Tag Archive for: sacraments

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.”

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.

Reaching Our Potential for Happiness

What we think we know is often less than the truth and can lead us to a wrong conclusion. In the Gospel of Luke (4:21-30), Jesus has just read from the Scriptures in the synagogue in Nazareth where he grew up. After reading he says,

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Messiah that the Jewish people had been praying for, for centuries is right now in their midst. “They all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” But then they said, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”

In other words, they thought they knew who Jesus was and were confused that he should speak with such authority. So, Jesus tells them that their attitude is just like that of their forefathers who refused to accept the prophets who came to them. Jesus says it is for this reason that miracles were performed for foreigners instead of the Chosen People. Upon hearing this, the people became enraged at Jesus and intended to kill him, but he walked through their midst and went away. He could perform no miracles in his hometown of Nazareth because they had so little faith.

Is Conversion Necessary?

Recently the Church celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. Without the conversion, there would have been no St. Paul. Paul, who was previously Saul, was an educated Jewish religious leader and he thought he knew the will of God when he was persecuting Christians and trying to destroy the Church; but he was wrong. It wasn’t until he had an encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus that he was able to see clearly what God’s plan was for him and he spent the rest of his life totally surrendering to the will of God so that he could say,

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2:20).

So, what does the conversion of Paul have to do with the Gospel passage of Luke 4:21-30? If we look closely, we will see that all the followers of Christ went through a conversion. Conversion is necessary for us to recognize God’s plan for us. Speaking of those who had not experienced conversion Jesus 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).

In other words, an unconverted heart diminishes our vision, it diminishes our hearing and it diminishes our understanding in regards to the things of God.

Accepting Change in Our Lives

We have all been baptized and we are children of God. In baptism, we received the gifts of faith, hope, and charity, as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In due time we received the sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation which are sources of the graces we need to be faithful Christians. However, there is no substitute for our personal conversion. At some point in our life, we must all say, Lord, I surrender to you. I want you to be the Lord of my life. Help me to be your faithful witness.

Throughout our lives, God gives us opportunities or encounters that are an invitation to accept change in our lives that will provide spiritual growth. For me, one that stands out is when someone asked me if Jesus was the Lord of my life. I had heard that phrase many times before, but at that moment I was given the grace to truly ponder the question and I realized that my faith had little influence on the decisions I had been making. Those few words caused me to make a deliberate choice to grow in my faith. I began to be open to spiritual things that I had not considered before, such as Bible study, prayer group, and retreat experiences. One thing led to another that has helped me become more aware of the presence of God and the help of his grace. God is patient for our salvation, but the sooner we make a deliberate decision to grow in our faith, the more likely it is that our faith will influence the decisions we make. We will have eyes that are able to perceive and ears that are able to listen and understand the guidance that comes from God, and we will be willing to make changes in our lives that will help us to grow spiritually.

What is the Desire in Your Heart?

On this subject of conversion, we have a quote from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in a document called Go Make Disciples:

“Conversion is the change of our lives that 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.”

The good news is, conversion is primarily the work of God, all He needs is a docile heart. In baptism, we received the Holy Spirit who is the Agent of conversion and if we truly want to draw close to God, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us by way of our fervent prayer, by receiving the sacraments, and by reading the lives of the saints who make this journey with us.

What we think we know is often less than the truth, that’s why we must continually be formed in the truth. Jesus founded the Church, to teach us and guide us in the truth. What we do know without a doubt is that we must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength and we must love our neighbor as ourselves. If there is anything in our lives more important than God, we have not yet experienced conversion and we fail to understand the depths of the love and mercy of Almighty God. We can only reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity by living in a faithful relationship with God. It is not complicated. Our Lord has had faithful followers in every age from one extreme to the other and everyone in between. We all have the capacity to be faithful disciples. It begins with a desire in our hearts and continues with the help of the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit, come!


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 Does it Mean to be Happy?

There will be great signs in the heavens when the Son of Man comes in his glory. Will you be ready? It isn’t likely that the end of the world will happen during our lifetime so we shouldn’t be too worried, should we? Wrong! God will come for everyone of us at a time we do not know, and we will receive our first judgment at that time and that time will be within a year for some of us. Are we ready?

Of course, we hope we all will be ready when the Lord comes for us, but our real desire should be to live in a faithful relationship with Him right now because our lives are different when we try to remain close to God. We should ask ourselves this question; do I truly want to be faithful to God? If I try to live my life close to God, being faithful to what He has revealed through the Scriptures and the Church will I be more happy or less happy? I guess we should ask the question, what does it mean to be happy?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about happiness;

“The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement- however beneficial it may be- such as science, technology, and art, or in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and all love” (CCC, no. 1723).

Love God Above All Else

A friend of ours, Fr. Bruce Nieli, who used to live in Austin told us that if he was ever feeling a little discouraged, he would visit a friend of his who was a quadriplegic. He said this man was always filled with great joy because of his love of God. No matter what we have to go through on the worst day of our life, there will always be someone who has it much worse and yet is filled with peace because of their relationship with God. If we have the capacity to think clearly, we have the capacity to be faithful to God.

God loves us so much that He commands us to be happy. He has given us the commandment that we must love Him with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength because He created us to discover our happiness in Him. He is the source of all Love and all that is good, and we can only reach our potential to love others by loving God above everything else. Of course, we don’t just naturally love God above everything else.

Our temptation is to look at ourselves first and what we need or want. However, we have not been created for ourselves. God’s plan draws us out of ourselves, not only for our own good, but for the good of others. Jesus tells us,

“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew. 16:25).

In other words, if we just live for ourselves and what we want, we are lost and bound to be unhappy.

The way to be prepared for Christ when he comes for us is to live everyday close to him; being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church and to be intimately connected to him in our prayer and in the sacraments. We will not only be ready, but we will also be happy.


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 Path to Full Discipleship of Christ

God’s ways are not our ways. God can choose whoever He wants to accomplish the things He wishes to accomplish, as we see in the Book of Numbers (11:25-29) 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.

We see something similar in the Gospel of Mark (9:38-43, 45, 47-48) John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving our demons in Jesus’ name because he was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him and tells him,

“For whoever is not against us is for us.”

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 the Holy Spirit. We are also anointed with Chrism oil as Priest, Prophet, and King so that we might reach our full stature as a disciple of Christ.

Priest

We participate in the priesthood of Christ especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours maybe be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” This is the time for us to place our intentions on the altar to be offered up with the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God. Our response is “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” So, when the Holy Spirit, through the prayers of the priest, changes bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we who are present, along with the priest, offer this holy sacrifice, to the Eternal Father. This is the most powerful prayer on earth because it makes present on the altar, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

We also fulfill our role as priest through the prayer and the sacrifices we offer up in union with the suffering of Christ. Our Lord expects every baptized person to participate in his plan of salvation. St. Therese the Little Flower once said,

“The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls.”

Only God knows how many souls we have affected during our life.

Prophet

We fulfill our role as prophet when we read, listen to, believe, live, and share the truth revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church because the truth is prophetic in every age. It is only this truth that liberates us from the obstacles to our temporal and eternal happiness. Our parish offers many opportunities to grow in our faith through Bible studies, prayer groups, and faith formation resources.

King

We are king in the same manner as Christ the King. He said,

“I came not to be served, but to serve.”

In gratitude for God’s generous gifts to us, we are expected to be good stewards of our time, talent, and treasure. All good things come from God and everyone who is generous with what he has received will experience happiness as a consequence of that generosity. It is especially through generosity that we discover God’s providence and deepen our trust in him. It is through our involvement in the activities of the parish that we discover and develop the specific gifts that will help us to reach spiritual maturity and help our parish to be complete.

In baptism, we receive everything we need to begin our pilgrimage on earth. It is then through the Church and her sacraments that we are guided and fortified so that we can discover and live the specific plan God has for each of us. Every baptized person is expected to become a saint, not only for their own happiness but also that we participate in God’s saving plan for humanity.

Our Mission as Priest, Prophet, and King

This is our identity and purpose for the glory of God. What a wonderful plan God has for humanity. It is sad that currently, so many individuals are struggling to discover their true identity and purpose. This is amplified by the misguided ideologies supported by social, educational, and political entities.

The only solution for the confusion and pain we see in our world, is for us to follow the plan that God has set before us. On several occasions, our Blessed Mother has asked us to pray the rosary for the conversion of sinners. How many of us pray the rosary every day? The rosary has been the favorite prayer of many saints, including St. John Paul II who said when we pray the rosary and meditate on the mysteries, with Mary we are contemplating the face of Jesus. The rosary only takes about 20 minutes and it is beautiful to pray with the family.

When we frequent the sacraments of confession and Holy Eucharist it is not only for our own benefit, but for the Body of Christ. There is much concern about climate change and the health of our environment, and so on. However, there should be a greater concern for the spiritual health of humanity which has eternal consequences as well as being the solution to world problems. When we who are baptized become witnesses of all that has been given us, we will begin to see the world change.


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.

Take courage! He is calling you.

Attendee at the 2019 Catholic Men’s Conference

The theme for all the Catholic Men’s Conferences (which are held annually, our next conference will be February 27) and sponsored by Pilgrim Center of Hope is taken from Mark 10:51, “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?


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 Time of Watching and Preparing: “Be watchful! Be alert!”

In Isaiah 63:17, the Lord asks, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so we fear you not?” He is writing on behalf of a people that God has chosen to have a special relationship with, and these people have seen the wonders of this God who is their Father. In spite of this favored relationship, the people have been unfaithful. Isaiah goes on to say, “…all of us have become like unclean people, all our deeds are like polluted rags; we are all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” If our hope is not in the God who created us, our quest for happiness is only a delusion.

Free Will

All around us, we see the consequences of free will, and yet free will is one of God’s greatest gifts. It is given to us out of love so that we might respond in love. It is possible for any thinking person to discover the reality of the existence of God and to be guided by his discovery. God can be found in His creation for those who have a searching heart.

A few years ago, I read that when Bertrand Russell, a famous atheist, was dying a friend asked him, “When you die, if you see God what will you say to Him?” He replied:

“If I see God I will say, ‘Sir, why didn’t you give us more evidence of your existence.”

Of course, the evidence of His existence is perfect, but it requires us to use our free will, to choose to seek Him. We can find Him in His creation, in His Word, in His miracles, in His Church, in His people, in our life experiences, and in the countless witnesses whose lives have been transformed by his grace. There is an abundance of evidence of the existence of God for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. We have only to call upon His name!

“Be watchful! Be alert!”

We hear an urgent message in the Gospel of Mark, “Be watchful! Be alert!” This is the beginning of Advent; a time of watching and preparing. In great anticipation, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was born of the Virgin Mary 2000 years ago. Yes, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die, but may have eternal life.” Jn 3:16

We who believe in Him are also watching and praying for his second coming. The Gospel tells us to be alert because we do not know when the Lord is coming in his glory. So, Advent is about the Messiah coming into the world 2000 years ago and about his second coming which we pray for. However, it is also about Jesus, the Messiah, coming into our lives right now, which is the best preparation for his second coming. Our vigilance is not only about being ready when the Lord comes but about living in a relationship with him right now so that we may reach our potential for happiness and be filled with hope.

To be alert requires that we have a plan. An example is our vigilance in anticipation of Jesus coming to us in the Holy Eucharist. We fast for one hour before Mass from everything except water and medicine to help us break free from our normal routine and so that we can focus and prepare to receive Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion.

In addition to this little fast, we should pray, read the Scriptures, and examine our conscience to be aware of any serious sin we have not confessed.

Do you recognize Jesus throughout the day?

Jesus comes to us in his Word as it is proclaimed. He also comes to us in this assembly and in one another; in the person next to you. He comes to us throughout the day in many disguises. We don’t always recognize him. Therefore, be alert! He may come when we least expect. He may be present in the things that disturb or perplex us. He is present right now in the pandemic that has the whole world in turmoil. Has this event caused us to be alert, to draw closer to Christ? Have we increased our time in prayer, asking God’s protection for ourselves, the people we love, and for the world in general? It seems this is similar to an Old Testament event to test the faithfulness of the people. How are we doing? Are we closer to God now than we were at the beginning of the year? Do we see God as the solution to this dilemma?

This is a great time to read about those who knew God was the solution to everything. We see in the lives of the saints how their trust in God caused them to be filled with hope in every circumstance. Perhaps chose one of the saints to journey with you through Advent and read their story and include them in your daily prayer.

Our Father will provide

We also have the sacraments as a source of grace to help us overcome sin and grow in virtue. In the Church, we have everything we need to live a life close to God, which is our purpose for being on this earth. We are watchful and alert by living a life close to God every day; and God who is our Father will provide all that we need and fill us with Hope, Peace, and Happiness.

If our hope is not in the God who created us, our quest for happiness is only delusional and empty.


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.

Renewal of Baptismal Promises

Leader:
Dear brothers and sisters,
through the paschal mystery
we have been buried with Christ in baptism,
so that we may walk with him in newness of life.
And so, let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism,
by which we once renounced Satan and his works
and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church.
And so I ask you:

Do you renounce sin,
so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?

I do.

Do you reject the lure of evil,
so that sin my have no mastery over you?
I do.

Do you reject Satan,
the author and prince of sin?
I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth?
I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered death and was buried,
rose again from the dead,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting?

I do.

Leader:
And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
who has given us new birth
by water and the Holy Spirit,
and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins,
keep us by his grace,
in Christ Jesus our Lord,
for eternal life.
Amen.


(C) Text of the Renewal of Baptismal Promises from the New Roman Missal, 3rd Edition.

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.

 

Reflections on the Eucharist

How much do you really know about the Eucharist?

Join Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI, as he unravels the nature of the Sacrament of the Eucharist; it’s importance in our lives and how we need to not only adore and receive the Eucharist, but also live it in our lives.