Tag Archive for: Forgiveness

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.

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.

A Murderer’s Letter | Journey with Jesus

 

Divine Mercy image

Confession and God’s Mercy

Fr. Martin Leopold answered your questions on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), penance, forgiveness and God’s mercy in this episode of Catholicism Live!

Catholicism Live! was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

 

Divine Mercy: Unfathomable Gift

Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI, talks with Jordan and Blerina Psota about how devotion to the Divine Mercy transformed their lives!

Catholicism Live! was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Jesus, Help Me to Forgive | Journey with Jesus

Clearing the Way for the Love & Mercy of Jesus Christ

I’m Not Worthy

When Jesus died on the Cross, he opened up a road to restoration for every man and woman that will ever live till the end of time. You might be saying, “Oh, come on, Robert, everybody knows this.”

What I’m saying is that, it’s not enough to just know it, you have to believe it with all your heart, mind, body, and soul! Having unwavering faith is the key to maintaining hope, no matter what life throws at you.

When we say things like:

  • I am unworthy of Christ’s love and mercy
  • God will never forgive what I have done; my sins are too great
  • I am cursed and will just have to live with my injury or affliction

it is like saying, I don’t believe that Jesus died for my salvation, or telling God that allowing his son to be sacrificed is not enough.

This can happen when we let our wounds, hurts, and past sins prevent us from recognizing our need for God. (I have been in this place more than once in my life.) It can happen when we allow negative thoughts or the discouragement and condemnation of others to silence our prayers, drive us away from the Church, and deny God.

Acknowledgment, Confession, and Repentance

We – both men and women – need to be more like Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, and Zacchaeus, the short-statured tax collector from Scripture.

Here were two men – one suffering with the physical malady of blindness, and the other from a soul injured by sin – who could have easily convinced themselves they were “lost causes” unworthy of the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Instead, both of these men believed in and recognized Jesus as the Messiah and each, in their own way, placed themselves in front of Jesus, so he would acknowledge them and respond to their need for healing.

Like Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, we need to have great faith in Jesus’ ability to heal and transform our lives. We need to recognize our profound need for God in our life by choosing to avoid sin and follow Jesus.

Alive Today!

The same Jesus who passed by Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus is alive today. Jesus walks into the dusty streets of our lives this day! We simply need the eyes of living faith to see him and the renewed heart to follow him on the way.

In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus addresses Bartimaeus saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” to which Bartimaeus replies, “Master, I want to see.” (Mark 10:51)

Prayer is the fuel which keeps living faith alive and keeps our eyes open to see. No matter what we have done in our past, Jesus always shows up for those who have their spiritual eyes opened to see him.


Robert V. Rodriguez is Public Relations & Outreach Assistant for Pilgrim Center of Hope. He combines a passion for the Catholic faith together with years of professional experience as a TV news journalist, video producer, and PR/marketing specialist. Robert also serves as Chairman for our annual “Master, I Want to See” Catholic Men’s Conference.

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.

Peace or Division: Did Jesus Contradict Himself?

The same Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” also proclaimed this in Sunday’s Gospel reading:

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

Did Jesus contradict himself?

During this month’s Meet the Master session at Pilgrim Center of Hope, I addressed this head-on with our participants. There are many instances in Scripture, even in the Gospel and the words of Jesus, where contradictions seem apparent. As mature Christians on our pilgrim journey, we need to learn how to wrestle with these questions rather than avoid them or write them off using trite statements.

Who Is This Jesus?

To avoid answering our main question from a particular point of view or agenda, we need to look at the entire context: the person of Jesus, his life, his words, his actions. That is why the Gospel is essential reading for us. As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Let’s fine-tune our original question, Did Jesus contradict himself? by looking at these seeming contradictions.

Jesus As A Peacemaker

Did Jesus wish peace upon others?

  • He taught his disciples to wish peace to those they met. “As you enter a house, wish it peace.” (Matthew 10:12)
  • Those whom Jesus healed, he sent away in peace. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)
  • As Jesus appeared to the disciples after his Resurrection, he greeted them with peace. He stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36)

Let’s look deeper into the meaning of “peacemaker.” For the Hebrews, this was a “pursuer of peace” like Aaron, who during conflicts would sit with each party individually. Aaron would speak with and listen to each individual until all bitterness was removed from each one’s heart. Finally, the parties once-at-odds would embrace and be reconciled. (cf. Rabbi Hillel, Avot) To be a pursuer of peace means to foster reconciliation.

Was Jesus a pursuer of peace?

  • He and his disciples shared meals with those in society who were despised. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. (Matthew 9:10)
  • He accepted invitations from not only the despised, sick, and desperate, but also the leaders & revered members of society. (ex. Luke 7)
  • Jesus forgave people of their sins, and taught his disciples that they should forgive perfectly and without exception. (cf. Matthew 18:22)

By all of the above, it is clear that Jesus did bring peace – and Christians throughout time attest to his continued peacemaking throughout history and in the world today.

Jesus As A Source of Division

However, our original question considers Jesus’ assertion that he came to bring division (symbolized by “the sword” in Matthew 10:34).

Jesus “did not come to establish peace upon the earth” because, contrary to popular hopes at the time, he did not come as the mighty Messiah expected to end all war. Rather, Jesus himself became a cause for division.

  • When Jesus healed and forgave sins, he was often criticized by the religious leaders. (ex. Matthew 9)
  • When Jesus tended to the despised members of society, he received similar criticism. (ex. Luke 15:1-2)
  • For having revealed himself as the Son of God, religious leaders had Jesus condemned to death. (cf. John 5:18)

Jesus’ pursuit of peace and reconciliation thus brought conflict and division among those persons who would not accept it. While he desires God’s peace to be with all, the Prince of Peace causes controversy.

How Can We Truly Be At Peace?

As Jesus’ followers, how can we be truly and sincerely “at peace”, while division takes place all around us? As we strive to reconcile people with each other, with themselves, and with God, we will experience joy tinged with discomfort and desolation. Not everyone is ready to accept the radical message of peace and reconciliation that Jesus brings. We have all been there once; preferring control and security as the Pharisees and scribes did.

Instead, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection shows us that the way to perfection is vulnerability and self-giving love. Jesus did not contradict himself, but he tells us the truth while subverting his listeners’ expectations.

As Pope Francis says, For Christians, (holiness) involves a constant & healthy unease (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 99). Let’s reflect on this while Our Lord’s words echo in our hearts:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)


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 for nearly 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

Redeemed from Destruction

Has your desire for productivity seeped into your faith or prayer life?

What have I done for God today? is a common question in religious circles – whether in personal reflection or otherwise. For years, I focused on what I was doing… or not doing …for God. My good intentions steadily morphed into unhealthy scruples. Even as I spoke of his mercy, my heart actually regarded God as a strict judge who needed appeasing. Then I saw my various trials as punishments from God, and I figured that I deserved them all.

But no; I had it all wrong. Instead of punishing me, God had placed two people in my path who helped me see clearly.

A Familiar Connection

When I pray Morning Prayer with my coworkers at Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH), I think of my deceased great-uncle. Holding open his Christian Prayer book, I see where he had moistened his finger to turn the now-yellowed page corners.

For forty-six years, he was a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), and he was widely-beloved. Twenty years of his life as a religious priest, however, he spent on a leave of absence.

Were it not for the personal struggles that brought him home to San Antonio, I may never have known him. But because I remembered the musky smell of his chair in my great-grandmother’s living room, and because I had been entrusted with some of his most treasured possessions, I gained an interest in the founder of his Congregation: St. Alphonsus Liguori. 

An Unexpected Advisor

Alphonsus is often depicted as an elderly man, bent over a desk, writing away with a wry smile on his face. His arthritis kept his neck bent over so much so that his chin bruised his chest. Alphonsus was a brilliant man; someone we’d call today a prodigy. His life story is inspiring; look him up!

The most ironic thing about him is that he was so brilliant, knew Church law and moral theology backwards and forwards, was a merciful confessor, yet he himself battled scrupulosity. What kind of God allows a scrupulous man to become a Doctor of the Church who is known for his teaching on morality? Only our God – who redeems everything in our life for good. As St. Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:11)

In his famous work, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, Alphonsus quoted St. Teresa of Avila: “God never sends a trial, but he forthwith rewards it with some favor.” In other words, while our trials and struggles don’t come from God, God’s love can turn what is bitter into something better.

Letting God love us is the key. As our PCH chaplain Father Pat Martin reminded us during Mass last week, what is essential is what God does for us! Why were the Pharisees threatened by Jesus’ teachings and actions? Perhaps it was because their relationship with God had been based upon what they did for God; checking off boxes and maintaining control. Jesus invited them to consider a God who loved everyone, who dined with even the people who did not check the boxes!

Allowing someone to love us requires vulnerability and loss of total control. Are you ready to let God love you?

God loves us so tenderly, that he not only desires, but is solicitous about our welfare… Let us, then always throw ourselves into the hands of God, who so ardently desires and so anxiously watches of our eternal salvation. Casting all our care upon him; for he hath care of you (1 Peter 5:7). – St. Alphonsus de Liguori


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 for nearly 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

What Effect Does the Lord’s Prayer Have?

What is prayer and why should we pray? We saw in Sunday’s Gospel that even Jesus, the Son of God, spent time in prayer. When his disciples ask him to teach them to pray, Jesus teaches them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Here in the gospel according to Luke, we have an abbreviation of the prayer we are familiar with from Matthew – the prayer we pray together at every Mass and many other times throughout the day.

Are we really aware of the importance of what we are saying and of the far-reaching effects of this prayer?

Jesus tells us to pray: “Father, hallowed be thy name”

Prayer is first of all a relationship with Our Father in heaven who loves us, is interested in our good, and is near to us. He is the Father of all humanity, but especially of us who have been baptized and call ourselves his children. We are not praying to an unknown god who is far away from us. When we say hallowed be thy name, we are acknowledging that God is holy, almighty; the creator of all things and we are his lowly creatures. We should praise God every day throughout the day for his benevolence. He is our Father now and for all eternity, and he wants a personal, intimate relationship with each of us, so that we may know his goodness and experience his goodness.

“…your kingdom come”

In the prayer we are familiar with from Matthew, we add, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Kingdom of God is at hand when we do the will of God. God has a great plan for humanity, and has revealed that plan through the Scriptures and the Church. We reach our potential for happiness in this life when we discover the specific plan God has for each of us by asking for his help every day in prayer and by keeping the commandments he has given us to guide us in the right direction.

“Give us each day our daily bread…”

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are dependent upon God even for our next breath. It is God who keeps everything in existence. Everything we have is a gift from Him and He expects us to be good stewards of what we have received. When we are concerned about what we need ,we should first turn to God. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells us:

“Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat? Or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear? All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”

When we place God first in our lives, he will help us make good decisions about what we really need.

God provides our daily bread par excellence in the Bread of Life; Jesus Christ himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. What more do we need than God himself? He is the source and summit of our lives.

“…and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive anyone in debt to us”

Forgiveness is essential for our spiritual, mental, and physical well being. There is no offense that may be committed against us that we should not forgive; unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, hatred, etc., are all obstacles to the love of God. They enslave us to a life of misery – even to the point of affecting our physical health. If there is something we have not been able forgive, we can begin by asking God for the grace to desire to forgive because he commands us do so. He will liberate us from our enslavement.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus Christ himself forgives our sins through the priest and gives us the grace to make progress in our spiritual life. If we want to deepen our faith, we should participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a month for the reason that we need the help that our Lord wants to give us through this sacrament.

“…and do not subject us to the final test.”

Our whole life is a process of purification. The closer we are to God through our worship, prayer, and sacramental life, the more aware we will be of how close he is to us in the challenges and difficulties that come our way. If we ask, God will give us the grace we need for every circumstance of our life. No matter how bad we have it on the worst day of our life, there will always be someone who has it worse and yet is still able to experience peace & joy – because of their faith and trust in God.

God’s Promise & Our Persistence

Jesus follows with a parable about the necessity of persistence in prayer; “I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him what ever he needs because of his persistence.”

We also must be persistent. Saint Monica prayed for her son Augustine’s conversion for sixteen years. Her perseverance was not only instrumental in her son becoming a great saint; it was also instrumental in Monica becoming a saint.

If we persevere in prayer, we can be confident that it will be answered. It may be answered in the way we hoped it would be, or we may discover that God has a different plan, more consistent with the coming of His kingdom.

This Gospel closes with a promise; “… how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” If we ask, seek, knock and persevere, the Lord will send us the Holy Spirit to help us know his will – so that we remain close to him and be happy now and for all eternity. It’s a promise.


Deacon Tom Fox, K.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.