Posts

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.

Church of Transfiguration – Mt Tabor

Join Mary Jane Fox for a virtual pilgrimage to the summit of Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus (celebrated on August 6). During this program you will learn more about:

  • What occurred on Mt. Tabor
  • Why our Lord choose this mountain to be Transfigured
  • The Church of the Transfiguration
  • A young man on pilgrimage from Cana experiences a miracle

Jewel for the Journey:

From a woman, who is a Palestinian Catholic living in the Galilee Region – her name is Rabab:   

Being here enables us to understand that we need to detach ourselves from material things, to look to heaven, as earthly things often separate us from Jesus. It is no coincidence that Jesus choose this mountain for His Transfiguration. 

Church of Transfiguration – Mt Tabor

Join Mary Jane Fox for a virtual pilgrimage to the summit of Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus (celebrated on August 6). During this program you will learn more about:

  • What occurred on Mt. Tabor
  • Why our Lord choose this mountain to be Transfigured
  • The Church of the Transfiguration
  • A young man on pilgrimage from Cana experiences a miracle

Jewel for the Journey:

From a woman, who is a Palestinian Catholic living in the Galilee Region – her name is Rabab:   

Being here enables us to understand that we need to detach ourselves from material things, to look to heaven, as earthly things often separate us from Jesus. It is no coincidence that Jesus choose this mountain for His Transfiguration. 

WHERE to TUNE IN:

Live – Wed., November 25 @ 8:00 PM

  • Guadalupe Radio Network (South/Central Texas Stations)

… Listen to the archived audio recording on our website, ASAP!

Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org for more information.

A Path to Interior Freedom

What do you think of when you hear the word commandment? Does that bring forth a negative thought? Is it an imposition on your freedom? I’ll bet many of you have had the experience of telling a young child “no”. You probably didn’t get the response you wanted without a little extra persuasion. Of course, your “no” was a gesture of love, wanting to protect the child from some danger.

God’s commandments are like that for us. God created us out of love and wants to protect us from things that threaten our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. We are inclined to desire things that we believe will provide us with pleasure or selfish comforts that can be harmful to ourselves and others. In addition to this, we have an enemy called Satan who tries to convince us that what we know to be wrong is actually okay. In the beginning, he is not so successful because our conscience is still able to help us avoid doing that which we know is wrong. However, the enemy doesn’t give up. He knows our weaknesses and will tempt us in little things where we think the comprise of our conscience is not so serious. He has set the trap. This compromise will lead to more serious sin. Left unchecked, this pattern can cause us to feel distant from God and lead to a feeling of hopelessness.

He Created Us Out of Love

Of course, God is the solution to this dilemma. He created us out of love, and it is his love that sustains us. He knows our weaknesses and the enemy who wants to destroy us. God commands us to love him because it is only in our love for him and his love for us that we are able to experience true and lasting happiness. God is the source of all love and everything that is good; and the only way we can reach our potential for loving others and ourselves is by loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all mind.

Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me, and, whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14:21. It’s not complicated. If we want to know and experience the love and mercy of God, and the happiness, peace, and hope that are part of a relationship with Him; we must keep the commandments.

A Perfect Love

Because God loves us with a perfect love, he has made it possible for us to remain in his love through the Church and her sacraments and by remaining connected to him in our daily prayer. The more we pray and frequent the sacraments, the more aware we are of the nearness of God and his plan for our happiness. This does not mean we will not experience challenges and trials. It does mean that when trials come our way, we will turn to God for strength and direction because of the relationship with him.

One proof of God’s love for us is the Holy Eucharist. Jesus loves us so much that he gives himself to us under the appearance of bread. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive God. This is no casual experience. We should be properly prepared and disposed to receive our Lord. The sacrament of reconciliation is a personal encounter with Jesus who extends his forgiveness and mercy to us through his priest. This sacrament helps us to break free from habitual sin and make progress in our spiritual life.

Live a Life Close to God

As with all the saints through the ages, we have available to us everything we need to live a life close to God that will guarantee our happiness now and forever. We also must expect that we will experience the cross during our journey on earth. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34. It is especially when we undergo trials that we realize we need the help that only God can give us. It doesn’t mean that, just because we pray, things will always be fixed as we hope. It does mean that, when we preserve in prayer, we will come to trust that God is giving us what we need for the benefit of our soul and the souls of the people we are praying for.

When we have total trust in God we will be freed. It’s a process that depends upon our prayer and God’s grace.


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.

‘Fear the Lord’: Does God Want Me to Fear Him?

“Blessed are those who fear the Lord.” We repeat those words in the Psalms.

Even nonreligious people have heard the phrases “Fear God” or “Fear of the Lord,” which have found their way into popular culture, especially here in the southern region of the United States. But are we really supposed to fear God? What does ‘Fear of God’ mean, and how is it helpful for a faithful person’s everyday life?

Where It Comes From

If we look at the first book in the Bible, Genesis, we see the first mention of this phrase in the story of Sarah and Abraham (20:11). If you look in the footnotes of your Bible, you may see this explanation:

The original Hebrew used for “fear of God” is yir’at YHWH, literally, “revering Yahweh.” The phrase refers neither to the emotion of fear nor to religious reverence of a general kind. Rather it refers to adherence to a single deity (in a polytheistic culture), honoring that deity with prayers, rituals, and obedience. – cf. New American Bible Revised Edition

I first discovered this distinction as a teacher for high school religious education. The discovery reminded me how important it is for us to put things into their proper context when we read the Bible. The translation of Scriptures from their original languages is a very difficult process that involves not only definitions, but also cultural inferences.

So, when we see the command, “fear your God” throughout the Scriptures, we can be assured of its meaning; as Jesus later told a scholar:

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. (cf. Matthew 22:36-40)

The Other Kind of Fear

But perhaps you do have some fear related to God or religion. Today, we commonly use the word “fear” to refer to an emotion that causes dread, horror, and even trauma. What does our faith tradition teach us about this type of fear?

Back again in the Book of Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve, after committing the original sin, hide themselves from God. When God asks Adam why he hid, Adam responds, “Because I was afraid” (cf. Genesis 3:10). This type of fear stands in contrast to Adam and Eve’s previous, harmonious relationship with God and one another (cf. Genesis 2:8-25).

When angels appear in the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, one of their first messages each time is, “Do not be afraid!”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus often exhorts people not to give in to this kind of fear. There are too many instances to cite(!), but one of my favorites is:

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)

An Expert Opinion

One of the greatest spiritual directors in history was Saint Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church. Even as a bishop, he wrote thousands of letters in correspondence with common people about everyday spirituality.

Regarding fear of God vs. fearing God, he said the following:

We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear.
&
We are not drawn to God by iron chains, but by sweet attractions and holy inspirations.

If, upon examining yourself and what motivates your faith involvement or choices, you find worry, uneasiness, woe, nervousness, and other unhealthy motivations, then please know that God wants you to be free from that kind of fear!

If—for any reason whatsoever—you find yourself suffering from worry, uneasiness, etc., be assured that God wants your happiness and freedom! Holy fearlessness is what our Christian life is meant to look like. The same Jesus who assured us that we would experience trials in daily life, also said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Saint Paul wrote that God’s hope has always been “that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (cf. Romans 8:19-21).


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.

Finding Fairness In Who Is Truly Happy

The following is an adapted version of Deacon Tom Fox’s homily for Sunday, September 27, 2020.

To understand Sunday’s first reading of the prophet Ezekiel, we recall the special relationship that the Chosen People had with God.

When they, as a people, are faithful to God, they experienced the blessings of God together. However, when they, as a people, are unfaithful, they experienced the wrath of God together.

Nevertheless, individuals are held responsible for their own actions. If a man turns away from his evil ways and does what is right, even if his father did not keep the commandments, he shall preserve his life. If a man whose father was virtuous but he himself turns to sin, he will lose his life. Through these examples, Ezekiel is pointing out that individuals who turn to God will receive His mercy and blessings, no matter what they or their fathers have done. Some believed God was unfair because His judgement did not meet their expectations.

What Is Our Opinion of God?

What about us? Do we believe God is fair?

There are many people who refuse to believe in God because He doesn’t meet their expectations. Some say, “If God is real, why does He allow so much suffering?” or “Why doesn’t He answer my prayer?” On the other hand, for those who want to believe, there is over-whelming evidence of the existence of God. For example; how could the order of the universe and all creation be an accident? —that life began when there was no life?

For me, some of the most convincing evidence is the lives of the saints and the miracles that God worked through them. Even more important than that, their lives are a testimony to what it means to live in a personal, intimate relationship with God and experience great joy, peace, and hope—even in the most difficult circumstances.

Finding the Happiness We Seek

In Sunday’s second reading, Paul tells us how we can share in that joy.

Jesus Christ has made it possible by humbling himself, coming to us in human likeness, and being obedient to God the Father; even to the point of accepting death out of love for us. We must, as Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not only for his own interests, but also for those of others.”

That is how the saints have reached their potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity; because of their obedience and humility in the same manner as Christ. The same will be true for us.

It isn’t the easy road; we can only travel it with the help of God’s grace. In reality, anyone can travel this road if we chose humility and obedience to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church.

What We Are Called to Experience

In Sunday’s Gospel, we see the fairness of God. In the beginning, the one son says ‘no’ to his father, but later changed his mind and obeyed. The other son said ‘yes’ to his father, but then disobeyed. The comparison of the two sons is another parable for the kingdom of God.

Even if in the beginning we’ve made bad choices, the Kingdom of God will be open to us if we turn back to God with a desire to do His will—no matter what we have done. First, we must have the humility to accept the forgiveness of God through the sacrament of confession, and then have the desire to be faithful to Him.

At some point, we all must undergo conversion and surrender our lives to God. How will we know we have undergone a conversion?

  • When every day we ask God for the grace to discover and do his will.
  • When we stay connected to God in prayer; his plan for us will gradually become more clear.
Today Is the Day to Begin Again!

In every age, including the present time, there have been and continue to be stories of profound conversions. These testimonies are for our benefit, so that we also will take God seriously and surrender our lives to Him.

The sooner we begin ordering our lives to God, the sooner we will begin to reach our potential for happiness and peace. The happiest people on this earth are those who are faithful disciples of Our Lord.


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.

Jericho – West Bank, Palestine

Join Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox as they lead you on a journey to visit what is the oldest ancient city on earth, dating back to 9,000 BC. Jericho was the first city the Israelites conquered. It is located not far from Our Lord was baptized in the Jordan River, and as a result of several natural springs is an oasis in a very arid region of the Jordan Valley.

During this program you will discover more about:

  • Christian pilgrimage sites located here
  • the time Jesus spent in Jericho as mentioned in Scripture
  • what we can learn from the Gospel accounts of Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus – both encountered Jesus in Jericho

Image credit (CC-BY-SA 3.0) Dmitrij Rodionov, DR

 

Why Read the Bible? | Journey with Jesus

 

Meet the Master: Jesus’ Love

You are invited to spend a VIRTUAL morning of reflection on Jesus’ love with Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Meet Jesus as a man who had friends & family, an Aramaic-speaking Jew.

  • What did he say about love? Whom did he love?
  • How could a loving God allow evil & suffering?
  • Encounter Jesus’ words and actions; informed by history and role models for us today.

Presenter: Angela Sealana

To Participate: Simply show up at this website by the starting time listed! The video will be here for you to watch along. To participate in the live chat, watch from our Facebook page.

Cost: Pilgrim Center of Hope is a non-profit evangelization ministry, sustained only by donations. While there is no required fee for attending, please consider donating a one-time gift or showing your support with a monthly donation. Every bit helps this mission of hope to continue. Thank you!



Materials for this Morning of Reflection

Your Feedback

3 + 4 = ?

When We Ask God, “Why?”

Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32)

The death of Jesus on the cross was fresh in the minds of his disciples. They thought all was lost. They knew he was dead and buried, but forgot that he had prophesied that he would rise from the dead. The reality of what they saw and knew to be true prevented them from seeing that what had taken place was the fulfillment of the Scriptures and the very words of Jesus himself.

The Stumbling Block

Our human logic is necessary to make rational decisions, but sometimes logic must give way to faith. It is not logical that God would become human so that he could be tortured and killed by humans to save us from our sins, and indeed this is still a stumbling block for millions of people who refuse to believe.

For millions, even some Christians, it isn’t logical that Jesus loves us so much that he established the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist so that we can receive him body, blood, soul and divinity in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass. Even some of his disciples refused to follow him when he told them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they were to have eternal life. So that there could be no confusion, he repeated this message four times. The disciples that remained with him did not understand the teaching either, but their faith in Jesus was stronger than their need to understand. As Peter said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Finding An Answer

Life is a mystery, and we all will be confronted by situations and circumstances we do not understand. We all have asked and will ask, “why.” The answer can be found in our purpose for being on this earth. We are here to know, love, and serve God so that we can be happy for all eternity.

If we don’t like that answer, we should read the lives of the saints who found their purpose and their happiness in their faithful relationship with God. Many of them died young, lived in poverty with poor health, and suffered many trials. Some of the saints were kings, doctors, lawyers, farmers, husbands, wives, children, and from every walk of life. And yet their hearts burned with love for God because they entered into a personal relationship with him that was more important than anything else in their lives and they experienced great peace and happiness.

Jesus longs for everyone of us to experience that same peace and happiness. No matter who we are or what we have done, Jesus reveals his Sacred Heart to us and desires that we come to him to experience his mercy right now, without hesitation. When we surrender our hearts to the heart of Jesus, we can be confident he will give us the grace we need for every situation, even if we have to suffer for a time.

Jesus, set my heart on fire for love of you! 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.