Tag Archives: encounter

Where is your Bethlehem? Closer than you think.

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Last week I overheard a young woman ask someone if they celebrated Christmas. The person responded “Yes, of course I do!”. The young woman said, “Oh, do you know that some people don’t celebrate Christmas?” Upon hearing this, I began to think about those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Perhaps they haven’t experienced God’s love or mercy directly. Perhaps they don’t believe in God.

A Long Time Ago

What happened in Bethlehem, Palestine over 2,000 years ago has impacted millions upon millions of souls. God, the Creator of the Universe, sent His Son to be born of a virgin in a humble place, a grotto or stable. You have heard the story – Joseph takes Mary from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census held by Caesar Augustus (ref. Luke 2:1).

It is impressive to learn about St. Joseph through John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer. In it he describes Joseph as a just and righteous man who was obedient to the law:

“Journeying to Bethlehem for the census in obedience to the orders of legitimate authority, Joseph fulfilled for the child the significant task of officially inserting the name ‘Jesus, Son of Joseph of Nazareth’ in the registry of the Roman Empire (Jn 1:45). This registration clearly shows that Jesus belongs to the human race as a man among men, a citizen of this world, but also as Savior of the World!” (#9)

Not Very Different From Today

Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary see the hustle and bustle of the town – people arriving from various areas for the census, donkeys and camels in the streets, marketplace busy, Joseph searched for a place at the inn, and perhaps several inns.

No room at the inn for them! So thanks to an innkeeper, they are told they can stay at a grotto where animals are kept. Here, in this simple, humble, and most likely quiet place, the Son of God is born.

“Joseph, together with Mary, is a privileged witness to the birth of the Son of God in the world on Christmas night in Bethlehem. Joseph was an eyewitness to this birth, which took place in conditions that humanly speaking, were embarrassing.” (#10)

The Journey Home

The first time I experienced visited Bethlehem, I was quite emotional because I was able to touch and pray at the place where my Savior was born! My husband and I have led numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land and our time in Bethlehem is very special. The birthplace of Jesus, our Savior, is still there! A church, the Basilica of the Nativity, is built over it to protect it. Thanks be to God for this – now, we can visit this sacred site, where the Son of God was born, where Hope was born!

Do Mary & Joseph have a place in your home?

Oh, but what if one cannot visit Bethlehem in the Holy Land? Bethlehem can be our parish church and our homes where we have a nativity scene set-up.

Parish churches can be called “little Bethlehems”. It is there where we unite with other Christians to worship God and see the Creche, or the Nativity.

Let us approach the Creche with new eyes, not as before, as we casually looked at it and thought it was nice. Let us look at the Nativity – whether it be plastic, clay, metal or whatever it is made of – and see what took place 2,000 years ago in a small town in ancient Palestine.

Have you prepared a place for Jesus?

Imagine the scene! Mary and the Child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes… Would you be attracted to spend time with this family? The Shepherds did! The Magi did!

A Nativity scene, a Creche – as simple as it may be; this symbolic representation of Christ’s birth can help us meditate and contemplate God’s love for each of us, God’s mercy to give us a Redeemer born so poor and yet majestic, because He is the Savior!

When life throws challenges at us, whether it be elderly parents, sickness, problems with family or work; think about the Holy Family. They certainly faced their challenges!

Oh yes, let us humble ourselves before the infant Jesus. His gifts of peace, hope and joy last forever! The Christmas Season (Dec 25 – January 6) can be our time in “Bethlehem”, let us take advantage of this time to thank Him for His gifts and humbly present ourselves to Him.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope seeks to offer you opportunities to encounter Christ as a gift. We pray that you and your family find ways to encounter Christ wherever you are and have a blessed Christmas season.

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I found God in the World Series

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baseballHave you ever wept, and not understood why?

It was late at night in San Antonio, but my husband had the TV on the World Series. We never watch TV.

“Is that the last game?” I asked. As I sat next to him, I realized how unplugged I’d been from this Great American Past-Time.

“Yep,” he replied.

I found myself wrapped up in the seventh inning. Then, the eighth…ninth…rain delay…!? My husband and I bantered back and forth as we watched. “I can’t explain why this game is so fascinating to me!” I declared. Then, bottom of the tenth: blue uniforms rushed together and jubilantly bounced around the screen.

“CUBS WIN!” exclaimed the announcer. My husband continued relaying his childhood World Series memories. But a lump formed in my throat. Silently, I began to weep.

As Dan glanced over at me, he noticed my face, wrinkled with emotion. “Oh—I didn’t know,” he said quietly, surprised, “that you’re a Cubs fan.”

“My great-grandmother was from Chicago,” I whispered through sniffles. “She was seven years old when the Cubs last won the World Series. Every time we’d go visit her and the Cubs were playing, she’d have them on TV.”

But I wasn’t crying because I missed her. No—I wasn’t even crying because I was witnessing something she’d longed to see.

A Mysterious Union

As I watched Mimi’s Cubbies win the World Series, in an instant, I became overwhelmingly aware of God. Here it was, All Souls Day—the day when the Church remembers its departed members—and in an instant, I had an intense experience of nearness.

This nearness had nothing to do with spatial relationship and everything to do with intimacy. This nearness was so intense, so filled with God. I don’t know how else to describe it. Neither my body nor my intellect could contain or comprehend this nearness; I just wept.

These were not tears of sadness, nor tears of joy. They were tears in response to an incomprehensible experience of communion.

“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (Pope Paul VI, Catechism of the Catholic Church, pp. 962).

b-baseballThis experience of God in my living room, watching the World Series, is just a peek into the awesomeness of our God. Our God is not only united unto himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; but also mysteriously united with us. “In him, we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Have you spent a minute lately, realizing how near God is to you?

“There is no place or thing in this world where he is not truly present. […] Although faith assures us of his presence, yet because we do not see him with our eyes we often forget about him and behave as if God were far distant from us. We really know that he is present in all things, but because we do not reflect on that fact we act as if we did not know it.” – St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life

Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

We have an opportunity for men to encounter Christ with their fellow brothers in Christ coming up soon.”Master, I want to see” is the scripture that was chosen for our annual Catholic Men’s Conference. We hope to see you at CMC 2017 . Get all the details at CMCSanAntonio.com.