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OCTOBER 1999


The Word Today,
October 20, 1999 (Wednesday)

The first reading starts quoting St. Paul who says, "You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions."  Bodily passions are the feelings, impulses and sentiments that arise in us due to some sensible input.  For example, if we see something beautiful, we may have the passion of love or desire.  If we perceive some threatening harm, we may respond with the passion of ire or anger. 

Passions are not bad in themselves since they are part and parcel of our human condition.  But they should not rule over us, so as to cloud our better judgement.  We should not "command... obedience" to them.  Rather we should keep them under control and channel them to the correct object presented to us by reason and faith.  

The Word Today, October 21, 1999 (Thursday)

Continuing the quotation from St. Paul, the first reading says, "As once you put your bodies at the service of vice and immorality, so now you must put them at the service of righteousness for your sanctification." 

The Christian attitude towards the body is not one of rejection.  Soul and body in man form a unity that has to be harmonized.   But the predominant role belongs to the spiritual soul.  When the spirit rules, then the body can be put to the service of goodness.  But if we have no self-control, then the bodily impulses can drag us down.  That is why Christianity has a tradition of asceticism and teaches the need for sacrifice and mortification if we are to get close to God.

The Word Today, October 22, 1999 (Friday)

"How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?"  That is how Jesus accuses those persons who were rejecting his preaching in spite of seeing the signs and wonders he was working.  They could interpret the signs of the weather, but they could not interpret the "signs of the times".

Some persons have loosely interpreted the term "signs of the times" as if the teaching of the Church had to adjust to fashionable trends.  But the gospel shows precisely that what we should do is to recognize that the time of Christ has come.  We are already approaching the third millennium of the Christian era and there is still much to be done.  This is the moment for all Christians to make a renewed effort in evangelization so that the saving teaching and power of Christ may find wider acceptance in our times. 

The Word Today, October 23, 1999 (Saturday)

The parable of the barren fig tree applies in the first place to the people of Israel in Jesus' time.  They received special treatment from God, but they rejected Christ.

But we can accommodate its meaning to ourselves.  Just like the tree, we have been "cultivated" and cared for by God.  We have received the grace of Baptism, we have received the Body of Christ in Holy Communion, perhaps we have received an exquisite Christian formation, the Holy Spirit comes to our life with his impulses for good.  How have we corresponded?  Have we yielded fruits of holiness and works of justice and charity?  Apostolate is not something optional.  It is an obligation for every Christian.  We must do apostolate and bear fruit.

The Word Today, October 24, 1999 (Sunday)

The gospel today has Jesus saying very firmly that the greatest commandment is "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."  He also adds that the second is that you must love your neighbor as yourself.  If this is indeed the greatest and the first commandment, then we must strive very seriously to love God above all things. 

Unfortunately many people are satisfied with merely "not offending God" or, even worse, just avoiding mortal sin and being quite complacent with venial sin. Many people treat God as a "means for an end" or as a "supplier" of their needs.  They fail to realize that God is our greatest need and he is not a means but the end itself our last end.  Let us recall this commandment often in order to make it our basic life orientation.  So many things will make sense if we do so.

The Word Today, October 25, 1999 (Monday)

The gospel today shows how Jesus cured a woman who was "bent double and quite unable to strand upright."  Another translation says that the woman was "unable to look upwards." When Christ cured her, she was straightened up and she glorified God.

We can make an allegorical interpretation of this passage.  Many people are spiritually "bent double" and they cannot look up.  Their vision is so horizontal; they do not see the transcendental meaning of life and events.  Such a situation calls for the healing of Christ.  When we fight against sin and evil in ourselves, we get "straightened up" and our vision becomes more penetrating.

The Word Today, October 26, 1999 (Tuesday)

Today Jesus Christ compared the kingdom of God to yeast.  Only a small amount of it is mixed with flour, but it leavens all of the dough.

Many Church documents have emphasized that Christians are like leaven.  Wherever they may be, they should be a positive influence in their environment. This is especially true for Christians who are involved in different social and political institutions.  They must strive to bring the saving teachings of Christ to their field of competence. They should not be intimidated by being in the minority.  By working tenaciously for God, they can help to raise the moral and spiritual level of their surroundings.

The Word Today, October 27, 1999 (Wednesday)

We might also ask ourselves, like the man in today's gospel, if many or few will be saved.  Jesus Christ did not give any definite answer.  But he did say, "Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed."

We can never make any definite judgment about the eternal state of a person.  Even the worst sinner may repent and receive God's mercy.  On the other hand, a very good man might still fall into despair and sin towards the end of life.  Thus the Church keeps a prudent silence about the fate of anyone as far as hell is concerned.  However, on the basis of a close study of their heroic life and death as well as "proofs" from heaven through miracles, the Church can declare if someone is in heaven.  This is the process called beatification and canonization. 

What matters is that we try our best to enter the kingdom of heaven by not taking the line of least resistance.

The Word Today, October 28, 1999 (Thursday)

Today is the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles.  Jude is the author of one of the epistles in the New Testament.  Simon and Jude preached the gospel in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia.  Like many other apostles they were martyred in defense of the faith.

In the Philippines there is a devotion to St. Jude as intercessor for so-called "impossible cases".  Nothing (except absurdities and contradictions, like making a square circle) is impossible with God.  But there are very difficult situations men find themselves in.  Difficulties make men realize that they have to turn to a higher power.  However, we should not see God only as a "problem-solver".  In fact, God is our last end, the object of our love.  But when we realize our helplessness, it helps us see that God loves and cares for us so that we can love him in return.

The Word Today, October 29, 1999 (Friday)

It was a sabbath day, when it was forbidden to work.  But here there was a man who was sick and was obviously in need of help.  The enemies of Jesus were waiting for the opportunity to pounce on him, to accuse him of some misdeed.  If he cured the man, he could be accused of "working" on the sabbath.  In spite of the bad will of his enemies, Jesus did not hesitate to do the good deed of curing the man.

We should not hesitate to do good even if those around us interpret it badly.  We should not give in to so-called "human respects". To have human respects means being guided not so much by what is good and correct, but by what people will think of us. Let us never be afraid to be consistent with our faith.  For example, in many environments the conversation veers to topics and attitudes that are clearly unchristian.  Let us not be afraid to steer it back and to show our Christian morals and principles.

The Word Today, October 30, 1999 (Saturday)

In today's gospel, Jesus noticed how people wanted to get the places of honor, the best places.  He corrected this attitude and summarized his preaching thus: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted."

How much effort people put into getting recognition and admiration!  And how little effort they put into getting close to God!  Some people are always on the lookout for occasions to be recognized and appreciated.  There is much noise and fanfare at the beginning of a project, but little action when it comes to the silent work required. 

Some people are always looking for opportunities for publicity.  That may not be wrong in itself, provided publicity is not motivated by pride.  However, we should exert much more effort just to do what we are supposed to do.  We can accept the recognition that will come with work well done, but we should not work just for the sake of recognition.

The Word Today, October 31, 1999 (Sunday)

The gospel today contains this phrase from Christ: "You must call no one father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven."  Some people interpret this phrase too literally, taking it out of context.  They conclude that the Church does wrong in referring to the ordained ministers as "Father" and to the successor of Peter as "Holy Father".

There is nothing wrong with using the word "father" to designate other types of fatherhood.  St. Paul says, "all fatherhood comes from God," (Eph 3, 15) implying that God shares his fatherhood with others.  St. Paul himself refers to his relationship of spiritual paternity with all those he had converted.  Obviously there is nothing wrong with applying the term "father" to the man who engendered us on earth. 

Hence to refer to the ordained ministers of the Church who are dedicated to our spiritual welfare as "father" is very appropriate.  In fact it is also one reason why it is appropriate that these ministers practice celibacy so that they can truly dedicate themselves to their spiritual fatherhood.

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