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DECEMBER 2001

Word Today, Dec. 1, 2001 (Saturday of the 34th Week)

    Readings: Dn 7:15-27/ Lk 21:34-36 (508) 

The gospel of today contains a simple message: be prepared for the coming of Christ. The boy scouts in the Philippines have a motto, "Laging handa" - always be prepared. They should be ready for emergency situations, like an accident or a person requiring special help. We can very well apply the same motto to ourselves. 

The best way of being prepared for the coming of Christ is to make sure that we are reconciled with God, that we have a clean conscience. Let us ask ourselves, "Is there anything in my life that would not be in keeping with my condition as a child of God?" 

Word Today, Dec. 2, 2001 (FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT)

    Readings: Is 2:1-5/ Rom 13:11-14/ Mt 24:37-44  

Today we enter the liturgical season called "Advent." The word means "coming." Liturgists explain that there are two comings of Christ that we celebrate in this season. The earlier part of this time is for the anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the world. The later part of this time is for the remembrance of the first coming of Christ, when he was born to us. 

Philippine culture and customs seem to place more emphasis on the first coming of Christ. As early as November 1, Christmas songs can be heard over the popular radio stations. Groups of young people start rehearsing for their caroling sessions. Christmas cards are being mailed now so that it will reach their destinations before Christmas. This can very well be explained by the observation of the pastoral letter of the Philippine bishops on Filipino spirituality, that we have a great devotion to the Christ child, the "Santo Niño". This is a wholesome orientation, supported by the elevation of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (who promoted the "way of childhood") to the rank of "doctor" of the Church. 

Word Today, Dec. 3, 2001 (Monday of the 1st Week of Advent, St. Francis Xavier)

    Readings: Is 4:2-6/ Mt 8:5-11 

Today we remember St. Francis Xavier, principal patron of the missions. He was one of the first members of the Society of Jesus and he tirelessly proclaimed the gospel in India and Japan. 

The need to proclaim the gospel to all the ends of the earth continues to be an urgent one. What is needed? Holy missionaries. The Pope has said, "It is not enough to update pastoral techniques, organize and co-ordinate ecclesial resources, or delve more deeply into the biblical and theological foundations of faith. What is needed is the encouragement of a new ardor for holiness among missionaries and throughout the Christian community." (RM, 90) Let us all pray for more holy missionaries in the Church.  

Word Today, Dec. 4 (Tuesday of 1st Week of Advent)

    Readings: Is 11:1-10 / Lk 10: 21-24 

"Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it." Sometimes we may wish to have lived during the times of Christ so that we could see and hear him personally. But the providence of God has provided for this desire of closeness that we harbor. Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, where he is truly present for us to see and to speak with. 

We can therefore apply those words to our faith in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We are indeed fortunate because many people would have wanted to be very close to Jesus, and here we have him in our churches, where we can keep Jesus company. Let us resolve to spend a few minutes each day to be with Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. 

 
Word Today, Dec. 5, 2001 (Wednesday of the 1st Week of Advent)

    Readings: Is 25:6-10a/ Mt 15:29-37   

The gospel today is about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Christ was able to feed four thousand men starting off from seven loaves and a few little fishes. 

Aside from the obvious miracle, this event also has a lesson for all of us. If Christ could multiply the loaves and fishes, he could very well have started from nothing at all. But he preferred to count on the little effort of the apostles - to give what they could, even if it seemed out of proportion to the needs at hand. In apostolic tasks, we are also constantly witnessing miracles. There is no proportion between the fruits of grace and the little effort that God's workers put in. Yet that little effort needs to be made. God wants to count on our cooperation, disproportionate as it may seem to the task at hand. 

Word Today, Dec. 6, 2001 (Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent)

    Readings: Is 26:1-6/ Mt 7:21, 24-27  

During the rainy season, we can hear of cases of houses caving in because the raging flood waters have undermined the foundations of those houses. These are typical examples of what the gospel today talks about. If we build our house on loose foundation, it will eventually be washed away by the forces of nature. We must build on a solid foundation. The Lord says that the foundation we must build on is the word of God that we act upon. 

The Christian life cannot be based on mere passing moods or feelings. It must be based on the word of God -- on faith and doctrine. But this word of God must be put into practice. Our life must conform to doctrine. We must make a constant effort to live up to the demands of our Christian faith. 

Word Today, Dec. 7, 2001 (Friday of the 1st Week of Advent)

    Readings: Is 29:17-24/ Mt 9:27-31  

The gospel today narrates the miraculous cure of two blind men who followed Christ and pleaded for their cure. They had faith and confidence that Jesus could do it. And their faith was rewarded by Jesus. 

Allegorically, we can also consider the blindness of heart and soul that can afflict us or other persons. At times, we do not see the loving hand of God in difficulties and sorrowful events that transpire in our lives. Then we can pray, like these blind men, "Take pity on us, Son of David." Increase the vision of our faith, so that we can see your love even in our trials. 

Word Today, Dec. 8, 2001 (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, holy day of obligation)

    Readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20/ Eph 1:3-6, 11-12/ Lk 1:26-38  

In today's celebration, we recall the teaching of the Church that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, unlike all other human beings, was preserved from the original sin that is the common lot of mankind. We also believe that she did not commit any single sin in her life. Rather, she grew in holiness and grace from the first moment of her existence. The famous Franciscan theologian of the medireview ages, Blessed Duns Scotus, reasons out regarding the Virgin's preservation from original sin, that it was possible for God to do it ("potuit"), it was fitting that it should be so ("decuit"), therefore God did so ("fecit"). 

For lovers of Mary, it is a cause of rejoicing to know that she was God's "masterpiece" of creation. We depict her today as crushing the devil's head, symbolizing her complete victory over sin and evil. It is encouraging for us to know that our heavenly mother has won. With God's grace and her help, so can we. 

Word Today, Dec. 9, 2001 (Second Sunday of Advent - year A)

    Readings: Is 11:1-10/ Rom 15:4-9/ Mt 3:1-12  

The gospel today focuses on the figure of St. John the Baptist. We are all familiar with the "cursor" of the computer. It points to what we have to fix our attention on. John the Baptist is called the precursor of Jesus. He was the one who prepared the people to receive Jesus, and he was the one who "pointed him out" to the first disciples of Jesus. 

In a sense, we are all like John the Baptist for the people around us. Through the consistency of our lives and also through the right words of advice, we must prepare people to receive Jesus Christ. During this season of advent, which is a preparation for the coming of Christ, let us be more conscious of our apostolic responsibility. One practical resolution we can make is to bring our friends to Christ by encouraging them to go to the sacrament of reconciliation.  

Word Today, Dec. 10, 2001 (Monday of the 2nd Week of Advent)

    Readings: Is 35:1-10/ Lk 5:17-26  

Some people were scandalized because Jesus told the paralytic whom he cured: "My friend, your sins are forgiven you." These men objected, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Little did they realize that Jesus was, indeed, God who had come to forgive man's sins and call them to repentance. They only saw the humanity of Christ. Little did they realize that Christ's human nature was God's instrument of mercy. 

Nowadays, some people are scandalized because the priests of the Church claim to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Penance. They object to this, saying, "How can a man forgive my sins?" The answer to this is that Jesus, who is God, has given the power to forgive sins to the apostles and their successors. The priests, in confession, are instruments of God's mercy. They do not forgive sins by their own authority. They do so in the name and in the person of Christ. They do not say, "I, Father so-and-so, absolve you….". The "I" is Christ, to whom they have lent their person at the very moment of absolution. 

Word Today, Dec. 18 (Tuesday of Advent)

    Readings: Jer 23:5-8/ Mt 1:18-24  

After considering the humanity of Jesus, the gospel today concentrates on the reaction of St. Joseph to the pregnancy of his betrothed wife, Mary. He is told by an angel, "Do not be afraid …to take Mary…for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit." (Mt. 1:20) Later in the gospel, Jesus is called "Emmanuel" or "God with us". These all point to the reality about Jesus Christ which is inseparable from his humanity - his Divinity. 

Jesus Christ is true God and true man. As man, Jesus is one with us, we can identify with him. As God, Jesus Christ lifts us up to the heights of God, he makes us sharers of the divine nature. Because of that, we are children of God and heirs of heaven. But we must be united to Christ by grace. 

Word Today, Dec. 19, 2001 (Wednesday of Advent)

    Readings: Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a/ Lk 1:5-25  

The gospel today narrates the events, related to the birth of John the Baptist, which preceded the important announcement to Mary of the Lord's incarnation. John's father, Zachary, could not believe the message of the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth, his wife, would conceive and bear a child even with her advanced age. Zachary lacked faith. For that he was struck dumb until the message was fulfilled. 

As we prepare to receive Jesus Christ, we must also foster the virtue of faith. In our case, we must believe that Christ the Savior has really come. We must focus on the person of Christ. The reason for our expectation is that he is not just another human being who comes to bring a nice message. He is God himself who has come to save us by taking up our human nature, together with all its miseries, except for sin.  

Word Today, Dec. 20, 2001 (Thursday of Advent)

    Readings: Is 7:10-14/ Lk 1:26-38  

Still on the subject of the conversation between Gabriel and Mary, we can now focus on Mary's question, "How can this happen since I have no husband?" (Lk 1:34) Other translations say, "Since I do not know man." The beginning of this narrative introduces Mary as a virgin "betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph." Many saints and fathers of the Church have interpreted these words and the circumstances around it as a support for the doctrine on the virginity of Mary. 

These words show that Mary had the intent, even in her future married state, not to make use of marriage. The other aspects of the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity is based on Sacred Tradition and on our conviction that God can perform a miracle such as the virgin birth. Modern man finds it hard to accept this teaching. Maybe it is because our standards of what is possible (with the grace of God) in regard to chastity, has been affected by the aggressive campaign of sensuality being waged in some quarters. 

Word Today, Dec. 21, 2001 (Friday of Advent)

    Readings: Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a/ Lk 1:39-45  

The gospel today is a preparation for Christmas because it depicts Mary after her conception of Christ but before his birth. In particular, we follow Mary as she winds her way to the mountainous Judean region to visit her cousin Elizabeth. One wonders: why did she visit Elizabeth? Was it just to gossip with her cousin? Was it to brag about her condition? Or was it, as we say in Pilipino, "para makipag-tsikahan"? 

In fact Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, that is to say, up to about the time that Elizabeth would be giving birth to John the Baptist. (See Lk 1:56) Hence it seems that the reason for Mary's visit was to help Elizabeth during the difficult period of her pregnancy. This manifests Mary's spirit of service and concern for others. Let us imitate Mary in her generosity and readiness to serve. 

Word Today, Dec. 22, 2001 (Saturday of the 3rd Week of Advent)

    Readings: 1 Sm 1:24-28/ Lk 1:46-56   

The "Magnificat", Mary's words of greeting to Elizabeth, is an outpouring of thanksgiving and adoration to God. It is a beautiful prayer that the Church has wanted to be recited daily in the Evening Hour of the Liturgy of the Hours.  

It is also a hymn to the virtue of humility. "The Lord…has looked upon his lowly handmaid." God can do many great things through his followers, but he requires humility. Otherwise, the Christian might think that he is the one responsible for the good things that God does. Besides, without humility, a person cannot become a malleable and docile instrument of God's actions. 

Word Today, Dec. 23, 2001 (Fourth Sunday of Advent - year A)

    Readings: Is 7:10-14/ Rom 1:1-7/ Mt 1:18-24  

The Entrance Antiphon of today's Mass says, "Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior." The "Just One" is Jesus Christ himself. 

After a dry season, the earth is parched and dry. When the first rains come, the ground "eagerly" receives the water, transforming the dust into fertile soil. We are now asking God to send us Christ, just as dry soil somehow "longs" for the refreshing rain. When we receive Christ with eagerness, we shall also experience the transformation that only Christ can work in our hearts. Our hearts will be transformed from hard rock into fertile soil, where the grace of God can bear fruits of holiness and apostolate. 

Word Today, Dec. 24, 2001

    Readings: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16/ Lk 1:67-79  

When Zacahary's mouth is opened, he pours out a hymn of praise for the goodness of God, especially because of God's plan of salvation. He says, "To give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins; this by the tender mercy of our God who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace." 

Indeed, a man in sin somehow lives in darkness, and his heart knows no peace. Our "sun" who gives light, and who is also our peace, is Jesus Christ himself. Tomorrow, we shall celebrate his birth. Let us welcome Jesus to the world as we welcome him in our hearts. We can do this by resolving to reject sin and all other things that do not bring true peace. 

Word Today, Dec. 25 (The Nativity of The Lord, solemnity ) white [holy day of obligation]

    Readings: Vigil: Is 62:1-5/ Acts 13:16-17, 22-25/ Mt 1:1-25 or 1:18-25; Midnight: Is 9:1-6/ Ti 2:11-14/ Lk 2:1-14; Dawn: Is 62:11-12/ Ti 3:4-7/ Lk 2:15-20; Day: Is 52:7-10/ Heb 1:1-6/ Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14  

The liturgy, which gives three options for the Mass (midnight, dawn and during the day), helps us to consider different aspects of Christ's entry into our world. At the dawn Mass, we see how the shepherds were the first ones to find the child. Shepherds are considered to be poor and simple folk. At the same time, they have a great capacity to care for the weak. Poverty, simplicity and concern for others, help us to be more ready to recognize God in the helpless people around us, just as these shepherds did. 

Today, we can contemplate the newly born child Jesus. Although he is the Almighty God, he now appears to us as weak and helpless. A baby is so disarming, and our hearts naturally go out to them. That is how God is inviting us, through the consideration of the infancy of Christ. God is inviting us, divesting Himself of all the trappings of power, to give our love and affection to him. 

Word Today, Dec. 26, 2001 (Saint Stephen, first martyr, feast)

    Readings: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59/ Mt 10:17-22  

St. Stephen was the first Christian to shed his life for his faith in Christ. As he was dying, stoned to death due to his witnessing to the life, death and resurrection of Christ, he prayed for his persecutors, just as Christ did on the cross. As we read in the account of his martyrdom found in the Acts of the Apostles, one of those present and actively helping, was the young Pharisee named Saul. Perhaps it was due to the prayers of Stephen that the seed of conversion was sown in the heart of Saul, who would later on become Paul, the great apostle of the gentiles. 

"The garden of the Church is watered by the blood of the martyrs." Martyrdom is a very special gift of God. To be able to freely give one's life as a witness to faith in Christ, is the supreme act of love of God. We must all be ready for this, although only few will actually receive it. We can face our own daily "martyrdom" by practicing self-denial, taking up Christ's burden, in the fulfillment of our daily obligations in a spirit of faith and charity. 

Word Today, Dec. 27, 2001 (Saint John, apostle and evangelist, feast)

    Readings: 1 Jn 1:1-4/ Jn 20:2-8  

Today is the feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist. St. John, the youngest of the apostles, enjoyed a very special relationship with Jesus Christ. He had given himself to the service of God at the prime of his youth. He had directed his great capacity to love at the Lord and Master, and Jesus reciprocated this love. John proudly called himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Final demonstration of this special love of Jesus for John was the act of entrusting Mary to the care of John. 

Today is a good day to pray for our priests. The priest, just like John, has given himself to the service of God. Many priests have been called at their youth and they have gladly renounced other loves for the love of Christ. The priest is also entrusted to the Virgin Mary in a special way. Their tender devotion to Mary will help them have a heart that is filled with love, making it possible to practice apostolic celibacy for the kingdom of heaven.  

Word Today, Dec. 28, 2001 (Holy Innocents, martyrs)

    Readings: 1 Jn 1:5--2:2/ Mt 2:13-18   

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents. These were the very young children in the neighborhood of Bethlehem who were put to death by Herod, who was seeking to kill Jesus. They are in heaven by a "Baptism of blood"; they were washed from the guilt of original sin by the martyrdom they suffered. 

Today we can remember so many other "innocents" who have been killed through the abominable sin of abortion. We cannot strictly consider these unborn victims as "martyrs" of faith and we do not know for sure in what state they are. But we can pray for them and we can pray even more for the conversion of those who are responsible for their deaths. 

Word Today, Dec. 29, 2001 (Fifth Day Within the Octave of Christmas)

    Readings: 1 Jn 2:3-11/ Lk 2:22-35  

Today is the fifth day in the octave (eight day period) of Christmas. We can remember St. Thomas à Becket, bishop and martyr, who was murdered by agents of King Henry II of England in the year 1170 because St. Thomas defended the rights of the Church. The story of St. Thomas is immortalized in literature in the famous plays "Murder in the Cathedral" (T.S. Eliot) and "Becket" (J. Anouil) 

Thomas changed from a life of frivolity as a "crony" of King Henry II to a life of holiness and service as Archbishop of Canterbury. We can partly give thanks to the grace of the sacrament of Orders for this transformation. We should never underestimate the transformation that God's grace, especially through the sacraments, can work in people. 

Word Today, Dec. 30, 2001 ( HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH)

    Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14/ Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17/ Mt 2:13-15, 19-23  

On the Sunday within the week of Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. God wanted his only-begotten son to be born and to grow up within a human family. That is part of Jesus' being "true man". It also shows us that the family is the natural place for every human being. We are born in a family, we grow up in a family and later on, most people will form their own families. Even those who do not get married still belong, somehow, to a family. It could be a spiritual family or they may retain their original natural bonds. No human being can be considered complete without a family. 

This is a good occasion to pray for the vitality of the Christian family. There are many forces in society that are opposing the family. There are groups that are bent on destroying the integrity of the marriage bond. Some violate the rights of parents with regard to the education of their children. Anti-family groups sometimes pass these attempts off as "advances" of civilization. In fact it is a regression to barbaric times. 

Word Today, Dec. 31, 2001 (Seventh Day within the Octave of Christmas)

    Readings: 1 Jn 2:18-21/ Jn 1:1-18  

This is the last day of the year. The Church recommends the singing or the praying of the hymn called the "Te Deum", which is a hymn of thanksgiving to God for all the benefits we have received from him. 

As we end the year, we should make an "examination of conscience", to make an evaluation of how the year went for us. We should make this evaluation not only in terms of material accomplishments, but above all, we should think of whether we have been brought closer to God this year or not. After all, every year that passes is a year closer to our end. Are we going in the right direction? 

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