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Finding Peace In Our Times

How can we find peace in our times?

Let’s start by looking at Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which shows us the first council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem, resolving a conflict that was disturbing the peace of the early Christians.

Jewish converts to Christianity were expecting that Gentile converts should undergo circumcision and abide by the same guidelines that were fundamental to the Jewish faith. This Council marks the first time that a collective decision was made for the faith community which was not confirmed by Mosaic Law or the Jewish Scriptures, but rather on the authority given by Christ to the Church. The Apostles said, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriages.” Thus, the Council relieved the new converts of those burdens.

Church Councils: Working for Unity & Peace

Did you know that, through the centuries, the Church has similarly convened councils to define matters of faith which affect our practice of the faith today? For example, the Church formulated a set of beliefs called the Nicene Creed which we recite at every Sunday Mass, during the Council of Nicea in the year 325.

Also at that time, many written letters and texts were circulating among the Christian community and used during gatherings for prayer and liturgy. At the Council of Nicea, the Church decided which of these scriptures were the inspired Word of God.

The latest council (the Second Vatican Council or “Vatican II”), was convened at the Vatican to bring new life into the Church. In spite of the holiness of many people, others had fallen into living as a “Church of routine.”

I was a freshman in college when changes happened. One Sunday, the celebration of the Mass was as usual; but the next Sunday, my local church implemented the Vatican II changes. The altar was moved with the priest facing the congregation, and the Mass was in English instead of Latin. The main reason for these changes was the Council members’ hope that every Catholic would be more formed in their faith and influenced by it—instead of expecting that the priests and religious should have the main responsibility of living out the Word of God. The Council was especially directed to the lay faithful and our personal responsibility to live and share the faith as a response to our baptism. Other documents would follow, such as “On Evangelization in the Modern World,” which is a beautiful directive on how the entire Church is expected to live and share the faith. It was a directive that is still waiting to be fulfilled.

Experiencing True Peace In Our Lives

This Sunday’s Gospel could be a brief explanation of why Vatican II was necessary. Jesus says,

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and, we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

Each of us is personally responsible to live our lives in communion with God. No one can love God for us and no one can keep his word for us. Even though we are sustained by the unconditional love of God, our personal experience of that love depends on two things: Loving God above all else and keeping his Word.

It is natural for us to want to relate to God on our own terms, but it is impossible for a relationship to happen that way. God has revealed a plan that will bring purpose and happiness to our lives; we see how this plan works in the lives of the saints. Still, somehow we think there may be a different plan for us that won’t require such a commitment. However, if that were so, God would be untrue to himself.

The world we live in does not offer us the peace that gives rest to our soul. That peace is found in a personal relationship with God who is the source of all love and everything that is good. If we want to know how to love God and experience the peace that Jesus offers, we should:

  1. Decide to believe what God has revealed to us. Seek to understand God’s revelation to us through the Church and the Scriptures.
  2. Ask for the grace to do what you know is right, but often find difficult to do. Ask for the grace to forgive people who have hurt you deeply. Hatred, bitterness, stubbornness, resentment and jealousy are a few of the sins that are obstacles to experiencing the love of God and the peace he offers us.
  3. Remain close to God by participating in the sacraments. Almighty God, who wants us to call him Father, knows us better than we know ourselves. For this reason, our Heavenly Father has given us the Church and her sacraments as the means to make grace available to us. If we want to love God, we will then want to be reconciled to God and to others through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We all sin and need the help of God’s grace to overcome temptation and grow in virtue. We will want to worship Our Lord during the holy sacrifice of the Mass and receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion and spend time with him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

When we remain close to Our Lord in this way, God will help us to experience true love and peace in every circumstance—even the most difficult trial, because Our Father is true to his word.


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.

Mary of Magdala at Christ’s Tomb

When you read or hear the Scriptures about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, do you imagine what the disciples must have thought or how they felt when they saw the empty Tomb of Christ? Or what about Mary Magdalene who was one of his followers and witnessed the crucifixion?

She is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts in relation to the resurrection of Jesus. How interesting! The four do not mention that the apostles or other disciples were the first to see the empty tomb where the body of Jesus was placed after his crucifixion. They were informed later by Mary of Magdala and the women with her. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke; we learn that Mary Magdalene and women with her discover the empty tomb and see angel(s) informing them that the Lord Jesus had been raised. He is not there.

However, in the Gospel of John 20:11-18, after Mary of Magdala saw the empty tomb and ran to tell Peter and the apostles, she returned to the tomb and wept. Jesus appears to her, although she thought it was the gardener; she was deep in sorrow.

It wasn’t until she heard her name Mary called out; when she turned and saw Jesus. She then went and told the disciples: I have seen the Lord!

Imagine yourself there with Mary of Magdala, seeing her weep—and then Jesus appears and calls her name. There would be a change in her face; from sadness to an immense joy, seeing her Lord before her! The gaze of the Lord Jesus upon Mary of Magdala transformed her when she first encountered him in Galilee. She was from a predominant fishing village by the Sea of Galilee called Magdala. She was the woman from whom seven demons had gone out (cf. Luke 8:2). Her encounter with him changed her life. She received her dignity as a child of God, began to follow Jesus and provided for him and his apostles out of her resources. Yes, Mary of Magdala met Jesus, believed he was the Messiah, was healed by him, and embraced his teachings. Her fidelity led her to follow Jesus to his death on Calvary.

Mary of Magdala was the first to whom Jesus appeared to after his resurrection, and for this reason she is given the title the Apostle to the Apostles, referenced by Pope John Paul II in his 1988 encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem.

The gaze of Jesus upon Mary of Magdala is a gaze, we too, can experience! Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains it well:

Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. […] There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.

Would you like to see the empty tomb? Would you like to experience bending down to enter the tomb where the body of Jesus laid after his crucifixion, the very site where he resurrected? Would you like to sit before this sacred place and ponder what happened here? Would you like to see a prayer area nearby commemorating where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene? I invite you to join us on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land! My husband, Deacon Tom, and I are pilgrimage leaders and have been there 56 times. Yes, I have visited the empty tomb, have venerated numerous times and never tire of it. It is sanctified by the Lord; how can one tire from seeing, touching the place where his body laid? Alleluia!


Mary Jane Fox, D.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with her husband, Deacon Tom 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. Mary Jane is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Dame 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.

Mercy, Love’s Second Name

We recently celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, and are in the midst of the Easter season. This is the perfect time to dwell on God’s love and mercy so we might all yearn for it, be restored by it, and be more grateful for it.

As I am writing this, I am looking up at an image of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son (inspired by the parable from Luke 15:1-3, 11-32) that hangs in my office. This painting has long captivated me and took on even greater meaning after I read Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.

My attention is always drawn to the hands of the father, holding the son, as if to say, “You are forgiven…everything is going to be okay.” It makes me think of all the hugs or abrazos shared over the years with family and friends, following an exchange of apologies over saying or doing something we regretted. By far, the most powerful and significant were the embraces shared with my parents. In these moments, I felt forgiven, loved, secure, and at peace.

Nouwen’s book enabled me to see that total surrender to God the Father is the key to truly being healed of past hurt and guilt. With that realization has come a greater appreciation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for the Paschal Mystery. And also, for the Eucharist.

Total surrender is not an easy thing to do, because it involves giving up control and acknowledging our failures. Nouwen wrote, “One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness.”

Gifts of Mercy

St. Pope John Paul II wrote his second Encyclical Letter Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), with St. Faustina Kowalska on his mind. This is a profound document which offers a new perspective on the theme of Divine Mercy:

  • God’s merciful love is his “most stupendous attribute.”
  • Christ came to make God present as love and mercy
  • When mercy is properly given, there is no humiliation, only gratitude
  • Love & Mercy in the world make conversion possible
  • Mercy is love’s second name

It was nineteen years ago on April 30, 2000 that John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and designated the Easter Octave – Divine Mercy Sunday. Faustina was given the message of Divine Mercy from Christ. In 1938 her journals were published as the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul.

As a result of the apparitions of Jesus to St. Faustina we were given four devotions:

  • The Divine Mercy Image
  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • The Novena of Divine Mercy
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (receiving Reconciliation and Holy Communion)

During this Easter season, as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection and in anticipation of Jesus sending forth the Holy Spirit, consider dedicating yourself to the devotion of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy throughout the year.

Not only can these prayers help to keep you focused on the Passion & Crucifixion of Christ, but they can also give you a greater appreciation of the Eucharistic offering.

Responding to Mercy

Our staff at Pilgrim Center of Hope prays the Chaplet daily during the Hour of Mercy which begins at 3 pm, the hour of Our Lord’s death on the cross.

The opening prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet says it all: O Blood & Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you (Diary 84).

And then there is the call and response prayer that we repeat 50 times: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us & on the whole world (Diary 475-476). 

Reading John Paul’s Dives In Misericordia and practicing the devotion of the Divine Mercy Chaplet has allowed me to recognize and give thanks for all the times I have been shown mercy. More importantly, I am more conscious of the need to be more merciful toward others.

Pope Francis put it this way, “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.”

In order to bring more hope into the world and restore people’s dignity and humanity, we need to remember love’s second name and show more mercy and forgiveness in our relationships.

It all begins with our appreciation and understanding of God’s Divine Mercy.

So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help (Heb. 4:16).


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.

God Looks At You with Love

When I used to imagine how God looked at me, I felt like I was being judged.

However hard I tried, I felt that God would always point out something I had done wrong. Needless to say, I had difficulty connecting with Jesus’ parables about a God who celebrates and rejoices over one person, even though I could recite the parables and all their details.

One day, I earnestly prayed for openness as I read the day’s Scriptures. As I read from the Hebrew Scriptures in the Old Testament, I realized that my idea of God was wrong. As I read the New Testament with a new perspective, my eyes were opened:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:10-11)

Jesus said, “You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me.” (John 8:15-16)

How Jesus Looked

Although we don’t have a photograph of Jesus, we know much about how he looked at people.

Consider how Jesus simply “passed by” Matthew as he was working as a tax collector, at his daily post. Jesus only said to him, “Follow me,” and Matthew left his whole life behind to follow Jesus. In Pope Francis’ letter “The Joy of the Gospel,” he points out how powerful the gaze of Jesus must have been:

let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (JG, no. 120)

Can you imagine how Jesus must have looked at them? What kind of expression is so powerfully loving that it causes people to change the entire direction of their lives?

Let Jesus Look At You

There are so many possible reasons why we may struggle to imagine a completely loving and merciful God. One reason is our experience of hurts, wounds, painful experiences, and sins committed by others or ourselves. In my case, it took time along with the power of prayer, spiritual direction, the sacraments, and professional counseling, for me to gain a healthy and reconciled view of God… but it is still a journey.

So I ask you: Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy. (Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 151)

I have this little prayer that I say now, “Father, help me to see myself as you see me.” When I struggle to love someone as I’m called to, I pray, “Jesus, help me to see (person’s name) through your eyes.”

God’s gaze is truly healing, truly loving, truly merciful, and truly beyond our comprehension… but it is not beyond belief. Amid the dark times we all experience, let’s strive to see and believe.


This month and beyond, Pilgrim Center of Hope is offering many opportunities to help you discover God’s loving gaze. Answering Christ’s call, we guide 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.

Mercy: The Secret to Healing

Statue at the Sea of Galilee depicting Christ and Saint Peter after Peter is forgiven for denying Jesus.

 

In his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), Saint Pope John Paul II writes,

by becoming for people a model of merciful love for others, Christ proclaims by His actions even more than by His words that call to mercy which is one of the essential elements to the Gospel ethos. In this instance, it is not just a case of satisfying a condition of major importance for God to reveal Himself in His mercy to man: “The merciful […] shall obtain mercy.” (II, The Messianic Message)

What is the pope saying?

He is saying what we all know we are called to do if we profess to name ourselves Christian; followers of Jesus Christ. We must, like our Master, be merciful through the action of forgiving those who hurt us.  Ouch!

There is something more…

The pope says it is not just a matter of what we are called to do (satisfying a condition); it is the way for God to reveal Himself in His Mercy to man (i.e. you and me):

…“The merciful […] shall obtain mercy.”

Finding Healing through Mercy

I have found this to be true. There are people who I feel have let me down. Whether real or just in my imagination, I have felt slighted, unrecognized, dismissed. Through the grace of God, I have chosen in my hurt to offer a prayer: “Lord, ________ hurt me, yet through You, I will to forgive.”

This ‘willing’ to forgive does not deny the justice due to me; it just puts the gavel in the hands of God—our Savior and Just Judge. I have discovered in my surrender to his will, by being merciful to the ones who hurt me, I have received healing. Even more amazing, I have received the recognition, the acceptance I felt was denied me by others through the grace of a closer relationship with Jesus. God sees me!  God knows!  God cares!

God’s Mercy for Us Now

We have a great opportunity this week to enter Healing through God’s gift of Divine Mercy.  Pope Francis has called this time we live in especially filled with God’s Mercy, saying,

“[L]isten to the voice of the Spirit that speaks to the whole Church in this our time, which is, in fact, the time of mercy. I am certain of this… It is the time of mercy in the whole Church… ]” (Pope Francis, address to the priests of the Diocese of Rome, 3/6/2014).

Next Sunday, April 28, is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Our Lord Jesus said to St. Faustina about this Feast:

On that day [Divine Mercy Sunday], the very depths of My tender mercy are opened. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. […] On that day, all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. (Diary of St. Faustina, no. 699)

Finding God’s Mercy

To forgive may be Divine, but it is also very hard! Why not take advantage of this gift of “a whole ocean of graces” by participating in the Feast of Divine Mercy?!  If you need assistance finding a parish that is offering Divine Mercy Sunday services, contact us at Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Jesus asked in the Gospel of John (1:38-39), “What are you looking for?” He responds to our request for healing and mercy, just as he responded to those in the Gospel, “Come! and you will see.”


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

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

What Is True Humility? – Life Lessons from Holy Weeek

Over time, humility has become more and more under-rated and misunderstood. A lot of this has to do with the fact that we see ourselves through the eyes of the world instead of through the eyes of God.

Palm Sunday not only signals the start of Holy Week, but it can also show us the way to true humility. Through the Paschal Mystery; Jesus’ passage from life to death to new life, lies the path to:

  • Embracing humility & suffering
  • Learning how to surrender our will to the will of God
  • Learning about our true personal dignity in God

The more that we can focus on the path of Jesus’ own humiliation throughout this week, the more we will be able to grow in true humility. Pope Francis tells us that, “there can be no humility without humiliation.”­

In Our World Today

This is extremely hard to do in a world pre-occupied with wealth, power, and control. Too many of us, me included – at one time or another – have been consumed by the desire for a bigger paycheck and having more prestige & influence.

Consider that, not long after the triumphant parade of Jesus from Bethany to Jerusalem, he was met by:

  • Betrayal, denial, violence, and the incomparable cruelty leading up to the Crucifixion
  • Institutional corruption and deep injustice fueled by the vanity of the Pharisees (pride and a desire for control leads to the majority of arguments & quarrels in our lives)      

In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul calls us to practice humility, in the face of adversity, like Jesus:

he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2:7-8).

What Is Real Humility?

Only until we are able to gratefully accept the humiliations that come our way can we experience real humility:

  • Real humility involves being able to say thank you for both our blessings and the pain that we endure.
  • Real humility involves serving others and seeking their good above your own advancement, even when they are ungrateful or disappoint you.
  • Real humility is when you realize you are not better than or less than others, but equal, as brothers and sisters of God the Father, especially when others belittle or offend you.

In his book, The Furrow, no. 259, St. Josemaria Escriva describes how humility is the foundation of all virtues:

  • “Prayer is the humility of the man who acknowledges his profound wretchedness and the greatness of God. He addresses and adores God as one who expects everything from Him and nothing from himself.
  • Faith is the humility of the mind which renounces its own judgement and surrenders to the verdict and authority of the Church.
  • Obedience is the humility of the will which subjects itself to the will of another, for God’s sake.
  • Chastity is the humility of the flesh, which subjects itself to the spirit.
  • Exterior mortification is the humility of the senses.
  • Penance is the humility of all the passions, immolated (offered up) to the Lord.
  • Humility is truth on the road of the ascetic (austere) struggle.”

Humility is the key to discovering who we are in Christ!

How to Begin

“Knowledge of oneself is the first step that has to be taken for the soul to reach the knowledge of God.” – St. John of the Cross

As you focus on the Passion, the Crucifixion, and the Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ all this week, think about all that he accomplished through his humility and surrender:

  • He permitted the darkness of the world to envelop him
  • Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world
  • On the cross, he drowned all the sins of the world in an ocean of Divine Mercy

The triumph of God’s love and mercy was made possible through the humility of Jesus. May this type of genuine humility lead to your spiritual conversion or reversion.


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.

Bethany

Journey with Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox to this small town near Jerusalem where Jesus often stayed. Hear all about the home of Mary, Martha, & Lazarus. Located on the spot of present day Al-Eizariya (Place of Lazarus) in the West Bank, it is just south of the Mount of Olives, the place associated with the Ascension of our Lord.

Jewel for the Journey:
God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal. 
– St. Maximilian Kolbe

Listen to this program now:

A Deeper Look at the Prodigal Son

The parable in this Sunday’s Gospel reading is often referred to as “The Prodigal Son,” because it seems to focus on the behavior of the younger son. However, there much more to reflect on here.

The Prodigal Son

Certainly, we see how the selfishness of the younger son drew himself into deeper sin, which 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 which was not rightfully his until his father died; as if saying to his father, “My inheritance is more important to me than you are. I wish you were dead.”

It wasn’t until he ran out of money that the son 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; 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 & was willing to be treated as a servant.

The Father

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 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’d 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 to renew our relationship as son or daughter of our Heavenly Father.
  • 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 remove ourselves from him we do not have a since of his loving presence. When we do so, we lose sight of the plan he has for us and become sad, even hopeless.

The Eldest Son

Meanwhile, when the older son hears the reason for the celebration, he becomes angry; his brother is welcomed back after such a shameful departure. The older brother’s jealousy prevents him from sharing his father’s joy upon 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 also selfish behavior.

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.

Finding Ourselves In the Story

With which of the three characters in this parable can you identify?

  • 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 and believe that it’s the only way we can get what we want. The best reason is 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 ourself 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. To refuse to forgive is to choose bitterness over happiness.
  • With the help of God’s grace, I hope we all can relate to the father. I hope that at times we all have been able to forgive for the sake of forgiveness & love for the sake of love.

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; what we were yesterday and what we are today, should not be the same as what we will be tomorrow.

Hopefully, this parable will convince us of the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father, and what we can do to experience that love. Forgiveness is a choice, and love is a choice.


Deacon Tom Fox 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. Tom continues to serve as a permanent deacon, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio.

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.

Our Weakness, His Strength

Throughout salvation history, God has chosen to accomplish great things through men and women whom he calls into his service beginning with Abraham. In today’s first reading God calls Moses to lead the Chosen people out of their slavery in Egypt. To get Moses’ attention God speaks from a burning bush and reveals his name as “I am who am.” Moses is speaking with the Almighty, He who is without beginning or end and he must take off his shoes in His presence.

Trapped by Our Weaknesses

In the next chapter of Exodus, we will see that even though Moses has heard the voice of God and is given miraculous powers, he still doubts his ability to carry out the mission God has given him. He was focused on his own weakness instead of the power of God.

Especially, in matters of faith, we can be like that.

Freedom In Faith

In baptism, we received the gifts of faith, hope and charity as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, we all start out equal as children of God. We become members of His body, which is the Church, and in this Church we have every means to grow in our faith and discover the gifts that God has given us. Which will be necessary for our vocation and for the building up of the Body of Christ. God expects that the gifts he has given us will bear fruit, but we can stifle those gifts by just living for ourselves and whatever makes us comfortable.

You are planted.

This brings us to the Gospel and the parable of the fig tree. The purpose of the fig tree is to bear fruit. The owner of the tree wants to cut it down because it does not produce fruit, but the vine dresser asks for more time to cultivate the tree hoping that it will produce fruit. Jesus is the patient vine dresser and we all are fig trees in this parable. In baptism, we are planted in the kingdom of God through water and the Holy Spirit. We receive equally everything we need to come into full maturity and produce fruit according to God’s plan for us. Through the Eucharist and Confirmation, we receive nourishment to sustain us. We are pruned through the sacrament of reconciliation and the sacrifices and reparations that make up our life’s experiences.

Get fed.

No matter what our career is, our most important purpose is to produce fruit for the kingdom of God and for this we all have an equal opportunity. Our fruitfulness depends upon our own desire to be faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We cannot produce fruit on our own; we must be connected to God. By having a personal relationship with Him by daily prayer, reading the Scriptures and the lives of the saints, living the sacramental life, and being involved in our faith community.

Bear fruit.

This is where we discover and use the gifts God has given us and by continuing to be formed in the faith. When we live our lives close to God in this way, we become witnesses of His presence so that others might come to believe in him. God’s plan for the salvation of the world is that those who believe in him will live and share their faith, so that others will come to believe in Him.

Like Moses, we may not feel adequate to play a role in God’s plan of salvation, but like Moses we must say yes anyway, take our eyes off ourselves, keep focused on God, and allow him to work through us. It is only in God that we will find the strength we need to carry us through the painful circumstances of our lives and the grace that will enable us to make the difficult choices we know we must make.

This is when our faith truly bears fruit, so that we can experience the peace and hope that only Christ can give!

Pilgrim Center of Hope offers spiritual resources to help nourish & guide you on your journey and connect you to God and His Church. Visit us in person, by phone at 210-521-3377, or explore our website!

You do not have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.


Deacon Tom Fox 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. Tom continues to serve as a permanent deacon, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio.

The Shroud of Turin – A Journey Through the Centuries

Join Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox as they take an in-depth look at the Shroud of Turin, a 14-foot by 4-foot linen cloth venerated by millions of Christians, because it is believed to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

Considered one of the most sacred religious icons on Earth, the Shroud is the most studied, ancient cloth in history and in the world.

During this program, you will learn why the Shroud is so intensely debated, studied, and venerated. Other questions to be discussed:

  • Who is the man, whose image is imprinted on the Shroud?
  • What can we learn from the Shroud today?

Jewel for the Journey
This face has eyes that are closed, it is the face of one who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us. How is this possible?… It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love. – Pope Francis in Turin, Italy (2015)

Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org for more information.

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