Category Archives: Deacon Tom’s homilies

Find encouragement and challenge from Deacon Tom Fox’s homilies.

Finding the Strength to Forgive

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In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells us we must love our enemies, and then he shows us what love of our enemies should look like.

This love does not come naturally to us; it is the opposite of how we are likely to respond.

When someone hurts us, our first thought may be our need for justice. Justice is important, but with the help of God’s grace, we can develop a desire to deepen our relationship with God and ask his guidance when we are confronted with difficult issues.

Perhaps our first step is to ask: Have I been able to forgive those who have hurt me in any way? We cannot love someone whom we cannot forgive. Forgiveness is fundamental to our relationship with God and one another. It is so important that it is included in the only prayer our Lord has given us. We say,

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

In other words, God will forgive us in the same way we forgive others.

There is nothing we are allowed to not forgive. Think of the terrible things people do to one another; every offense must be forgiven.

There will be no complete healing of the pain until the offender has been forgiven.

What It Means to Forgive

If we forgive someone, does it mean that what they did was okay? No. The offender is accountable to God for what they did; when we forgive, we refuse to carry the burden of their sin.

Of course, if someone commits a crime against us, we work within the justice system. However, if we want to experience the peace of Christ, our forgiveness does not depend on receiving justice. We can only receive the peace of Christ in relationship with him. Jesus is our example. He experienced a terrible injustice on our behalf, but forgave his executioners and us who share their guilt.

We have more examples, too. Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, forgave his persecutors as they were stoning him to death. Hundreds of other saints have shown us how to forgive injustices more serious than anything we will ever experience, with the help of God’s grace.

When We Don’t Forgive

Over thirty years ago, when my wife Mary Jane and I were visiting people door-to-door throughout our parish boundaries, we met a women whose son had been murdered by an associate who had died a short time after the murder. Even though her son’s murderer was dead, the woman would not forgive him. She told us that before all this happened, she had been in good health, but now she was homebound with debilitating asthma. She knew that her condition was related to her inability to forgive her son’s killer and still could not bring herself to forgive him.

This is a graphic example of how unforgiveness makes us a slave of the one who hurt us, even if that person is no longer alive.

In addition to possibly affecting our health, unforgiveness can cause us to become a bitter, negative person, which leads to unhappiness for us and the people we love.

If you have a deep hurt that you have not been able to forgive, ask God for the grace to at least have the desire to forgive because you know that God wants to liberate you from the burden you are carrying. Continue to pray for that grace until you begin to experience some peace. We must be purified of all bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness before we can enter into heaven.

Hope In Severe Trial

I read the true story of Archbishop Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan from Vietnam who was arrested by the Communists and imprisoned for nine years. In the beginning, he was filled with bitterness because of the injustice he had experienced. After a while, he realized that his bitterness was not going to change his situation; he decided to find a way to bring something positive to his dilemma.

He began to collect small pieces of paper and write down all the prayers, Scriptures, and positive things he could remember. He also collected pieces of bread and grapes to squeeze into juice so that he could celebrate Mass. Other prisoners would come to him at night secretly for prayer and worship. His presence there brought hope to the other prisoners. He also wrote several books while in prison on pieces of paper, one of them is called, The Road of Hope, a Gospel from prison. He chose to turn his bad experience into a testimony of faith.

We have all heard the expression, “Out of bad comes good.” That does not happen by accident; in most cases, it is a choice. That’s why Jesus says, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) If we turn to him when we are experiencing trials, he will give us the grace to turn bad into good while we keep our eyes on him and persevere in prayer.

Sunday’s Gospel concludes with the words, “For the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:38) During his unjust imprisonment, Bishop Van Thuan made a decision to use his priesthood for the benefit of those imprisoned with him, and to draw on his faith to evangelize them and others on the outside through his writings. He measured his situation, and instead of allowing it to defeat him, he used his priesthood and his gifts for the service of Christ and his Church. In turn, this service was measured back to him. He said:

It is not enough to simply not hate. It is not enough to merely love others, or merely to help others. Only when love and action work in harmony is our love enough.

After he was released from prison, he was expelled from Vietnam. He went to Rome, where he became a preacher to the papal household and was named Cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II. He died on September 16, 2002, and the Roman Catholic Church began the process of his beatification on September 16, 2005.

It Is Possible for Everyone

What God asks of us, we can only do in relationship with him and with the help of his grace. This relationship is possible for anyone who desires it and wants to be faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We need to turn our lives toward him through a disciplined prayer life, by living the sacramental life, and by having a desire to discover God’s will for our life. If this is the measure with which we measure out our lives to God, it will be measured back to us with peace, hope, and eternal life.


At Pilgrim Center of Hope, we’re here to help you live your daily journey in hope. Let us journey with you. Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org. If you are in the San Antonio area, call us about our Meet the Master series of Saturday morning reflections: 210-521-3377.


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Have Hope: God Is Present!

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In his Gospel account, Luke explains to us the reason why he has undertaken the task of writing his own account of the Good News of Jesus Christ: so that we all may realize the certainty of the teachings we have received (Luke 1:1-4). Luke’s Gospel gives us insight into how we may understand Jesus’ presence in our own lives.

Awareness of Jesus’ Presence

Luke speaks to us about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and return to Nazareth, where he grew up (4:14-21). In the synagogue where everyone knows him, Jesus reads to them from the Prophet Isaiah. After he reads, he sits down, and everyone is looking at him.  He then says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”. Jesus tells them that his mission is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus is the one for whom the chosen people have been waiting; He is the Good News.

The best thing that can happen for the people… has just happened! The kingdom of God is made present to them, because Jesus the Word of God is in their midst.

Luke continues: “…all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” They also asked, Isn’t this the son of Joseph? They wonder how this man who has been their neighbor since childhood, can claim to be the Messiah without the proof of miracles?!

As we know from other Gospel accounts, even when Jesus does perform miracles and speaks with unheard authority, few put faith in him. He is the Good News for all time, and yet is often met by rejection.

Why Rejection?

Evidence of Jesus Christ is mentioned in historical writings outside of the Scriptural accounts of his life, death, and resurrection. Yet, two thousand years after his death, the number of people who reject him is growing faster than the population. Despite all the miracles that have happened through the ages, and the positive impact that the Church has had upon the world in areas of medicine, education, and charitable services, along with the undeniable impact of the lives of thousands of saints, there is a rapidly-growing number of people who reject God and religion.

We live in the age of relativism, where individuals want to decide what is important for them personally, without regard to any authority or how one’s own beliefs affect others. Primary contributors to this situation are consumerism and materialism, because they can underscore a capacity to isolate ourselves from others and just live for our self. This situation leads to loneliness (and sadness), because it is contrary to our human needs and purpose.

God’s Presence In Our Despair

However, no matter how far we drift from God, there is always the possibility of discovering his presence if we choose to have the humility to turn to God in our time of need. He can manifest his presence even when all seems lost.

In 1941 during WWII, Maximillian Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews from them. He was treated with hatred in the prison camp. One day, after a prisoner attempted an escape, 10 men were selected to die of starvation as an example to the others. One of the men begged for his life on behalf of his wife and small children. Maximillian Kolbe offered his life in the man’s place. The 10 men were forced into a small box-like building, where there was only room enough to stand. Instead of the usual cursing that was heard when men were waiting to die, hymns and prayers were heard coming from the box. This caused an unusual peace to settle over the death camp, and gave hope to the other prisoners. In that terrible place, the kingdom of God was at hand for those who believed.

Often, when we are going through a trial or great difficulty, our temptation is to focus on our dilemma, and in our imagination, it becomes bigger than reality and overwhelms us. If, on the other hand, we would turn to Jesus and ask him for his help, we can be assured that he will give us the grace we need in that moment.

  • It may be the grace to see things as they truly are.
  • It may be the grace of humility to ask the right people for help.
  • It may be the grace to surrender your life to God and to put your total trust in him.

Read what he says to us in the Scriptures and be confident in his providential love and mercy. Here is one of God’s promises:

Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

We are never alone; we always have our guardian angel with us. Whenever we turn to our Lord in prayer from our heart, we can be sure that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Concern for People In Our Lives

We all have people we are concerned about, and we should never give up praying for them. Sometimes, it is the prayers of a loved one that finally helps God’s grace to break into our lives—as in the case of Saint Augustine. Amid his life of wild partying, promiscuity, and other poor decisions, his mother’s constant prayers were answered by his powerful conversion. Then, he realized that God’s presence and love was always there.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness…
(Excerpt from Augustine’s autobiographical Confessions)

Jesus assures us many times: Do not worry. We invite you to allow Pilgrim Center of Hope to help you walk daily with hope. An upcoming opportunity is the Catholic Men’s Conference, “Master, I Want to See.” Join us, or invite someone who is seeking answers. You don’t have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.




 

What Can Our Family Learn from the Holy Family?

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We just recently celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family. What can our families today really learn from them?

A Family Trial

The Gospel reading (Luke 2:41-52) focused on an episode in their family life. Mary and Joseph made a pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the feast of Passover, as was required by the Law of Moses. We see in this story that, even though Mary and Joseph were chosen by God to be the parents of Jesus, they did not live a privileged life, free of trials and difficulties. They lived a humble life without any luxuries, and they were obedient to the just laws of God and man. Their humility and obedience was necessary for their intimacy with God; it was the source of their hope and happiness.

When Jesus reached the age of twelve it also became a requirement for him to celebrate Passover and to observe the law. Now that Jesus had become of age, he had his first opportunity to ask questions of the religious teachers in the Temple, who were amazed at his understanding and questions. For this reason, he remained behind. Mary and Joseph had left in a caravan, in which the men and women traveled separately. So, they each thought that Jesus was with the other. When they finally realized that Jesus was not with them, they returned—to find him in the Temple.

Mary and Joseph were troubled by Jesus’ behavior. However, he asked them why they were looking for him. He said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Even though they knew that Joseph was not the real father of Jesus, they lived as if he was. Now that Jesus is of age, his reference to his heavenly Father is a reminder that the purpose for which he came into the world is not far away. As the Scriptures tell us, he then returned with them to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.

Lesson Learned

So, what can we learn from the Holy Family? Even for Mary and Joseph, life was filled with mystery, and they confronted that mystery with humility and obedience. Jesus—who is God himself—was obedient; first of all to Mary and Joseph, and then to his Father in heaven. For Jesus, his whole mission was about obedience.

The most important things we can learn from the Holy Family are humility and obedience to what God has revealed to us. The greatest commandment is that we Love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength, and our neighbor as our self—because it is only in relationship with God that we can experience true and lasting happiness.

Following Their Example

This isn’t complicated, but it is difficult because we naturally want to put our self first. We can only live the greatest commandment with the help of God’s grace, which he makes available to us through his Church and her sacraments.

  • Prayer – It begins with prayer. One way to measure our faith is how we pray; if prayer is not a priority, neither is our faith. If you haven’t been able to develop a discipline of daily prayer, ask God for the grace. You have to have the desire to make changes. Try thanking God when you get up each morning. Pray before meals. Pray with your spouse and children before leaving the house.
  • Spiritual Tools – As Catholics, we have so many resources to help us pray: the Scriptures, Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a treasury of prayers written by saints, and silent prayer in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Have holy water in your home to bless yourself and your family every day.
  • Holy Reminders – It should be obvious that we are Catholic to anyone who would enter our home. A crucifix and other religious images are constant reminders that our home is a “domestic church” where Our Lord is welcome and blesses us with his peace.

Parents should be examples to their children of how to live in relationship with God and one another, because children learn from what they see. When they see the love that their parents have for each other, for God, and for them, they are provided with great security that is important for their development. Praying together as family helps to overcome some of the challenges that are part of life’s experiences. When children see their parents praying together, they will want to learn how to pray also. Jesus promised us that he would be with us whenever we join together in prayer (cf. Matthew 18:20).

Is It Your Family?

Someone asked a priest what inspired his vocation. He answered that as a child, from the time he would see his mother approach a statue of St. Joseph every day, place a piece of paper under his feet, and say a prayer. Her son discovered that these were prayer intentions for him and for the rest of the family. Vocations to the religious life come primarily from faithful families. Our Church is in a desperate need of vocations. Have you encouraged your children or grandchildren to pray about serving God in his Church? When we pray for vocations, maybe it is your family we are praying for! There is nothing more important in this life; we all must serve God, even if it is not through a religious vocation.

When families pray together every day, we will see more peace in homes, less divorces, and more vocations for the Church. Jesus, Mary and Joseph; help us to be humble and obedient to God, so that we may live in happiness together.

Do you need help praying with your family? Pilgrim Center of Hope offers guidance and ideas in our weekly Living Catholicism series. We invite you to click the link and explore!

Why It Matters that Jesus Is Our King

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, we saw Jesus, whom Christians name “King of Kings,” being judged by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. In response to Pilate, Jesus says:

You say I am a king. For this was I born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (John 18:37)

“What is truth?” This is a question for our time. Do we really want to know the truth about who God is and about how he wants us to live our lives in relationship with him? There is an objective truth based upon natural law and on the law of God—given to us by way of his revelation in the Scriptures and his Church. When Pope Benedict XVI began his papacy, he said that one of the greatest concerns of our times is relativism, a commonly-held doctrine causing individuals to trust more in their own logic and in ideologies to which they’re attracted, than to trust what God has revealed.

Jesus said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” To belong to the truth is to choose Jesus Christ as our King, our Lord and Savior, and to allow the truth of God’s revelation in the Scriptures and the Church to shape our lives. It is this authority that enables us to cling to God’s promises, so that we will always have hope in every circumstance.

Pilate asks the people if they want him to release Jesus to them. They said, “Not him but Barabbas!” They rejected Jesus as their King and called for his crucifixion. They spoke out of ignorance, but their ignorance had consequences.

This is not the only time that Jesus Christ and his Kingship were rejected. He has been rejected throughout history, mostly out of ignorance, whenever the truths he has revealed have been rejected. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16) When we reject Jesus, we are rejecting God’s revealed plan for our salvation.

Questions for This Week

What does this Feast of Christ the King mean to us; to you and me? It is an opportunity to look at our relationship with Jesus Christ.

  • Is he our King and the Lord of our life?
  • Do we belong to him and the truths he has revealed?
  • Do we listen to his voice? Or do we reject him because we really do not know him or take him seriously?

My Personal Story

Thirty-two years ago when I was a hotel manager, I was having lunch with the Food & Beverage Manager when he asked me, “Is Jesus the Lord of your life?”

I don’t remember what I told him, but I do remember that my answer should have been “No.” I went to Mass every Sunday, but that was the end of my faith experience for the week. However, that question began to haunt me. I believed in God, but how much influence did he have on the decisions I made; very little?

That was a wake-up call for me. Where was I going with my life? What were my priorities? How important was my faith?

Shortly afterward, I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group at St. Matthew parish. Through a series of decisions and circumstances, my faith become alive and a major influence in my life.

Finding True Happiness

I thank God for that wake-up call, because it changed the course of my life. I am truly grateful that God gave my wife Mary Jane and me, at the same time, the grace to desire a personal relationship with him. There are no words to describe the joy we have discovered these past 40 years of marriage as a result of our efforts to place God first in our lives. It is only possible to reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity when our life is ordered to God, according to the truths he has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures.

  • We invite Jesus to be our Lord and King by a commitment to daily prayer, and inviting him to be with us every day throughout the day.
  • We stay connected to him by faithfully attending Mass, and by encountering him in the sacraments and in the holy scriptures.
  • We defend ourselves against the ignorance of this age by being formed in our faith, and allowing Mother Church to guide us on our pilgrimage through this life—so that we will always have hope.

To say that Jesus is our King is not just an act of our intelligence or of our faculties to perceive his message; it is first of all a matter of a heart that is willing to be open, a heart that has a desire to believe what God has revealed, to live what we believe, and to share what we believe with others so that they may also believe.

God’s plan for us is not complicated. He said we must be like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must trust and depend upon God as a child trusts and depends upon its parents. Without exception, each of us has to intentionally choose Jesus as our Lord and King, for our own salvation, and to help save the souls of others—especially those whom we love.

Pilgrim Center of Hope is here to help. Explore more about reaching your potential for happiness; we invite you to watch our weekly broadcast TV & video series. May you be renewed in hope as you reflect on Christ as your King.

Updated Monday 11/26/2018 9am CST

Take courage! He is calling you.

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The theme for all the Catholic Men’s Conferences (which are held annually) and sponsored by Pilgrim Center of Hope is taken from this Sunday’s Gospel, “Master, I want to see.”

Our Blindness

Bartimaeus was physically blind, but because of his faith, the Lord healed him. We chose this theme, because we realize that there is a blindness that is worse than physical blindness—and it affects not only men, but all of society; and we all need to be healed.

As Jesus taught the crowds two thousand years ago, he said, “…They may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12) To accept Jesus as our Savior, and to undergo conversion, goes against our nature. We think we know what is best for us, and we want to rely on our own resources, our own intelligence, our own understanding. It is from this way of thinking that we need conversion and forgiveness.

The Difficulty of Faith

In baptism, we received the theological gift of faith, but what is faith? The theologian St. Thomas Aquinas gives us an insight: “The object of faith is not something seen or sensed; nor, in itself, is this object grasped by the intellect” (Tour of the Summa). Perhaps this is what we could call the difficulty of faith: our intellectual desire is to understand all things, but there are some things that God has revealed to us that are beyond our understanding.

The answer to this struggle is to surrender (entrust) our intelligence to God, in order to believe. As we draw close to God, we should desire more to believe than to understand in matters of faith, because it is our faith that causes us to have hope and to live in charity. This has been proven through the ages; true faith in God has inspired men and women to live heroic lives of virtue and to experience great happiness that has been the means of hope not only for themselves, but also for others.

Awakening Our Faith

Faith is more than saying we believe in God. Again, an insight from Thomas Aquinas:

“The internal act of faith is the unhesitant assent of the mind or intellect, under the direction of the will, to the truth that is proposed for belief upon sufficient authority. In the case of religious faith, the authority is God, who is truth itself.” (Tour of the Summa)

This internal faith must lead us to an external witness. Saint James tells us, “Be assured, then, that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath.” (James 3:26). If our faith does not influence our decisions, it is dead. If our faith does not inspire us to pray daily, read the scriptures, and worship God, it is dead. If we are not concerned about discovering what God’s plan is for us, and then using the gifts that God has given us to build up the Body of Christ, then our faith is dead.

Jesus came to speak about the urgency of the kingdom of God, because the kingdom of God is at hand for those who believe; and not to believe leads to hopelessness. If we do not have a sense of the urgency of the kingdom of God, then we have eyes, but do not see; ears but do not hear, and hearts that have not yet been converted. The world is as it is because we have not placed God at the center of our lives, at the center of our families.
Our Lord is patient for our salvation, but the longer we take to cooperate with his graces; the greater are the consequences will be for us and for society.

What Will You Ask Jesus?

If we still have enough faith to know that we must make some changes in our lives, then we should say along with Bartimaeus, “Master, I want to see!” The Lord will begin to show us what we must do. It was Bartimaeus who initiated the dialogue with Jesus. Even though he was told to keep silent, he continued to ask for pity, and Jesus said, “Call him!” When he came forward, Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” even though he knew Bartimaeus was blind.

Jesus knows what we need, and yet he often waits to see if we have enough faith to ask, or to ask on behalf of someone else. He begs us to ask him. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

What is it that you want to ask of Jesus? He already knows what you need, but he may be waiting for you to approach him in faith. Remember the words of the disciples to Bartimaeus: “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you!”

It may seem like a big risk to ask Jesus for something, because we know that Jesus may want something from us in return. What he wants from us is our trust. He wants us to experience the joy of being a child of God and of living in a relationship with him in which we will discover our true dignity.

There are some things we can do that will prepare our hearts to see and hear our Lord, so that we can be converted and forgiven.

  • We must make a commitment to pray daily. Prayer could change the world if we would pray with our hearts.
  • Our Lord has given us the sacraments, because he knows we need his grace to discover and live the plan he has for each of us. Consider how you can incorporate frequent Confession, daily Mass when possible, quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, into your life.
  • Being united with the Mother of Jesus by praying the Rosary will help us to see more clearly the spiritual battle we are involved in each day.

May the grace of God give us all the confidence we need to approach Jesus with our concerns and petitions. May God’s grace help us to see and hear more clearly his great plan for us. Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice.

How will you choose to respond?

Pilgrim Center of Hope is here to help guide you to encounter Christ, so as to live in hope, as a pilgrim in daily life. After taking some time to consider how you will respond, browse this blog and our website for spiritual tools to help you.

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.

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.

#1 Gift Everyone Wants

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Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

In this past weekend’s Gospel, the rich man lives only for himself. It is not mentioned that he is evil in any other way. He lives in luxury and dines sumptuously each day. He is so absorbed in satisfying himself that he doesn’t even notice Lazarus starving at his door. The Gospel doesn’t say that Lazarus asked the rich man for anything, he just sat at his door unnoticed. The self indulgence of the rich man will have eternal consequences.

Was Lazarus being unjust by sitting at the door of the rich man?

The rich man had an abundance of something Lazarus needed, food. Lazarus longed just for the scraps that fell from his table. I recently heard a conversation on the radio in which the host and his guests were talking about how troublesome beggars are. They said, “There should be a law against them. Why can’t they just find a job?”

It might be convenient if we did not have to be bothered with such things, but life is more complicated than that. The point of this Gospel is that, we cannot just live for ourselves. We must be aware of the needs of others, and this is not only about food and shelter and clothing. We all have something that someone else needs and we will never develop spiritually until we share from what we have been given.

What is needed for our own happiness?

First of all we must give God His due, not because He needs it, but because it is necessary for our own happiness. We are created to be in a charitable relationship with God and each other. There will always be disorder in our lives until we love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart soul and strength. When we are connected to God by faith and in prayer He will guide us to make right choices.

No matter whether we are rich or poor we all have 24 hours each day and sometimes the best gift we can share is our time. First of all we must spend time in prayer each day to be connected to God and His guidance. After God, comes the people who are most important to you; your spouse, your children, parents, family members. We are obliged to share quality time with the people who depend on us. Lack of quality time destroys relationships.

Why are our gifts are so important?

Our faith community also needs for us to share from our time, talent and treasure. In baptism, we all have been given gifts by God which can only be discovered by being formed in our faith and participating in our faith community. These gifts are not for our own use only, but are meant to build up the Body of Christ, which is His Church. If we fail to contribute to our faith community in a significant way we are stifling our spiritual growth as well as that of our faith community.

One of the greatest gifts we have been given is the gift of faith because it makes it possible for us to have an intimate, personal relationship with God. This gift is only of benefit to us if we develop it, live it and share it. As our faith transforms us, we are expected to be an instrument of transformation for society. St. John Chrysostom once said: “There is no one colder than a Christian who is uninterested in the salvation of others.” When we stand before God, none of us will have an excuse for not sharing from what we have received.

Why can’t we do what we have always done?

It is natural for us to want to live just for ourselves like the rich man in the Gospel, even if we aren’t rich. However, God entered into the world in the person of Jesus Christ to radically change the possibilities of life on earth. That’s why we all must be converted to a new way of thinking and living by accepting the truths of the Gospel and turning away from sin. This conversion is possible only if it is the desire of our hearts and we ask God for the grace to make the changes we know we must make. Conversion is a daily process that is necessary for us so that we can grow in virtue and become spiritually mature.

Conversion is not only necessary for our salvation, it is also necessary for true happiness and peace right now. The Lord has a great plan for us and He has given us His Church to help us live that plan. There is great joy in drawing close to God and believing, living and sharing the truths He has revealed. After all, it is our purpose for being on this earth. Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice.

We enjoy sharing the gift of God with others and one of the special ways that the Pilgrim Center of Hope can achieve this is through our weekly television and radio series, Catholicism Live! Tune-in every Tuesday from 11 – 12 pm CST. You can watch us on Catholic Television of San Antonio via Time Warner Cable channel 15 or via the CTSA Facebook Page! Submit your questions and comments during the show on Facebook or anytime at CatholicismLive.com. We pray that all people accept the gift of faith and believe.

Finding True Happiness

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18th Sunday in Cycle C

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“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Mt 6:21

Where have you placed your heart?

The readings today point out the futility of putting the good things of the world before the good things of God. Much of what the world has to offer is good, but if it is not placed at the service of the kingdom of God it can cause disorder and confusion.

Jesus Christ came into the world to show us how to live in relationship with our Heavenly Father. He came not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him. Our vocation, our happiness is realized in our faithfulness to God’s will as He has revealed it through the Church and the Scriptures. We cannot just do what we want; we must be faithful to His plan.

Where do we turn?

When we read the lives of the saints, we see what God’s plan for humanity looks like. Although their lives were different, they all, with the help of God’s grace, were able to overcome the temptations of the world and live a life close to God which brought them great joy and peace even under extreme difficulty. God’s plan for us is the same.

“St. Francis Xavier, in the midst of his labors in India for the glory of Jesus Christ, was so replenished with divine consolations they he exclaimed: “Enough, O Lord, enough.” Where, I ask, has any lover of this world been found so satisfied with the possessions of worldly goods as to say: Enough O world, enough; no more riches, no more honors, no more applause, no more pleasures? Ah no, worldlings are constantly seeking after higher honors, greater riches, and new delights; but the more they have them, the less are their desires satisfied, and the greater their disquietude.” St. Alphonsus Liguori

All of the saints have discovered their true happiness in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the plan for all humanity without exception, and yet we find it so difficult to surrender to God and put our total trust in him. Of course we have our careers but we should discover them in prayer with the help of God’s grace.

The question for each of us is, do we believe God has a plan for us personally? If we do not believe that, we will not ask for His help and we will never become completely fulfilled. If we do believe that, then we must follow the proven path to discover His plan.

So what is His plan?

We must love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. There can be nothing more important in our life than our relationship with God, and this relationship depends upon our daily commitment to prayer and faithfulness to the Gospel. If we love God above everything else then we will be able to love ourselves and our neighbors, which demands self-denial on our part and a generous use of the gifts God has given us. Because this life of self-denial and generosity does not come natural for us, Our Lord has given us the Church and the Sacraments as the source of grace we need to live a supernatural life – beyond our human tendencies. We can only be faithful to His plan with His help.

Are you doing it all on your own?

Prayer must be a priority. In his booklet, “Into the Breach“, which Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix wrote as a challenge for men to become spiritual leaders, he says, “Until you realize that prayer is the most important thing in your life, you will never have time for prayer.”

A commitment to prayer is necessary to discover and live the great plan God has for us. It is important for husbands and wives to pray together so that Christ can be the center of their marriage and for parents to pray with their children daily. Like the saints we must discover the profound gift that God has given us in the Holy Mass and prepare ourselves to properly receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ who loves us so much that he gives us himself in this Holy Sacrament. We should receive the sacrament of reconciliation frequently, even monthly because we need this encounter with Jesus to help us overcome sin and grow in virtue. We also must be generous with what God has given us and participate in the life of our faith community. In the Church we have everything we need to remain close to Christ, but we must make it our priority; if we do not we will not be able to overcome the temptations of the world.

Living out your faith takes practice and willingness to allow God to help you. There are many resources out there to help you on your faith journey. Tune-in to “Catholicism Live!” every Wednesday from 8-9 pm CST, this weekly show is brought to you by our non-profit The Pilgrim Center of Hope to help you keep your faith alive! Visit CatholicismLive.com to listen to past episodes or see what topics we will cover this month.