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JULY 2001

Word Today, July 1, 2001 (Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: 1 Kgs 19: 16. 19-21 / Gal 5: 1.13-18 / Lk 9: 51-62

In the gospel today, Jesus Christ told some men who wanted to follow him that they had to give up everything for it.  They had to forego their plans and their family affairs.  In a related gospel passage, Jesus said, "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me."  These are the demanding standards that Christ sets for his followers.

Parental love, filial love and love for one's own life are perhaps the strongest natural inclinations that we can have.  Jesus is not repudiating the fourth commandment to love our parents, nor the fifth commandment to love our life.  But he is putting them in the right perspective.  They have to be subordinated to the true good.  God always comes first.  Especially when it comes to following the calling of God, for example to a religious state or to the priesthood, we must be ready to sacrifice our personal preferences, including family expectations.

Word Today, July 2, 2001 (Monday of the 13th Week)

    Readings: Gen 18: 16-33 / Mt 8: 18-22

The gospel today seems to follow in the same line as yesterday's -- it speaks of the demands of Christ.  This time, it refers to detachment from material comforts.  Those who want to follow Christ must be ready to live a life of mastery over material things, since the Son of Man "has nowhere to lay his head."

Many people fail to follow Christ's teachings because they are caught up by all the cares of this world.  Classical spiritual writers would explain that in a wrestling match, the contenders go in to the arena with little on because the more they have, the more the opponent has something to drag them down with.  For most people in the middle of the world, this does not mean that they cannot own things.  What it means is that they have to treat things that they own with detachment and self-mastery.

Word Today, July 3, 2001 (St. Thomas, Apostle)

    Readings:.Eph 2: 19-22 / Jn 20: 24-29

Today is the feast of St. Thomas the apostle.  We know him as the "doubting Thomas" because he persistently doubted the resurrection of Christ, until Christ himself appeared to him and made him touch the wounds of the crucifixion.  To St. Thomas we owe this wonderful act of faith which says it all: "My Lord and My God!"  We also owe to his stubbornness the counsel of the Lord, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Faith is to accept something based on testimony rather than on the evidence of our senses.  There are so many things in our daily life that are based on faith -- how many of us have physically seen the U.S. president?  Yet we believe that he exists, because of the testimony of newspapers and television.  In the case of faith, we believe in the truths revealed by God and proposed to us by the Church.  It is more reasonable to trust God and the Church than newspapers and television.

Word Today, July 4, 2001 (Wednesday of the 13th Week)

    Readings: Gen 21: 5. 8-20 / Mt 8: 24-34

In the gospel today, we are faced with the reality of diabolic possession and infestation.  Belief in the devils is part and parcel of the Christian faith.  The devil is not a mythological creature of evil.  He exists.  He is an evil spirit who refused to serve God at the beginning of time.

Jesus calls the devil "the father of lies."  Indeed, the greatest lie is the refusal to acknowledge the sovereignty of God.  But we must remember then that if we lie, we are coming close to the devil.  Truth, and its practical consequence, humility, are the antidotes to the devil's temptations and influence.

Word Today, July 5, 2001 (Thursday of the 13th Week)

    Readings: Gen 22: 1-19 / Mt 9: 1-8

The first reading, from the book of Genesis, is the well-known story of the sacrifice of Abraham.  In obedience to God's command, Abraham took his only son, the son of the promise, to sacrifice him on a mountain in the land of Moriah.  In the end, it turned out to be only a trial from God, to test the willingness of Abraham to do God's will. 

Can you imagine how heavy the heart of Abraham must have been as he walked up the mountain with Isaac?  Yet he went ahead, and was at the point of killing his own son.  We now know that God does not want such human sacrifices.  He is after the disposition of our hearts.  In the case of Abraham, some spiritual writers, following St. Paul,  also say that it reflected Abraham's faith in the Resurrection.  Indeed, Isaac is like a symbol of Jesus Christ, who as the only-begotten of the Father was sacrificed for our sins.  But he rose again from the dead.  Abraham must also have thought that God would somehow raise Isaac from the dead since he certainly knew that Isaac was the son of the promise. Let us try to imitate the trusting faith of Abraham.

Word Today, July 6, 2001 (Friday of the 13th Week)

    Readings: Gen 23: 1-4. 19; 24: 1-8. 62-67 / Mt 9: 9-13

Today the Church remembers St. Maria Goretti, a young girl who died in 1902 resisting an attempted rape by an older teenage boy neighbor.  She is a martyr for the virtue of purity.  She had the strength to face martyrdom because she led an exemplary life of piety.  One contemporary Cardinal said of her, "Even had she not been a martyr she would still have been a saint, so holy was her everyday life."

We are being engulfed by a wave of impurity, that leaves young people helpless to cope with their sexuality.  The values they receive extol only the physical side of human love, and often consider God's gift of sexuality as a toy.  We need the example of this martyr to see the value of chastity.  It is a virtue that helps a human being to be fully integrated.  It helps us to value our bodies as well as the bodies of other people as temples of the Holy Spirit, deserving of all respect.

Word Today, July 7, 2001 (Saturday of the 13th Week)

    Readings: Gen 27: 1-5. 15-29 / Mt 9: 14-17

Christ made use of very practical examples to get his message across.  In the gospel today, he compared his message and the new dispensation (the era of grace) to new patching or to new wine.  The new must go with the new, and the old with the old.  Christ's message is very new, it is "news", the good news.  It requires a fresh approach, and openness to his message.

To be open to the novelty of Christ's message, we must be ready to do away with our old ways.  That is why it is good to go on moments of retreat or recollection, in which we seek to renew ourselves.  At these times, we must be ready to give up the bad habits that the Holy Spirit makes us realize in ourselves.  Then we can put on the new image of Christ.

Word Today, July 8, 2001 (Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Is 66: 10-14 / Gal 6: 14-18 / Lk 10: 1-12. 17-20

The gospel today is about the mission of the 72 disciples.  This was the next "circle" of persons after the inner circle of "the twelve" apostles.  They prepared people to receive the message and the salvation of Christ.  Upon giving them the mission, Jesus told them, "The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few."

The harvest today remains very great.  There is still a great segment of humanity that does not know Christ.  Even among those who claim to know him, very often their knowledge of the faith and their Christian life are superficial.  Let us pray for many laborers in the Lord's harvest.  This means to pray for more vocations to the priesthood, to the religious life, and to the other forms of Christian commitment that are sprouting now in the wheat field of the Church.

Word Today, July 9, 2001 (Monday of the 14th Week)

Readings: Gen 28: 10-22 / Mt 9: 18-26

The woman had been bleeding for twelve years.  Quietly she said to herself, "If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again."  Because of her faith, Jesus recognized her need and she was cured.

If this woman was cured of her sickness by touching the cloak of Jesus, how much more can we expect a cure for our personal miseries when we come into personal contact with Christ?  We not only touch Christ, we can even eat him.  When we receive Jesus in communion, let us petition him for our material and spiritual needs with a strong faith.

Word Today, July 10, 2001 (Tuesday of the 14th Week)

    Readings: Gen 32: 22-32 / Mt 9: 32-38 

"And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd." The breadth of Jesus' heart is wide indeed. He is concerned for every single person in that crowd, just like the good shepherd, looking out for a single lost sheep. 

Every single person is loved by God in his or her uniqueness. Many spiritual writers say that Christ would have undergone all his sufferings, even to save a single person. As followers of Christ, the plight of any human being cannot be a matter of indifference. We must especially be concerned for those who are far away from God. They are not really "bad"; they are just lost or disoriented.  

Word Today, July 11, 2001 (Wednesday of the 14th Week)

    Readings: Gen 41: 55-57; 42: 5-7. 17-24 / Mt 10: 1-7 

The first reading is all about the patriarch Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery out of jealousy, but this misfortune turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Joseph gained favor with his Egyptian masters and eventually rose to a position of great responsibility. When a great famine arose, his brothers had to go to Egypt to buy food. There Joseph disclosed his real identity and forgave them. He assured his brothers, "Do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives." 

God's ways are indeed mysterious. He is able to draw good from the evil actions of men. When we find it hard to forgive a transgressor, let us think that if we bear this offense, some good will certainly come out of it. 

Word Today, July 12, 2001 (Thursday of the 14th Week)

    Readings: Gen 44: 18-21. 23-29; 45: 1-5 / Mt 10: 7-15 

The gospel of today's Mass narrates how Jesus urged the chosen Twelve to go forth and fulfill their apostolic task. This first assignment is a preparation for the final mission they would receive after the Resurrection, when Christ would tell them to "Go, preach the Gospel, making disciples of all nations." 

The Church continues this task of the Apostles. Her Divine Founder gave her the mission of spreading the Kingdom of Christ, making all men participate in the redemption. The mission of the Church transcends all social and ideological movements. At the same time, the Church, especially through the lay persons, must be involved in all human problems, trying to orient them towards their true end in God. 

Word Today, July 13, 2001 (Friday of the 14th Week)

    Readings: Gen 46: 1-7. 28-30 / Mt 10: 16-23 

"See, I am sending you forth like sheep among wolves; so be prudent as serpents and innocent as doves." The follower of Christ must be careful not to be fooled by evil, not to be deceived by appearances, to distinguish the true from the false. At the same time, he must be simple, well-meaning, upright in his intentions. Otherwise, prudence will be nothing else but cunning.  

The Pope once said (Allocution, Oct. 25, 1978): "The prudent person is not, as it is often thought, the one who knows how to set himself up in life in order to get the most out of it, but the one who is able to build up his life according to the voice of a correct conscience and the demands of morals. In this way, prudence is the key to carry out man's basic mission from God -- the perfection of man himself."  

Word Today, July 14, 2001 (Saturday of the 14th Week)

    Readings: Gen 49: 29-32; 50: 15-16 / Mt 10: 24-33 

In today's gospel, Christ talks about the devil, who is known by the name of Beelzebub. Elsewhere, Christ refers to the devil as the father of all lies. Today, he also speaks about the need to love the truth since "everything that is now hidden will be made clear." We should speak out the truth. "What you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops. 

In a world in which lying and deceit are the habitual ways of acting of many persons, Christians ought to be persons who love the truth. Christians should be known as men and women who never lie, who reject any deceit and hypocrisy in their lives. If we act that way, we shall be effective apostles who can win the trust and confidence of our fellowmen. 

Word Today, July 15, 2001 (Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Dt 30: 10-14 / Col 1: 15-20 / Lk 10: 25-37

Jesus gave the parable of the "good Samaritan" in the context of the Great Commandment to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Among other things, this means that true love of God must be manifested in our readiness to help others. We cannot truly love God if we are just concerned about ourselves and our comfort. 

Besides, our love for others must be universal. It is not limited to those whom we like or to those with whom we have a natural affinity. It must extend to strangers and even to so-called "enemies", people who, by background or culture, may be very different from us. Finally, the help we extend our neighbor must even reach the point of personal sacrifice. The good Samaritan "bothered" to help that man, providing for him with his own means and his time. That is the standard of loving our neighbor. That is the standard of loving God. 

Word Today, July 16, 2001 (Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Monday of the 15th Week)

    Readings: Ex 1: 8-14. 22 / Mt 10: 34- 11: 1 

Carmelite traditions say that on July 16, 1251, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, the first general of the Carmelite order. Mary promised a special favor for all those who, throughout the centuries, would wear her scapular. The scapular is a piece of clothing worn over the shoulders ("scapula" in Latin). In this case, it is colored brown and usually bears an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It can also be replaced by a blessed medal with the appropriate image. 

Mary promised that she would help the wearer at the moment of death. Besides, she promised the Sabatine privilege -- to liberate the soul from purgatory by the first Saturday after death. The Church has repeatedly approved and encouraged this devotion born in England, which is still proudly called "Mary's dowry" by English Catholics. 

Word Today, July 17, 2001 (Tuesday of the 15th Week)

    Readings: Ex 2: 1-15 / Mt 11: 20-24 

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida!...And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as the heaven?" So many graces and so many miracles were done in those cities yet many of their inhabitants did not change, they did not repent of their sins. In contrast to Jesus' hard words, the Psalm says "Lord, you will not despise a humble and contrite heart." 

To be contrite. The word contrition etymologically refers to a kind of "breaking down", like a rock that disintegrates. Contrition means the sorrow for our faults and sins, comparing the sinner's heart to hardened stone. But contrition does not make a man miserable. Quite the contrary. Contrition gives a person special strength, it restores hope, peace and joy. 

Word Today, July 18, 2001 (Wednesday of the 15th Week)

    Readings: Ex 3: 1-6. 9-12 / Mt 11: 25-27 

The first reading narrates how Moses was attracted to a burning bush which later on turned out to be a manifestation of God. God called Moses, attracting him, then telling him his mission -- to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In the continuation of this reading, God will tell Moses his "name", a very important landmark in their relationship. God is "He who is", the unmentionable name of God, Yahweh. 

Centuries of Christian reflection on the name of God have come to emphasize that this is not an empty name. That name signifies the fullness of being, without any limitation. It is something we can never really know because we are limited. God is the infinite being, from whom all goodness of being comes. A practical consequence of this is that we should always be conscious of our smallness, our nothingness, before the majesty of God. This almighty God, just as he did with Moses, attracts us to him and talks to us like a father talking to his child. 

Word Today, July 19, 2001 (Thursday of the 15th Week)

    Readings: Ex 3: 13-20 / Mt 11: 28-30 

"Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." What a wonderful piece of advice, especially suited to the conditions of contemporary life, where we go about rushing here and there, not finding peace of mind. 

We have here three elements that will contribute to "rest for your soul." To shoulder Christ's yoke. This means to accept the will of God, especially in our duties and in the other burdens that God may want to lay upon our shoulders. The next element is to be gentle or meek. This means that we should not give in to our tendency to be angry or irritated. We must think kind thoughts. Finally, at the very heart of all these is humility. Like Jesus, we must not cling to our prerogatives and presumed privileges. Rather, we must be ready to empty ourselves, to lower ourselves, for the sake of others. 

Word Today, July 20, 2001 (Friday of the 15th Week)

    Readings: Ex 11: 10-12: 14 / Mt 12: 1-8 

"The Son of Man is master of the sabbath." In the early Christian community, the practice of celebrating the Lord's Day (Sunday), gradually replaced the celebration of the Sabbath (Saturday). Saturday was the Jewish day of worship. When non-Jews became Christians, it did not make sense for them to observe Jewish ritual laws. Hence, Sunday became the day of worship for Christians. The apostles, with the authority of Christ, could modify the ritual aspect of the Third Commandment. 

Nowadays, there is a great need to revive our sense of Sunday worship. Life is much more complex now than in ages past. Within that complexity, we must arrange our Sunday lifestyle so as to give priority to the worship of God and the appropriate rest, to be able to serve God through our duties during the rest of the week. 

Word Today, July 21, 2001 (Saturday of the 15th Week)

    Readings: Ex 12: 37-42 / Mt 12: 14-21 

The gospel today applies the words of Isaiah the prophet to Jesus: "He will not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick." This was applied to Christ in the context of his compassion for the suffering. Jesus helped people and did good in spite of opposition from the Pharisees who accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath rest when performing the miraculous cures. 

We can learn from here that the most important law of all is charity. There is an adage in the Church which says that the supreme law is the salvation of souls. Laws, rules, norms and regulations are made for the good of people. We should follow them. Exceptionally, because laws made by men are imperfect, the good of people may mean doing something else. Then we have to make sure we have an upright and honest conscience, ask for enlightenment, and do what we think to be the mind of the legislator, for the good of persons. 

Word Today, July 22, 2001 (Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Gen 18: 1-10 / Col 1: 24-28 / Lk 10: 38-42

The gospel today contains the small "quarrel" between the two sisters Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, of Bethany. This quarrel can symbolize the little quarrel that can take place within each one of us: one side wanting to go about doing things and acting, the other side preferring to listen and to "contemplate".  

There should really be no conflict between "action" and "contemplation". They complete each other. Action without thought would be ineffectual and would be blind activism. Contemplation without action would degenerate into passivity and quietism. Both must be present. But the gospel today tells us that, considering how many of us tend to act impulsively, somehow we must give priority to contemplation. Think first before you act. 

Word Today, July 23, 2001 (Monday of the 16th Week)

    Readings: Ex 14: 5-18 / Mt 12: 38-42 

In the first reading, Moses told the Israelites who were terrified at the pursuing Egyptians, "Do not be afraid! Stand firm and you will see what Yahweh will do to rescue you today." We know that God subsequently rescued the Israelites through the miracle of the parting of the sea. 

We have to rely on God and be convinced that God will always come to our aid. However, we do not have to wait for chariots and horses to run after us. We should turn to God for our daily ordinary needs. Ask God's help as we go about the day's chores, convinced that even our slightest action, our last breath, is a gift of God. 

Word Today, July 24, 2001 (Tuesday of the 16th Week)

    Readings: Ex 14: 21-15: 1 / Mt 12: 46-50 

"Whoever does the will of my father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother." We should not understand this phrase as a repudiation of Mary on the part of Jesus. If there is anyone who did the will of God the Father most perfectly, it is the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Augustin said that Mary is more a mother of Christ because she fulfilled God's will perfectly, than because of her physical motherhood. 

What this gospel emphasizes is that we too, each one of us, can be very close to Jesus if we strive to do God's will. To seek the will of God is the first condition to be a child of God. 

Word Today, July 25, 2001 (St. James the Apostle)

    Readings: 2 Cor 4: 7-15 / Mt 20: 20-28

St. James was the brother of St. John. He is the patron saint of Spain. And because of the Philippines' historical ties with that country, there is a great devotion to him here as well. 

He is sometimes called St. James the Greater (in Spanish, Santiago El Mayor) in order to distinguish him from the other apostle with the same name, who is referred to as "the Lesser" (El Menor). There is an ancient tradition that links him with the evangelization of Spain, together with an encouragement from the Virgin Mary who appeared to him on top of a pillar in the city of Zaragoza. We should be grateful to this apostle for his perseverance in the evangelization of Spain. If not for him, we may not be enjoying the Catholic faith. 

Word Today, July 26, 2001 (Sts. Joachim and Anne)

    Readings: Ecclus 44:1. 10-15 / Mt 13: 16-17 

Today we remember Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know their names from tradition, and there are some written accounts, which we need not accept as gospel truth, which give some details of their life. We venerate them as saints, as holy persons. It is logical that God would choose very holy persons to be his grandparents. 

Grandparents are wonderful! Unfortunately, in some so-called "advanced" countries, the elderly are considered a burden and relegated to an old-folks home were they can be put out of the way. There are even places where they have legalized euthanasia, the killing of the sick and elderly, for considering them as "useless" people because they are unproductive. 

Our faith tells us that every person is unique and priceless. And those who are older do not lose their value -- in fact it increases. The elderly are a storehouse of wisdom and humanity. The young have so much to learn from them. They have so much to share with others. They will never be useless. 

Word Today, July 27, 2001 (Friday of the 16th Week)

    Readings: Ex 20: 1-17 / Mt 13: 18-23

Today we can reflect on the parable of the sower. The third category of people in the parable are those who are too entangled with the cares of this world and by riches. The Church has always recognized the need for the spirit of poverty. She blesses those people who profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. It is so necessary to be detached from possessions and riches if we want to go forward in our Christian life. 

For the majority of Christians, with their daily professional and family duties and concerns, they must live the virtue of poverty by being detached from their belongings. If riches abound, they should not set their heart upon them. If possessions are lacking, the pursuit of it should not constitute their goal in life. 

Word Today, July 28, 2001 (Saturday of the 16th Week)

    Readings: Ex 24: 3-8 / Mt 13: 24-30 

Today's gospel reading is about the parable of the wheat and the cockle. The co-existence of the wheat and the weeds can refer not only to the co-existence of good and evil persons. It can apply also to the existence in each one of us of good and evil tendencies. 

No person is completely evil, just as no person is completely good. We all have good and evil inside. So when we see others, let us not judge them by "straightjacketing" or "pigeonholing" them as good or bad. Let us always try to recognize the good in others as we try to eradicate the evil within ourselves. 

Word Today, July 29, 2001 (Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Gen 18: 20-32 / Col 2: 12-14 / Lk 11: 1-13

The gospel today contains wonderful lessons on prayer. Jesus told his followers that they should persevere in prayer. "For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened." 

This confidence in prayer arises from a reality that Christ taught us - that God is our loving father. "If you, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give the good spirit to those who ask him." Like good children, we must approach God with trust and confidence. Also like good children, we should truly love our father, and not seek ourselves. Let us ask God for the "good spirit". Let us ask him to bring us close to him and to help us lead upright Christian lives. 

Word Today, July 30, 2001 (Monday of the 17th Week)

    Readings: Ex 32: 15-24. 30-34 / Mt 13: 31-35 

"The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and buried in three measures of flour, until all of it was leavened." This imagery of Jesus can be applied to the role of the Christian laity in the world or in the temporal structures of society. An ordinary Christian must influence his surroundings in a quiet but effective way. 

A Christian becomes leaven or ferment for his surroundings by giving good example. To give good example means not only avoiding sin, but becoming a model of professional competence and reliability. Besides, he should take advantage of his daily dealings to impart good human and Christian values to his companions. What can I do today, in my place of work, to "leaven" my surroundings?

Word Today, July 31, 2001 (Tuesday of the 17th Week, Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

    Readings: Ex 33:7-11; 34:5b-9, 28 / Mt 13:36-43

Today we remember St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus.  The story of his conversion is well known.  He was a soldier who was wounded in a battle.  As he was convalescing, instead of the usual books of chivalry that he liked to read, he came across a book of lives of saints.  God touched his heart and that started his conversion. 

Perhaps because of his military background, the value of obedience was impressed upon him.  Aside from the usual vows of chastity, poverty and obedience made by all religious, Ignatius required his followers to take an additional vow of obedience to the Pope.  That way, they could serve the Church more effectively.  In its long history, the Jesuit Order has produced many saints and workers for the Church.  Let us thank God for this religious family and pray for their continued fruitful service to the Holy Father.

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