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SEPTEMBER 2000

Word Today, September 1, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 1: 17-25 / Mt 25: 1-13

The gospel of today is about the parable of the foolish and the wise virgins.  The wise virgins were prepared for the coming of the newlyweds -- they had enough oil in their lamps.  The foolish virgins were caught flat-footed.  They had oil initially, but they did not provide for the delay of the newlyweds.

One lesson we can learn from this parable is the need to make good use of our time.  Why were these virgins called "foolish"?  Possibly because they had all the time in the world while waiting, and instead of preparing, they just chattered away among themselves.  We are in this world for a purpose -- to go to God by doing good in this world.  If we omit doing good works, if we waste our time, we cannot be prepared for the coming of God.  This can perhaps be one reason why the Church is against all forms of organized gambling.  Aside from the harm caused to those who get "addicted" to gambling, it is an encouragement to all to waste their time.  Recreational gambling, in the privacy of a home, done for moderate stakes, is not immoral.  But organized gambling gives the wrong message: get rich quick without effort.  It encourages laziness and a false sense of destiny.

Word Today, September 2, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 1: 26-31 / Mt 25: 14-30

Today's gospel reading is about the parable of the talents.  A "talent" was a big amount of money.  The master of the parable entrusted his servants with varying amounts of talents and told them to "trade till I come."  The good servants did as instructed and made the talent bear fruit.  The foolish servant buried the talent under the ground and just waited for the master's return.

Just like the parable of the virgins, one lesson we can get from this is the need for us to use the God-given qualities that we have.  This vision of how we must use our "talents," even in the colloquial sense of the word, is a good antidote to vanity.  We must seek self-improvement.  However, we should do this not out of personal ambition but as a fulfillment of God's plan for us.

Word Today, September 3, 2000 (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Dt 4: 1-2, 6-8 / Jas 1: 17-18, 21-22, 27 / Mk 7: 1-8, 14-15,21-23

"What comes out of a man is what defiles, for evil designs come out of the heart: theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly.  All these things come from within and make a person unclean."

These words of Jesus are the antidote to the attitude of the Pharisees, who only gave importance to the external action.  While the external actions are important (Jesus names them one by one), we must give importance to the internal attitude from which such actions arise.  That is why Catholic spirituality has always given much importance to the so-called "internal sins," such as bad thoughts and desires.  We must wage the battle for holiness at that level.  In addition, we must wage it in a positive way by not only rejecting bad thoughts, but by filling our mind, our memory and imagination, with good thoughts.  One way of doing this is to exert the effort to be always aware of God's presence.

Word Today, September 4, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 2: 1-5 / Lk 4: 16-30

"No prophet is honored in his own country."  We can loosely apply this to the experience of many people who, when they try to live their Christian life seriously after a conversion, meet opposition from their close friends and family.

The lesson to be learned from here is that they should continue with their good resolutions.  Such lack of understanding or acceptance of their new way of life can be considered a trial or a test of the strength of their resolve.  In fact, many of Jesus' relatives and countrymen became good Christians.  Some of them even became apostles.  This means that even if close friends and relatives resist, some of them will be helped by the edifying example and patient words of that person.

Word Today, September 5, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 2: 10-6 / Lk 4: 31-37

The first reading, from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians, says that "the sensual man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him and he cannot understand, because it is examined spiritually."  In short, in order to understand spiritual things, we cannot be fettered by sensuality.  A sensual person, a person who is only on the lookout for sensible gratification, is closed to the action of the spirit.

We are witnessing a worldwide wave of sensuality.  Many people get caught by the spread of pornography, drug addiction, and the frenzied search for physical well being, at the expense of spiritual goods.  As Christians, we must resist this wave.  Otherwise, we will all become numbed to spiritual realities, which are what can really fill men's hearts.

Word Today, September 6, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 3: 1-9 / Lk 4: 38-44

"I have planted, Apollos watered, but God has given the growth... For we are God's helpers, you are God's tillage, God's building."  These words of Paul to the Corinthians were occasioned by petty rivalries within the Christian community.

We can avoid useless divisions and intrigues within our Christian communities by never losing sight of the reality that Church workers are mere "instruments" of God's action.  Hence, we should not be too "personality" centered.  We must see that it is God who acts through the different persons, and be ready to accept God's actions whoever God may choose as his instrument.

Word Today, September 7, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 3: 18-23 / Lk 5: 1-11

The gospel today is about the calling of some of the apostles.  After the miraculous catch of fish, Peter felt himself unworthy to be in the company of Jesus.  Yet he received the assurance that he should continue being with the Master.  "Do not be afraid; henceforth you shall catch men."  From fishermen, they were designated to be "fishers of men."  The reaction of the apostles was that "they left all and followed him."

Jesus calls some people to a complete dedication and availability for the task of "catching men."  Indeed, this is the most important occupation we can think of.  If we gauge the importance of a task by the value of what they are handling, then we can understand why the apostolate is worth giving up everything for.  People, persons, are more valuable than anything on earth.

Word Today, September 8, 2000 (Friday, Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

    Lectionary: Mi 5: 1-4 or Rom 8: 28-30 / Mt 1: 1-16, 18-23

Most appropriately, the birthday of Mary is celebrated nine months after the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  The birth of Mary is truly a cause for celebration.  It was a holy birth since the Virgin Mary was sanctified from the very first moment of her existence.  Besides, her birth is the prelude for the imminent coming of our Savior.

The Pope's motto is Totus Tuus, with the letter M, representing Mary.  Those words, which mean "Completely Yours", is a sign of great Marian devotion.  Being thoroughly Marian does not in any way detract from being Christ centered.  In fact, the more we get close to Mary, the closer we get to Christ.

Word Today, September 9, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 4: 6-15 / Lk 6: 1-5

Today is the memorial of St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest who died in the year 1616 and who dedicated his life to the care of the slaves.  He vowed himself to be "the slave of the blacks for ever."  He ministered to their needs, introducing a tender strain of humanity into such an inhuman institution as slavery.

In St. Peter Claver, we see an example of how the Christian leaven gradually penetrates into society.  Slavery is an age-old human institution that we can designate as a "structure of sin."  Christianity is confronted with many such institutions.  Through the exercise of charity and patience, through the witness of life, such institutions can gradually be eliminated -- not through violence but through dedicated service and example.

Word Today, September 10, 2000 (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Is 35: 4-7 / Jas 2: 1-5 / Mk 7: 31-37

The gospel ends with the observation of the people that Jesus "has done all things well."  While literally referring to the miracles of Jesus, we can accommodate this phrase to our own activities.  As Christians, we should also do things well.

It is a pity that sometimes we find people who claim to serve God but they do their work (whether for the Church or even for their own jobs) badly.  They end up giving religion a bad name.  The need to do things well is ingrained in our faith.  God rejected the sacrifice of Cain because he offered God the rotten fruits of his harvest.  On the other hand, God accepted the sacrifice of Abel because he offered the best portion of his flock.  Let us resolve to work well, for the love of God.

Word Today, September 11, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 5: 1-8 / Lk 6: 6-11

"The Scribes and Pharisees were watching whether he cured on the Sabbath, that they might find something to accuse him with."  What a pathetic attitude!  They see someone doing good things, and they try to find something wrong to fault him with.  Such an attitude is born of the vice of envy.

Let us examine ourselves.  Do we get jealous when people do good things and are recognized for it?  Do we tend to look for faults even in the good actions of others?  Sometimes jealousy arises from grudges that we have not been able to uproot.  In Pilipino, there is a graphic phrase, "Nagtatanim ng galit" (planting anger in our heart), which aptly describes this undesirable trait.

Word Today, September 12, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 6: 1-11 / Lk 6: 12-19

Before Christ chose the twelve apostles among his numerous followers, the gospel today tells us that he "continued all night in prayer to God."  If we look at the twelve people whom Christ eventually chose, we can find no special pattern.  They were not exceptional or outstanding.  They were simply "chosen."

The choice of God comes first.  When God wants something done, he does not need a "talent scout" to locate the right person.  God chooses, then he helps the person of his choice through the appropriate graces.  Hence, if you have a calling from God, you should not be afraid to carry out its requirements even if they seem beyond your capabilities.  If God chose you, he will give you help when it is needed.

Word Today, September 13, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 7: 25-31 / Lk 6: 20-26

The gospel today is about the "beatitudes and woes."  The beatitudes contain a new kind of "moral code" for the Christian.  It extols what people usually consider as misfortunes, in the light of the new order of grace established by Christ.

If we live by faith, we will not judge by worldly standards.  Motives of sadness for others will be for us motives of joy.  In the words of St. Paul, "For those who love God, everything works together for good."  Poverty, persecution, trials, all these help us to get closer to God, and prepare us for our true goal in life.

The Word Today, September 14, 2000  (The Triumph of the Holy Cross)

    Lectionary: Num 21: 4-9 / Phil 2: 6-11 / Jn 3: 13-17

Today is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. This is associated with the story of how the Emperor Heraclius recovered the relics of the cross of Jesus. When he wanted to return it in triumph by carrying the cross in procession, he found himself unable to do so. A holy man then told the emperor that he had to divest himself of all his imperial trappings because the Lord was only able to carry the cross in poverty and abnegation. When the Emperor did so, he was able to carry the cross as he wanted.

We must learn to carry the cross of Christ. This means that we have to bear with all the difficulties and trials that are really part and parcel of every person's life. But in order to be able to do this, we must have the right disposition.  We cannot carry the cross that suits us. Rather, we must carry the cross that God sends, with a spirit of abnegation and sacrifice.

Word Today, September 15, 2000 (Our Lady of Sorrows)

    Lectionary: Heb 5: 7-9 / Jn 19: 25-27 or Lk 2: 33-35

Today's celebration refers to the statement of Simeon addressed to Mary in the temple when the baby Jesus was brought there following the Jewish custom. "Your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."  These are mysterious words. But when we consider Mary at the foot of the cross some thirty years later, we can understand better how she must have suffered, witnessing the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

Our faith does not extol sadness or suffering as such. However, it teaches us the true value of suffering and its place in our life. God did not spare his own beloved mother the sufferings of this life. This is to teach us that we must take trials with courage and not lose heart.

Like Jesus and Mary, we can transform suffering into something fruitful, into something salvific.

The Word Today, September 16, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 10: 14-22 / Lk 6: 43-49

"Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks," says the gospel of today.  This phrase of the Lord can help us to focus on what really matters the disposition of our heart.

We live in an age of "public relations".  People are often coached about what they have to say in public in order to attain the image they would like to project.  While this may have a valid application, we should remember that at least when it comes to our dealings with God and our dealings with our neighbors, it is better to be ruled by simplicity.  Let us say what is in our mind and heart, by all means.  But let us try to have a loving and understanding heart, so that we do not have to fear what is expressed in our speech.

Word Today, September 17, 2000 (Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Is 50: 5-9 / Jas 2: 14-18 / Mk 8: 27-35

"If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."  This is a Christian paradox.  The cross is, as St. Paul says, a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles.  But it is "wisdom" for the Christians.

The "wisdom" of the cross is the realization that the cross is good.  It is the realization that sufferings and difficulties have a hidden meaning that transforms it into something beneficial for us and for others.  This realization will help us to receive the blows of life, first with resignation and then with joy and even with thanksgiving.

Word Today, September 18, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 11: 17-26.33 / Lk 7: 1-10

The Roman Centurion deserved one of the most flattering praises to come from Jesus' mouth: "Amen I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith."  So great was the faith of this man that even the liturgy has made use of his wonderful confession of faith to prepare us to receive holy communion: "Lord I am not worthy that you should come to me, say but the word and my servant shall be healed."

The centurion's faith can be seen in his answer to Christ. He applied his own military mentality, of command responsibility, to conclude that Christ merely had to give a command and the miracle would be done.  To have a living faith, we must integrate our beliefs into our way of thinking.  We cannot keep our faith in a compartment away from our daily concerns and occupations.

Word Today, September 19, 2000 (Tuesday of 24th Week)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 12: 12-14.27-31 / Lk 7: 11-17

Today's gospel is about the raising from the dead of the son of a widow, in the town of Naim.  In olden times, the status of women was much worse than it is today.  A widow was often left without too many possibilities to sustain herself.  Thus the loss of her only son was a real blow for that poor widow.  The motive for Jesus' miracle was that "he had compassion on her."

Jesus was very sensitive to the needs of the people around him.  He did not perform that miracle in order to show off.  He really wanted to relieve the plight of the poor woman.  We should have confidence in God.  Jesus cares for all our concerns, even our day-to-day problems.  When we pray, we should bring our daily concerns to Jesus.  He will always have compassion on us.

Word Today, September 20, 2000 (Wednesday of 24th Week, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon & Companions)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 12: 31-13:13 / Lk 7: 31-35

Today we remember the Korean martyrs, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, St. Paul Chang Hasang, and their companions. It is a good time to give thanks to God for the Korean Church and how it developed. The Catholic Church in Korea is unique because, although it may not be the majority religion, our Korean brothers and sisters are filled with apostolic fervor. This can be seen from how the Church there started.

Christianity came to Korea through a Korean who learned about it in China. Even before they had a priest or a bishop, the Korean Christian community spread through the fervor of the laity. They eventually sent one of their numbers to receive the sacrament of Orders and thus the Church started to get established in a more stable way. Proof of their fervor is in the martyrdom that we remember today. Let us pray for them, and thus practice the communion of saints in a concrete way.

Word Today, September 21, 2000 (St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist)

    Lectionary: Eph 4: 1-7. 11-13 / Mt 9: 9-13

Today is the feast of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist.  The gospel narrates how Jesus called Matthew, and then Jesus was criticized for "fraternizing" with alleged sinners -- the friends of Matthew.  Then, as now, it seems that the profession of "tax collector" was not well considered.  People involved in collecting money for the Roman authorities were considered sinful.

Jesus' call to Matthew and his good relations with Matthew's colleagues show us that all honest professions can be sanctified.  It is true that some professions are more difficult than others because they provide more occasions for going astray.  But there are ways and means of being straight even in the most difficult jobs.  What is important is to be professionally competent.  Then one will not need to have recourse to illicit measures to keep on top of one's professional field.

Word Today, September 22, 2000 (Friday of 24th Week)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 15: 12-20 / Lk 8: 1-3

The gospel today mentions the names of some women who used to provide for the needs of Jesus and his followers.  These women followed our Lord and the apostles in their apostolic forays.  Without them, the apostles would have spent a lot of precious time just taking care of their day-to-day needs.

In the Church, there are also groups of women who perform a wonderful apostolate by attending to the daily needs of other church workers.  There are groups of women who concentrate on the needs of the liturgy and the upkeep of churches.  There are those who take care of the household of the workers of God.  While seeming to perform very humble jobs, these tasks have far-reaching apostolic repercussions.  Just like the women mentioned in the gospel, they make the apostolate more effective because of their hidden tasks.

Word Today, September 23, 2000 (Saturday of 24 th Week)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 15: 35-37.42-49 / Lk 8: 4-15

The parable of the sower tells us of the different ways that we can receive the word of God. We can concentrate today on the second group of seeds because it seems that this is the most prevalent in our society. These are those in which the seed quickly sprouts, but the plant withers because "these have no root, and in time of temptation fall away."

Many people are superficial. And our get-up-and-go consumerist culture does not help at all. We tend to be taken up by appearances. Many people think that much of what they see in movies or on TV are the real thing. Role models for most young people are not the educators or the statesmen, but the movie stars and singers. Let us try to receive the word of God in a thoughtful and deliberate way so that it can take deep root and be a transforming leaven for our life.

Word Today, September 24, 2000 (25th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Wis 2: 12.17-20 / Jas 3: 16-4: 3 / Mk 9: 30-37

"If any man wishes to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all."  This is the spirit in which the followers of Christ should discharge their duties and obligations.  Positions of authority and responsibility should not be considered as privileges but as "burdens" lovingly taken up in a spirit of service.

The Pope is called "Servus servorum Dei", which means, "the servant of the servants of God."  We can see this illustrated very well in Pope John Paul II who continues to surpass himself in his zeal for the Church.  He is indeed the head of the universal Church.  But his activities have nothing to do with self-aggrandizement.  His untiring activity is motivated by his concern for the good of the Church and of mankind.

Word Today, September 25, 2000 (Monday of 25th Week)

    Lectionary: Prov 3: 27-34 / Lk 8: 16-18

"For there is nothing hidden that will not be made manifest nor anything concealed that will not be known and come to light."  We can apply these words to the particular judgment that will take place immediately after our death, as well as to the last judgment that will take place at the end of the world.  We cannot hide anything, even our most secret thoughts and desires, from God.  And at the last judgment, these will also be made manifest to all men, for the greater glory of God.

This consideration could help us to be more sincere with ourselves and with others.  Let us live in such a way that we will not be afraid that our thoughts and actions can be seen by God and, eventually, by everyone else.

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