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Joy Doesn’t Sell

Legendary Hollywood director, writer, and producer George Lucas, speaking to an audience of aspiring young people in 1989, passed on a life lesson he’d learned; the difference between two kinds of happiness.

Pleasure, he advised, is short-lived, with varying peaks and valleys. Although we might chase after it, we can never re-live a pleasurable experience again quite the same. “If you’re trying to sustain that peak level of pleasure,” he said, “you’re doomed.”

“On the other hand is joy, and joy doesn’t go as high as pleasure in terms of your emotional reaction, but,” Lucas reflected, “it stays with you.”

“Pleasure is purely self-centered. It’s all about your pleasure,” he posited, acknowledging that it can be positive, as well.

In contrast, he said,

“Joy is compassion. Joy is giving of yourself to somebody else, something else.” Lucas assured his listeners, “If you pursue joy, you will find everlasting happiness.”

Happiness From Sorrow?

When the grocery store aisles are void of colorful Easter decorations, and the candy dishes are bare, the world may move on to the next potential source of pleasurable experiences, but our Catholic Church continues to celebrate Easter.

On April 24 of this year, the Sunday of Divine Mercy, we celebrated God’s mercy. “Mercy” in Latin is misericordia; to have sorrow from the heart. Mercy is God’s heartfelt, compassionate response and gift to us.

But… how could sorrow ever result in happiness?

This strange reality was made visible by Jesus’ appearance to his followers after his resurrection; alive and greeting them with peace, yet still bearing the wounds of his painful crucifixion.

Jesus is the ultimate paradox, who baffles our limited minds and invites us to accept what we cannot fully comprehend: He is God become man. He is the master who invites us to be his friend. He is the crucified man who lives. Jesus’ sorrowful heart rejoices.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (John 15:11-12)

Will You Choose Joy?

What if we each chose to follow him…

  • To love our enemies?
  • To pray for those who persecute us?
  • To find strength when we are weak?
  • To discover joy, being generous with others from our hearts?

This Easter season, let’s finally allow our Lenten practices to distance our minds from the relentless pursuit of pleasure. When pleasures come and go, let’s give thanks, and continue our journey toward joy.

Joy doesn’t sell, but it does last forever. As Christians, may we choose to pursue joy.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

Everyday Prophecy

Today I had the privilege of being a prophet . . . twice!

It was not the future vision type of prophecy, nor the ‘have a medal struck’ or ‘institute a feast day’ type of prophecy. It was just an ordinary, everyday prophecy as the Catechism of the Catholic  Church explains,

“Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 64).

These are lofty words for what I am calling everyday prophecy, and though I made up the name, the belief is founded solidly on our Catholic teaching that through Baptism,

“we are anointed by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king,” (CCC, no. 1241).

Through this anointing, Christians are given the charism (special gift) of prophecy to act on promptings of the Holy Spirit to help build up the Church, one soul to another. This understanding was proclaimed by the bishops of the Second Vatican Council in the Document on the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church titled, Lumen Gentium (Light to the Nations). They wrote,

“It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, “allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills, He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit, (LG, 12).”

Spreading Hope

Here are two experiences that challenged me to respond to my baptismal anointing to help build up the Church:

  1. On my way out the door this morning to attend Mass, I grabbed a Rosary bracelet given to me that was touched to the Tomb of Christ during a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It sat on my dresser since I got it, but for some unknown reason this morning, I picked it up and put it on my wrist. When I arrived at Church, I came face-to-face with a woman coming out of the restroom as I was going in. I asked how she was doing. She told me she was going in for a life-threatening surgery next week and asked for prayers. While I was sitting in Adoration before Mass a thought came, ‘Give her the Rosary bracelet.’ With this thought, I looked up at the Blessed Sacrament and the words to share with her came pouring into my heart, “Tell her whatever happens, I am with her. She will receive new life in Me.” I got up, found her sitting in a pew, and did as I was told. With my task complete, I left her so she could have time alone to thank the Lord for his gifts.
  2. An opportunity came from someone through whom I received the grace of a miracle healing over a decade ago. How she was able to connect with me after such a long time I knew could only be the work of the Holy Spirit, so when she told me she needed my help with a writing project, I went to see her. As she spoke, I prayed quietly to the Holy Spirit to guide me on how to help her as my writing schedule is already full of writing deadlines. As I listened, the truth she needed to hear came to my lips, “What you have written is good, ” I said, “I believe you are being tempted to doubt yourself.” I could tell by how she immediately closed her eyes, bowed her head, clasped her hands in prayer, and whispered, “Thank you, Lord,” this was exactly what she needed to hear, and all that was required of me. I thanked God with her for as the bishops state further in Lumen Gentium,

“These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church, (LG, 12).”

All that acting on these promptings of the Holy Spirit cost me was one Rosary bracelet I can have replaced (a perk at working at Pilgrim Center of Hope!) and an hour and half of my time. What I received was so much more . . . the profound blessing of collaborating with God to build up his Church.

Knowing When To Act

It is a challenge to know if a thought to act comes from the Holy Spirit. As Jesus tells us in regard to the Holy Spirit,

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit, (John 3:8).”

If the thought prompts you to help, console or encourage another, it is worth the risk.

A quick prayer to offer before you act, “Come Holy Spirit, help me do Your Will and only your Will.” Then go!

Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Breakfast, The Sacraments, And An Easter Season Lesson

Happy Easter!

This time of the church calendar, we get to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also get to hear the stories of His time when he walked on earth in His resurrected form. Jesus, fully God and fully man, gave hope to the apostles and disciples that their faith was not in vain.

Sometimes, we find the most simple yet profound verses in scripture, like this one from the Gospel this past Sunday.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come, have breakfast.’” (John 21:12).

We are often invited to put ourselves in the scripture verses, and I personally, being a follower of Jesus and a big breakfast fan, am more than happy to reflect on this short verse.

Into The Scripture Verse

The joy of Easter, the hope of the resurrection, and the full realization that Jesus is with us, eating breakfast with me, with you. Can you imagine the early morning smell of a new day, or the birds chirping their morning greetings as the water in the Sea of Galilee peacefully moves in the background?

Jesus was physically present with his disciples.  He stood on the earth after having been dead and resurrected. His wounds always present in his body, the wounds that show the love he has for humanity.

We believe in the resurrection of the body. Thus, our bodies are not simply vehicles to store our souls, but in themselves have value. We are body and soul. This time of Easter helps us to see the importance that Jesus placed on his body. Allowing himself to be seen physically by his apostles. Eating together and allowing all the senses to play a role in helping us be present with Him. This is similar to the physical reality of the Sacraments.

Sacraments Lead to Renewal

St. Augustine states that the Sacraments are,

“the visible form of an invisible grace.”

When we see all the external factors of water, oil, or the laying of the hands, we know these physical objects and actions lead to deep interior renewal. This is especially true with the bread and wine, becoming fully the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a church that exists in the physical world but communicates spiritual realities.

Understanding Is the Key To Hope

This Easter season helps me to remember that my body and my soul have value. Jesus, our supreme teacher, gave us the key to understanding the role of our flesh and blood: to be given in service and love for another. To be present for others, as Jesus was present with his disciples when he had breakfast with them.

Soon we will celebrate when Jesus ascended into heaven. But until that time, we will continue hearing stories about Jesus walking on earth. Let us continue our reflections in the readings, and let us hope to be the physical reality of God’s love for others. Body and soul.

Daniel Quintero is a newlywed husband, writer, and avid karaoke singer. He currently attends Prince of Peace Catholic Church where he volunteers in the lector ministry and with faith formation. His favorite motto: “Awkwardness does not exist.”

How to Avoid the Trap of Unforgiveness

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he said this he showed them his hands and his side.” (John 20:19-20)

Even though the doors were locked, Jesus stood in their midst because his resurrected, glorified body does not have the same limitations as our physical body. For this reason, he shows them his wounds, and in another Gospel (Luke) asks for something to eat to prove he is not a ghost.

He then breaths on them and says,

“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:22-23)

He gives the Apostles and their successors the authority to forgive sins. This is the basis for the sacrament of reconciliation in which Jesus himself forgives the sins of those who confess to Catholic priests who are successors to those who were in the upper room. It is fitting that we hear this Gospel on Divine Mercy Sunday because the Sacrament of Reconciliation is especially a sacrament of our Lord’s mercy. When we confess our sins to a priest, Jesus not only forgives our sins and relieves us of the burden we carry, He also gives us the grace we need to help us overcome temptation and grow in virtue. It is, for this reason, we should try to go to Confession at least once a month. If we only go to Confession a couple of times a year so many of the things, we do that offend God and others begin to pass unnoticed and become part of our life routine, and small sins that are habitual lead to more serious sins.

Forgiveness Through Jesus

Because of our fallen nature, it is so easy for us to fall into the trap of unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and stubbornness that cause us to be negative people, and this negatively affects all of our relationships. If you have not been able to forgive someone, ask Jesus to help you forgive because you know he wants you to forgive, actually he commands you to forgive so he can, and relieve you of that burden of sin.

In 1934 Jesus revealed to St. Faustina that he wanted the second Sunday of Easter to be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. These are his words to her:

“I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are opened all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.”

Even if we are not aware of having committed a serious sin, we still need this merciful encounter with Jesus in Confession so that we can remain close to him and grow spiritually.

In the Gospel of John (20:19-31), the Apostle Thomas was not with the others when Jesus appeared to them on Easter evening and he said he would not believe that Jesus was alive unless he would put his fingers in the nail marks and his hand in his side.

Our human logic is very powerful. Even though the disciples he trusted told him they had seen Jesus, he would not believe them without proof. For him, it wasn’t logical that someone would rise from the dead, even though Jesus said he would.

Walk Daily with Jesus

That’s the world we live in. We are at the point where just as many people do not believe in God as those who do believe, and that number continues to grow. Of course, that is the reason for so much hate, violence, and confusion in society. The only thing that can reverse this present trend is God’s love and mercy, which he freely offers, but does not impose upon us. In His Church, He has given us everything we need to live in peace and happiness, but we must approach Him in faith and humility. Jesus says,

“Come to me… and I will give you rest.”

The rest he offers us is the peace he promises to those who put their trust in Him, especially when experiencing trials.  Even the most hardened sinner can experience this peace if he would turn to Jesus in humility and ask for the grace to turn away from sin.

I am reminded of a woman I visited many years ago who was dying of cancer. She was in much pain and death was not far away, and yet she said she thanked God for cancer because it gave her a chance to turn back to God. She said if she would have died suddenly her soul may have been lost.

Salvation is not a casual thing, but God’s love and mercy are not only about saving our souls. It is first of all about a daily relationship with God that fills our lives with joy, hope, and guidance. He has shown us how this is possible in the Scriptures and in the Church. The solution has been revealed to us, but do we believe?

What we all believe right now is a consequence of the choices we have made up until this moment. Does our faith influence the most important decisions we make? Have we asked Jesus to be the Lord of our life and then pray for the grace we need to trust Him in every situation? If every day, throughout the day we pray from our hearts, “Jesus I trust in you,” it will become a reality. He will gently guide us if we are sincere, and our lives will be filled with hope and peace even as we undergo trials.

Jesus, I trust in you!

Deacon Tom FoxK.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Finding Joy in the Suffering

We made it to the Joy of Easter! How did we get here so fast? Before I jump into my victory cheer, singing Alleluia at the top of my lungs, I want to go back to what we just experienced in the last 40 days and dig deeper into one of my favorite scriptures found in Nehemiah (8:10),

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

That scripture promise can be particularly comforting during trials and tribulations.

Where Does Joy Come From?

Lent can be hard. Sacrifices are made, we pray, we fast, we give, and we wait. We are willing to go through the hard stuff because as Christians we know how the story ends, we know that the hope and joy of Easter is on it’s way, and we also know that joy can be found in the midst of our suffering too, so we embrace it all… or do we?

One time when I had a particularly hard Lent and was having a difficult time finding joy in life, I asked the Lord to reveal to me where joy comes from, and what it looks like, and how His joy can be my strength. I was eager not only to find it and feel it for myself again, but to also see it tangibly. It had been a while since I was joyful, and I wasn’t even sure I would recognize it if it showed up.

It was during Holy Week where, with eyes wide open, I looked for it. I knew joy would come on Easter Morning as it always did, but was there joy in the midst of the sorrowful week that preceded it? I had always looked at Holy Week as a week full of sorrow. The sadness of the last supper with friends where he knew, even as he broke bread, he was being deceived by someone he loved; or during the time in the garden where he felt the human feelings of fear of what was to come. Then when he was mocked, flogged, hungry and in pain and when he walked up to cavalry carrying the heavy cross and the sins of the world on his back, and then horrifically nailed to the cross and hoisted up for all to see. Even though I know he was dying for our sins, it still looked a whole lot like suffering to me, where was the joy in all this? I needed to know, can there be pure joy in the midst of the suffering too?

Joy Revealed

As I sat in church that Holy Week, I felt the Lord reveal the joy that I was asking to see in tangible ways as I listened and reflected on the readings and the stations of the cross. There were three things that particularly caught my attention where joy was found in the suffering and where the joy of the Lord became others’ strength that I had not seen before:

  • The first, at the Last Supper. Jesus gave his joy as he sat with his friends; teaching, ministering, eating, rejoicing, and reminiscing. He showed what it was to have a servant’s heart, and what it meant to be truly present. That night was about sharing joy in how much he loved and how he showed love to his friends. This would become their strength for the days that followed.
  • The second, on Jesus’ way up to Calvary. We hear the traditional story of Saint Veronica, moved with compassion and sorrow as she saw Jesus, tired, in pain and sweaty, dragging his cross up the hillside. With a servant’s heart, she removes her veil for Jesus to wipe his face. As she receives it back, she now has the face of Christ miraculously emblazoned on the cloth. His joy of being helped even in the simplest of ways was now a tangible example of the joy that comes from being loved and cared for. By Veronica sharing this good news with others, it becomes all of our joy and strength.
  • And lastly, the dialogue between Jesus and one of the thieves who was crucified next to him. Scripture tells us the good thief begins rebuking the other thief who was antagonizing Jesus in Luke (23:40-43),

“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Can you imagine the joy and strength that must have given the good thief? Knowing that God’s mercy, even after all he had done, was enough? The joy he must have felt knowing that because of his heartfelt repentance, after he takes his last breath he will be with Jesus in paradise! I imagine that strength must have gotten him through the final hours of his physical suffering on the cross.

Joy and Strength Through The Sacraments

These scripture stories also helped me to see that God was revealing to me other tangible ways to feel and receive the Joy of the Lord, through our beautiful Church sacraments and being of service to others. Every week when I go to church and receive the Body of Christ, I am filled with the Joy of the Lord, as Christ meets me with love in the form of bread. His holy presence within me gives me strength.  Through the sacrament of confession, when like the good thief, I make a sincere confession, the joy that fills me knowing His mercy and grace has just been poured over me. It is the strength I need to do better, try harder and walk in peace. Also, to be in service to others brings the Joy of the Lord down to earth.  When you put Jesus first, then others and then you… you are living out His Joy! How blessed are we to have so many great examples and sacraments that express that the Joy of the Lord is truly our strength!

So, can there be pure joy in the midst of the suffering too? Yes! How great is our God!!! Let us celebrate this Easter season with joy- Alleluia, Alleluia- Holy is His name!

Mandi-bre Watson is a passionate follower of Jesus, a devoted wife, and a mother of 4. Through her writing and speaking, she tries to be a beacon of hope as she points people to the Savior. She owns a small marketing company that helps other small businesses and is also the owner of an online boutique, Veiled in Love, where she sells her handmade veils. She is a certified Spiritual Companion through Oblate School of Theology & an active member of St. Francis of Assisi Church. Mandi-bre is also the Emcee of the 2022 Catholic Women’s Conference and serves as a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.

Keeping Faith Like St. Peter

No one likes to look at their shortcomings. We want to be good, or at least have the appearance of good in front of others.

Scripture does not allow this with St. Peter. His many stumbles and foot-in-the-mouth occasions have been read about, studied, and preached about for over 2000 years.  How embarrassing!

Joking aside, these blunders of St. Peter are actually of great benefit to us because they teach us what is important to God, and it is not about never making mistakes or getting things right all the time.

Jesus tells Peter,

“[…] I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers, (Luke 22:31-32).”

Jesus Prays For You

This is one of my favorite verses in the Gospel because in these few words so much is revealed about what God expects of us  . . . and it is so different from what we usually think.

Jesus tells Peter here that he has prayed for him. Do you ever consider that Jesus prays for you?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2602) tells us, “Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night. He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself.” As our high priest, this prayer remains Eternal, and it includes you and me.

Can We Relate to Peter?

Consider again Jesus to Peter, […] I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.Ouch! How often Peter must have contemplated these words of His Lord. At the time, he paid them little mind because his response was pure bravado,

“Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you, (Luke 22:33).”

And once you have turned back . . . these are the words of Jesus that should give us such hope. He knows us! He knows we will fail in our prayers, in our almsgiving, and in our acts of charity. By this time our great plans for growing spiritually through Lent, our bravado, may have failed but our faith endures. If we believe Jesus is the Son of God, then our faith has not failed, and the Father has answered Jesus’ prayer for us.

Let’s look again at Peter. After our Lord’s Passion and Death, we find him leaving Jerusalem and returning to his former life of fishing. He must have assumed he really messed up this time. No way is Jesus giving him the keys to the kingdom. Yet what happens? Jesus comes to Peter asking him three times to match Peter’s three denials if he loves him. Jesus is reminding Peter what matters to God is our faith. Peter responds three times,

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you, (John 21:17).”

Strengthened By St. Peter’s Words and Faith

If you have stumbled this Lent, turn back and be strengthened in the faith and words of St. Peter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls, (1Peter 3-9).”

Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Safe, Protected, and Happy

One beautiful aspect of our human experience is that even the smallest moments can be invitations to reflect on our relationship with God. One such experience was finding our dog named “Friday.”

My wife found a dog walking along the side of the road, in danger of being run over. So, she pulled the car aside and called out for the dog, not knowing if he would listen and come to her. Surprisingly, he followed. This puppy with no chip, no collar, and after weeks of searching, no family, came to be ours by a simple request from my wife, “Come.”

I often think of what may have happened to our dog if my wife didn’t stop and invite him to escape the danger of the road. Maybe he would have been hit by a car, maybe attacked by another animal, homeless, or be put to sleep in a shelter. But now that he followed my wife, he is with us, at our home. He is safe, protected, and happy, and so are we.

You Are Loved

Even that little moment helped me reflect on God’s love. For God calls us, meets us where we are at, and calls us to greater love and communion. I think of my dog and compare myself to him. When I am lost, afraid, not knowing the next steps in life, I think of God meeting me, responding in love to my concerns, and asking me to trust Him completely. Then He simply invites me to follow. I could turn away, keep walking a dangerous path, or I can respond to God’s call and follow Him.

Trusting in the Lord can be difficult, for it requires us at times to abandon the path we are on, to face ridicule, to feel alone from the world. But in our Lord’s loving arms, we find true peace and joy. Nothing in the world can ever satisfy what our hearts desires most: to be united with our creator.

Every day, I’m grateful for God’s invitation to follow Him. As we continue this Lenten journey, I invite you to reflect on the moments in life that help you better understand God’s love.

Daniel Quintero is a newlywed husband, writer, and avid karaoke singer. He currently attends Prince of Peace Catholic Church where he volunteers in the lector ministry and with faith formation. His favorite motto: Awkwardness does not exist

The Unconditional Love of the Father

The Parable of the Lost Son found in the Gospel of Luke (15:11-32), is often referred to as the prodigal son because it seems to focus on the behavior of the younger son, but there is much more to reflect on here. Certainly, we see how the selfishness of the younger son drew him into deeper sin that eventually brought him to the point of despair. He set aside the love of his father and the security of his home to satisfy his attraction to pleasure and self-indulgence. He even asked for an inheritance that was not rightfully his until his father died. It is as if he was saying to his father, my inheritance is more important to me than you are.

It was not until he ran out of money that he was able to see the tragedy of his choice. When he began to starve, he remembered how good he had it before he left home. His repentance was not of the best of motives because his main reason for returning home was to satisfy his hunger. However, he did confess that he no longer deserved to be called his father’s son and was willing to be treated as a servant.

The most important person in this parable is the father. Even though he was treated with disrespect, he longed for his son to return. As the Gospel of Luke (15:20) states,

“While he (the younger son) was a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”

He restored his son to the position he had before he left. This is an image of our heavenly Father’s unconditional love for us. No matter what we have done he longs for us to return to him and renew our relationship with him. For this renewal to happen, like the younger son, we must have a contrite heart and return to God so that we can experience his unconditional love. He never stops loving us, but when removing ourselves from him through sin, we do not have a sense of his loving presence. We lose sight of the plan he has for us and become sad, even hopeless.

Meanwhile, when the older son hears the reason for the celebration, he becomes angry because his brother is welcomed back after such a shameful departure. His jealousy prevents him from sharing his father’s joy at the return of his brother. It seems he would rather his brother continue to suffer the consequences for his selfish behavior, which of course is selfish behavior also. His father tries to convince him of how much he is loved and wants him to share in the joy of his brother’s return.

Putting Yourself in the Parable

Which of the three characters in this parable can you identify with? How about the younger son? Have you ever made a selfish decision that hurt someone else deeply? If so, did you return to ask forgiveness? The best reason for reconciliation is not that we find ourselves desperate like the younger son, but because our conscience tells us it is the right thing to do. Unless we have allowed our heart to become hardened, we cannot be at peace with our self when we know we have been unjust.

Maybe we can relate to the older son who allowed his jealousy to blind him of the joy his father wanted him to share in. Jealousy does not allow us to recognize our own gifts and talents and prevents us from becoming what God wants us to be. Like selfishness, jealousy can cause us to be unhappy and hopeless.

The purpose of the parable is for us to recognize the unconditional love of the father. I personally have been able to relate to both the younger and the older sons at different times in my life. I have also been able to forgive myself and others and develop a desire to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself for the love of God. We all are on a journey and what we were yesterday and what we are today should not be the same as what we will be tomorrow.

How Can You Experience God’s, Unconditional Love?

Hopefully, this parable will convince us of the unconditional love of our heavenly Father, and what we can do to experience that love. It is especially in the sacrament of reconciliation that we experience the love and forgiveness of God. As the father waited for the return of his son, so does Jesus wait for us in the confessional. We confess our sins to Jesus through his priest and Jesus forgives our sins through his priest. When we hear the priest say, “I absolve you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” we can know we are forgiven by God, and just like the prodigal son, we are restored to our dignity as a child of God.

Deacon Tom FoxK.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

What Mary & the Annunciation Teach Us Today

Have you known someone in your life who seldom speaks but people lean in to hear all they have to say? You find that if you listen carefully, their words are especially profound and meaningful to you personally.

I have found that the spoken words of our Blessed Mother invite me to lean in and listen and learn from her relationship with God.

The Blessed Mother’s spoken words in Scripture are few, recorded 3 times in the Gospel of Luke and once in John’s Gospel. Yet her brief spoken words, less than 200 words, have inspired innumerable prayers, hymns, homilies, and other devotional practices, perhaps none more than her words at the Annunciation.

How can these words of Mary at the Annunciation inform us and inspire us as part of our Lenten practices? What does Mary’s Yes mean for each of us?

“How can this be, since I have no husband?”  (Luke 1: 34)

Mary pondered the words of the angel Gabriel. She did not argue or challenge but rather, asked a clarifying question. She listened and heard God’s invitation and her heart was open to His plan for her life and for humanity.

Her words and her response encourage us to expand our prayer during Lent to ask God, “How can this be?”.  Her words remind us that God wants us to ask Him questions and be fully engaged in the conversation. We can ask Him anything that is weighing on our hearts! He desires a two-way conversation, the true sign of a personal relationship.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38)

After pondering the words of the angel in Luke (1:37) that nothing will be impossible for God, Mary responded with words of complete trust even if she didn’t fully understand. Her words remind us that God wants us to fully trust Him even when we don’t understand a situation, circumstance, or challenge in our lives.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. These words echo Mary’s words, Let it be done to me according to your word.

During our Lenten prayers, may the spoken words of our Blessed Mother encourage us to:

  • Engage in a two-way conversation with God and ask Him anything that is weighing on our hearts.
  • Pray “Thy will be done” in complete trust, echoing Mary’s “Yes” to God.

As we embrace Mary’s vocation as our vocation, we can also remember the words of St. Pope John Paul II:

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.  From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.”

Debbie Garza is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Leon Springs, and is an experienced Pilgrimage Group Leader with Pilgrim Center of Hope. She has traveled with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land, Italy, and Greece. She says, “On pilgrimage, I know the ears and eyes of my heart have been opened by God’s grace and I’ve experienced the Joy of the Gospel. I am committed to helping other pilgrims experience their personal journey of faith.” Debra is also a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

It’s About Time

Is Time God-made or a human invention?

“You made the moon to mark the seasons, the sun that knows the hour of its setting. You bring darkness and night falls . . . ” (Psalm 104:19-20).

God created the seasons and their changing weather patterns. He created the Sun to bring light to the day and the Moon to govern the night. He made man to sleep and rest during the dark and He gave man talent, skills, and mission to tend the earth in the light. Depending on where one lives in the world, the ebb and flow of seasons and the duration of light and dark varies; one man’s day is another man’s night.

God created order and pattern. The invention of measuring time belongs to man.

From the invention of calendars by the Babylonians and Egyptians 5000 years ago up until the present standard for time accuracy of the atomic clock, man has willed to harness time for the benefit of humanity by bringing all in the world together through it. Measuring time is a worthy invention, of course, but let us consider the question of authority; who is serving whom?

Does Time Rule?

Does time serve humanity . . . or has humanity become slaves to time?

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the blessing of looking at time through God’s vision. St. Paul explains,

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, Abba, Father! (Gal 4:4-5).

God in his Son, Jesus Christ, entered into time and therefore has divinized it. This means our days are not meant to be frantic races against time as if we were gerbils running on wheels to nowhere but exhaustion. By entering into time, Jesus witnesses how we are to exercise authority over time through God.

A Solution to the Anxiety that Comes with Responsibilities

For many years I felt pulled by many responsibilities; family needs and work deadlines were causing me much anxiety. When all my responsibilities became more than I could bear, I prayed, Lord, you cannot want me to be this overwhelmed all the time. I must be doing something wrong. Please help me.

Our Lord answered by leading me to his Mother, the Virgin Mary, through a daily praying of the Rosary. It made sense to spend time with her considering Jesus spent 30 of his 33 years on Earth living with her in a simple, quiet family life; the very life I longed for. Growing out of my daily Rosary came time each morning contemplating for 30 minutes the daily Mass readings through the devotional I had subscribed to. It may seem strange that the way to carve more time in one’s day is to take away from your daily duties in order to pray, but that is exactly what happened. It is what Mother Teresa must have discovered too. I read where one of her sisters complained she had no time for all that needed to be done. Mother advised, “Then spend an additional hour in Adoration.”

When we give the ‘first-fruits’ of our time to God, amazingly we find our priorities come into order, deadlines are met and that which we have no idea how they are going to get done, do get done or we discover they didn’t need to be. The most interesting aspect is that what we may think are interruptions in our schedules become God’s way of providing unexpected blessings that we would have missed otherwise.

Not at all coincidentally, it takes 40 days to begin a new habit. If you find yourself stressed feeling you could use some more time in your day, then consider this time of Lent to ‘fast’ from your schedule and ‘offer it up’ to God through a daily praying of the Rosary and contemplation of Scripture, especially the daily Mass readings.  It’s about time.

Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.