Conference. This conference aims to foster an appreciation for the personal dignity of men and women in the later years of life, to encourage them, and to inspire them to continue sharing their wisdom and gifts. As we prepare to offer the fifth annual event, we are excited! We’ve seen how these conferences bring about transformations in our elders. One such person remarked:
I had come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church didn’t care for the elderly who were once young & very active in our Church, but I realized through this conference we are the building blocks of our church.
We see the Holy Spirit’s work in Pope Francis, as he consistently speaks on the value of senior citizens. This is an urgent topic! As our Holy Father reminds us:
“A people that does not take care of grandparents, that does not treat them well, has no future! The elderly have wisdom. They are entrusted with a great responsibility: to transmit their life experience, their family history, the history of a community, of a people. Let us keep in mind our elders, so that sustained by families and institutions, may with their wisdom and experience collaborate in the education of new generations.”
Join us at the 2018 Catholic Seniors’ Conference! All are welcome… “Seniors of all ages” are welcome, along with family members and friends. Let us all rediscover the hope and joy of life in Christ! At any age, we are members of the Body of Christ.
Over the last 25 years, some have wondered: Why would Pilgrim Center of Hope, a evangelization ministry in San Antonio, Texas, have a ship as its logo? We enjoy teaching people about the Catholic Church’s imagery in sacred art, illustrating the beauty and truths of our faith.
The ship symbol is an invitational one, as well. While the ship contains members of the Body of Christ, she also welcomes those wanting to reach eternal life, the Heavenly Jerusalem. That is why Pilgrim Center of Hope’s logo ship contains persons of all vocations.
Have you ever felt ‘sea sick’ from the twists and turns of daily life? “The world is a sea,” wrote third-century theologian Hippolytus of Rome, “in which the Church is set, like a ship tossed in the deep, but not destroyed. For she has with her, the skilled pilot, Christ.” This is why our logo shows the waves of daily life, and the ship led by the gold Chi Rho (“PX”)—an abbreviation of the Greek word Christos, meaning Christ. Jesus, as head of the Church, is the skilled pilot leading us to the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Which image of the Holy Spirit relates to our life aboard ship? The winds! Let’s open the sail of this ship and sail over the waters, as the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, urges us forward! Pilgrim Center of Hope’s logo also includes a blue star above the Ship, representing the Blessed Virgin Mary. “On the morning of Pentecost, she watched over with her prayer the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of evangelization.” This beautiful prayer by Pope Paul VI ends his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelization In the Modern World, one of our ministry’s guidebooks. Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, yearns for her children to reach Heaven. She intercedes for our journey with her prayers.
We extend a hand to you: Jump aboard this exhilarating and hope-filled journey with thousands of others who also want to reach the Heavenly Jerusalem! Jump aboard the ship led by Jesus, our Savior; the ship which is led by the Holy Spirit, our consoler; the ship guided by Mary’s intercession; and the ship filled with people of all walks of life! You will not be alone! Be not afraid to jump aboard and begin life anew!
“Christians, on pilgrimage toward the heavenly city, should seek and think of these things which are above. This duty in no way decreases, rather it increases, the importance of their obligation to work with all men in the building of a more human world. Indeed, the mystery of the Christian faith furnishes them with an excellent stimulant and aid to fulfill this duty more courageously…” (Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes, 57)
This is the reason that Pilgrim Center of Hope, an evangelization ministry, has chosen the ship as part of our identity. Jump aboard and hold on; Christ will lead!
Ways to Jump Aboard this Month:
Help us serve Deaf Catholics: Many Deaf Catholics want faith formation opportunities, but few have American Sign Language interpreters. Help us achieve the goal of providing interpretation for the Deaf at our annual Catholic conferences, totaling 100 hours at $60/hour. Donate here.
Do you feel like you don’t know enough, or aren’t holy enough, to share your faith with others?
Jesus thinks otherwise! He told his confused and doubting disciples—who would abandon him when times got tough, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (John 15:16)
Yes, it is always good to learn about our faith, but the problem with that ‘excuse’ is that there will always be more to learn! The time to be Jesus’ witness is now!
Now! For the coworker who needs to see someone smile…
Now! For the grocery store cashier who longs to be acknowledged with joy…
Now! For the neighbor who is lonely…
Now! For the family member who is struggling…
“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus…we are always ‘missionary disciples’.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel)
Yes, we will stumble and fall, but God does not leave us in the dust! Jesus said, “I came, not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Luke 5:32) Our personal weakness and sin is why Jesus gave his apostles the authority to forgive sins (cf. John 20:22-24), and that authority has been passed down through their successors as what we call a Sacrament of Healing: the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Jesus calls you to encounter others on his behalf!
Don’t worry; you are not alone on this mission… Jesus sent out the first disciples in pairs and groups. The Holy Spirit descended on the early Church as a spiritual family, gathered in the Upper Room. We are the Church, together. If you are not already active at your local parish, step out in faith! If you need more encouragement, come and join us at one of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s events. As Pope Francis has said, “We are all pilgrims journeying alongside one another.”
Dear Jesus, sometimes I feel like I’m not ready to be your witness. Please stir in me your Holy Spirit. I believe in your promises. I trust in your wisdom. As I go throughout my day today, help me to share you as I encounter others. Amen.
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 would John’s Gospel place the following quote of Our Lord Jesus at the height of his Passion and Death; his final act from the Cross before handing over the Spirit?
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)
Is this simply the act of a loving son, ensuring his mother’s well-being before his death?
Perhaps not. When we look at the actions of Mary in Scripture, we realize how significant a role she has in the life of her Son & his disciples:
She is the first person in the New Covenant demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with God’s will (cf. Luke 1)
She is the first person in the New Covenant who is filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1)
Her first physical act in the Gospel is to serve someone in need (cf. 1:39)
She kept and reflected on God’s action in her family’s life. (cf. Luke 2:51)
Noticing a need in their community, she prompted Jesus to perform his first public miracle, with cooperation from the servants at her instruction to “do whatever he tells you.” (cf. John 2)
She is present during Jesus’ public preaching ministry. (cf. Matthew 12:46, Mark 3:31, Luke 8:19)
She is one of the few people still present, at his Cross. (cf. John 19:25)
She has a noted presence with the first Christian community at Jerusalem, awaiting the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Acts 1:14)
Mary was a “young virgin” from Nazareth; a small town. In other words, she was a “nobody from nowhere.” Yet, when we look at her with the eyes of the heart, we see Mary’s cooperation with the Father’s will, her relationship with Jesus, and her prayer life in the Holy Spirit, and her simple love for others. In other words, we see her as the primary, model Christian.
For this reason, it is a mistake for us to approach Mary from either extreme: dismissive or intimidated. When we encounter Mary of Nazareth with the eyes of our heart, Christians can discover a spiritual mother who gently points us toward her Son.
On January 1, Pope Francis said:
At the beginning of the year, we, as Christians on our pilgrim way, feel the need to set out anew from the center, to leave behind the burdens of the past and to start over from the things that really matter. Today, we have before us the point of departure: the Mother of God. For Mary is what God wants us to be, what he wants his Church to be: a Mother who is tender and lowly, poor in material goods and rich in love, free of sin and united to Jesus, keeping God in our hearts and our neighbor in our lives. […]
Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life. Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman. While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to “keep,” to put things together in her heart, to give life. If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.
Dear Jesus, I believe in eternal life through your love, starting with my life right here and now. This year, I want to follow you even better than before. Please help me to encounter your mother as my spiritual mother. Mary, as you praise God from heaven, pray that I would see God’s love for me, today, and every day.
Learn more about the Scriptural Praise of Mary during an Evening with Mary at Saint Monica Church in Converse, Texas, Thursday, January 18 at 7pm. This simple, mini-conference is a time to learn, grow in your prayer life, ask questions, and encounter Jesus through the heart of our spiritual mother.
Did you know that January is traditionally dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus?
The name of Jesus is radical! On one hand, proclaiming the name of Jesus can call down the power of God and drive out demons. On the other hand, many people today use the name of Jesus as they curse.
We’re reminded of an amazing story from one of our pilgrims. When her superior used the Lord’s name in vain during a meeting, our pilgrim confronted her boss (who was not a Christian) and told her how much this offended her. She also assured her, “I will be praying for you.”
Time passed, and our pilgrim grew closer to her Holy Land pilgrimage journey. She approached her boss and said, “I’m going to the Holy Land soon, and I would like to leave a prayer intention for you at the Wailing Wall.” Her boss replied, “Not just there; pray for me everywhere you go.”
So, our pilgrim did just that: At every holy site we visited—most of which are related to the life of Jesus, she prayed.
Not long after our return from pilgrimage, her boss approached our pilgrim and said, “Thank you for praying for me. You helped me to discover God.” She joined the Church!
Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 430)
This month, try a simple prayer: Speak the name, “Jesus,” slowly, and with reverence.
Dear Lord Jesus, help me to be your witness. May I always speak your name with humility, devotion, and trust.
For Pilgrim Center of Hope’s first Day of Hope with Father Pat Martin, thirteen men and women participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Gethsemane Chapel, enjoyed coffee, sweets, and fellowship; and grew in faith through a morning reflection offered by Father Patrick Martin, the new chaplain of Pilgrim Center of Hope.
Father began the morning reflection with a question, “What was special about the Apostles?” Several gave their responses highlighting the Apostles’ faith, their trust in Jesus, and their hope that Jesus is the Messiah.
Father remained quiet, drawing us all deeper into his reflection. When one of the group said, “The Apostles loved Jesus,” Father responded, “Yes, Love! But, not that the Apostles loved Jesus, but that Jesus loved them. They were His Apostles, because they let Jesus love them as they were.”
Father Pat has been blind since childhood due to meningitis. He shared a personal story of a faith healer who once put his hands over Father’s eyes bellowing, “God wants to heal your blindness!” Father said, “I removed his hands from my face and bellowed back, ‘Then God is a failure!’” The faith healer responded, “Blasphemy!” to which Father said, “You blaspheme, because you are speaking as if you know what God wants.”
Father said, “If God came to cure blindness, then He is a failure, but He did not come to cure blindness nor to end suffering. God came to love us right where we are. The Message of Christianity is this: Jesus loves you. The Apostles were special because they let Jesus love them even in their sinfulness.”
To emphasize this, Father compared the sins of Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. He said that in ranking their sins at the Passion, Peter’s was worse, because he denied knowing Jesus—and even cursed as he did so, whereas Judas did not deny Him, but sinned out of greed.
At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed. (Matthew 26:74)
Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, ‘What is that to us? Look to it yourself.’ Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
Father asked, “Why was Peter able to seek our Lord’s forgiveness? It was that looking at Jesus and His Eyes of Love that drew him out of his sin into God’s forgiveness. He let Jesus love him as he was in that moment.”
[…and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” (Luke 22:51)
“Imagine,” Father said, “If Judas sought Jesus out, instead of the Pharisees?”
Father ended this part of the reflection by saying that God knows we are miserable failures. “We are the ones who keep denying it and trying to earn our worth,” Father said, “God asks only that we let Him love us.”
Father told a story about a time on pilgrimage in the Holy Land with Pilgrim Center of Hope when he was meditating on St. Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Christ. He said, “I asked our Lord, ‘Did she regret all her sins and the lost years?’ Jesus replied, ‘No, she was too busy looking at my Love’.” Father said, “Mary Magdalene saw Jesus’ love for her, and could not get enough of it.”
“How,” Father asked, “Can we be an Apostle? How can we be a Saint? The way is to let Jesus love you.” Father asked another question, “Why do I not love like Jesus?” He then answered, “Because I am deaf and blind to His love for me.”
Father explained a dark moment in his life when he felt like a complete failure. He said in contemplation he was given a prayer to offer, “Mary, help me see God’s love for me today.” He has been praying that prayer every day since, and says, “The more I pray it, the more I see how blind I am to His love, and the deeper I discover His Love for me.”
Father urged us to offer that prayer often. He explained how God’s love is infinite, and we are each loved in a way yesterday that is new today, and will be new again not only tomorrow, but the next minute. He encouraged everyone to pray this prayer saying, “Just watch how God shows you His Love for you anew . . . brand new!”
A question was asked, “How do we help our loved ones find Jesus?”
Father cautioned that we are not to preach, but rather pray for them, suggesting turning the prayer he just shared towards others: “Mary, help (name of loved one) see God’s love for him/her today.”
He also encouraged us to share our personal love story with Jesus. He said, “No one can refute what you personally experienced, and it is this experience that our Lord will use to draw your loved ones to Him.”
Father ended the Day of Hope by sharing the song our Lord gave him when Father asked to see Jesus. The song, “He Loves Me,” has been copyrighted by Father, and is available for all at no charge. Contact Pilgrim Center of Hope to obtain a copy.
He Loves Me
He loves me! He loves me!
He loves me as I am,
Oh yes, He loves me!
Yes, He loved me yesterday,
And yes, He’ll love me still tomorrow,
For He loves me just today, the way I am!
He loves me! He loves me!
And all He asks is that I let Him love me!
Let Him love me as He chooses,
With no thoughts for wins or loses,
Let Him love me as I am is all He asks!
He knows me! He knows me!
Better than I know myself,
Oh yes, He knows me!
Who I was the other day,
And who I will become tomorrow,
But He loves me just the same the way I am!
He calls me! He calls me!
He calls me as I am to spread His love!
Knowing well who I have been,
Who I will be, who I am,
Yet He calls me just the same to spread His love!
He frees me! He frees me!
He frees me to say YES whenever He calls me!
Showing me His own compassion, love and care and understanding,
He frees me to say my YES when He calls me!
He loves me! He loves me!
He loves me as I am
Oh yes, He loves me!
Finding me wherever I am,
He gently guides me by the hand,
For He loves me as I am, oh, He loves me!
For He loves me as I am, oh, He loves me!
This weekend, we heard this call: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” What does it mean to be prepared?
Many years ago when Deacon Tom and Mary Jane were going door to door, they met a woman who was in her last stage of 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. Cancer was her wake-up call, to prepare herself for Christ.
If you asked people if they believed they were going to heaven, almost everyone would say yes. 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) Jesus says only those who do the will of His Father will enter heaven.
Step 1: How do I 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.”
Step 2: How do I undergo a conversion?
To be prepared is to be changed. Jesus gave his authority to the Church, so that we could have guidance and transforming grace through Her. 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 Father’s will.
We also have the Scriptures, the Word of God, to guide us. Saint Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture 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 of the powerful presence of God that it has been through the ages. Let us get to know the saints!
Step 3: 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. We are encouraged knowing that God has not asked something of us that is unreasonable.
Ask: Do I love God more than anything else, and do I love my neighbor as I also love myself? If not, you are not prepared! Do I have any hatred, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.? If so, you are not prepared!
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 the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and by preparing ourselves spiritually and mentally in our personal prayer before Mass, and actively participating in the Mass. We prepare by choosing to love our neighbor and choosing to love who God made us to be!
How is Advent relevant to actual, daily life?
The purpose is not only to be prepared when Christ comes for us. Advent preparation will help us to experience our greatest happiness now. Being prepared not only has a transforming effect upon us, but on all our family, 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!”
If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! … Saying ‘thank you’ is such an easy thing, and yet so hard!
When people pray, their prayer is mostly one of petition and intercession; the prayer of thanksgiving is often left unsaid.
Yet, research has indicated that when people take time to be thankful or grateful, it can make them happier, healthier and aware of counting their blessings each day. Here are three steps we recommend to becoming more thankful.
Say Those Little Words – Pope Francis adds: “If families can say these three things, they will be fine: ‘Sorry,’ ‘Excuse me,’ ‘Thank you.’ How often do we say ‘thank you’ in our families? How often do we say ‘thank you’ to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted!” Make a habit of saying these phrases daily, especially to those closest to you!
Make a List of These 25 Things – Consider writing a list of 25 blessings for which you are thankful. In doing so, you will begin to realize how many blessings, gifts and good things you have received or experienced. There is joy in re-discovering this fact!
5 Living People for Whom You Are Grateful
5 Physical Abilities for Which You Are Grateful
5 Places You Are Happy to Have Visited
5 Things about This Year for Which You Are Grateful
5 Things about the Catholic Church for Which You Are Grateful
Remember that “God Was There” – At the same time, let’s not forget to list the ‘not so good moments.’ They remind us that God was, and is, with us in those moments, as well. How do we benefit from this exercise? Archbishop Fulton Sheen has the answer: “No man can be happy on the outside who is already unhappy on the inside.” For each major ‘not so good moment’ from this year, reflect on how God was present.
Let’s take advantage of the remainder of this month, approaching time with family and friends in deeper gratitude.
In the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed the destruction of four hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and several mass murders – the most recent in a local church. When we recognize things are beyond control, what should our response be?
Saint Paul offered the answer in Romans 12:12 – “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” When God is our hope, he will also be our strength as we remain connected to Him.
Our first response is to pray for those affected; prayers imploring the mercy of God and the graces needed so that they may persevere in their trust in Him. We can also pray for the deceased; remember this beautiful prayer of the Church – “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. May your Perpetual Light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
In Pope Francis’ final General Audience message on hope, he reflected on Paradise, the aim of our hope.
Paradise is not a fairytale place, much less an enchanted garden. Paradise is the embrace of God, infinite Love, and we enter there thanks to Jesus, who died on the Cross for us. Where there is Jesus there is mercy and happiness; without him there is cold and darkness. At the hour of death, a Christian repeats to Jesus: “Remember me”. And even if there may no longer be anyone who remembers us, Jesus is there, beside us. He wants to take us to the most beautiful place that exists. He wants to take us there with the small or great deal of good that we have done in our life, so that nothing of what he has already redeemed may be lost. And to the Father’s house he will also bring everything in us that still needs redemption: the shortcomings and mistakes of an entire life. This is the aim of our existence: that all be fulfilled, and be transformed into love.
If we believe this, death ceases to frighten us, and we can also hope to depart from this world in a peaceful way, with so much confidence. Those who have met Jesus no longer fear anything. We too can repeat the words of the elderly Simeon; he too was blessed by the encounter with Christ, after a lifetime spent in anticipation of this event: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Lk 2:29-30). At that instant, at last, we will no longer need anything; we will no longer see in a confused way. We will no longer weep in vain, because all has passed; even the prophecies, even consciousness. But not love: this endures. Because “love never ends” (1 Cor 13:8).
Only the light of God’s love can transform the darkness. We can make a difference through prayer and active love. Let us remain steadfast in Hope!