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JUNE 2001

Word Today, June 1, 2001 (Friday after Ascension)

    Readings: Acts 25: 13-21 / Jn 21: 15-19

The gospel today, nearing the end of St. John's narration about the risen Lord, is about Christ's triple question to Peter: "Do you love me more than these do?" The triple question may be a reference to Peter's triple denial before the passion, as if Christ were giving Peter a chance to make up for his earlier offence. But we can marvel at the last answer of Peter: "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you."

This answer is a model of love and humility. Peter unabashedly declares his love for the Master. But unlike the early Peter's brash and self-confident answers, he does not rely on his own strength or deeds. He is humbler now. He knows he has nothing to brag about. Yet he sticks to his conviction that he loves Jesus. Peter is now ready to become the solid foundation of the Church. He has learned to rely more on Christ than on himself.

Word Today, June 2, 2001 (Saturday after Ascension)

    Readings: Acts 28: 16-20. 30-31 / Jn 21: 20-25

The reading today contains the last words of the gospel of St. John. "There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written."

This is a very eloquent testimony in favor of the Church's reliance on Sacred Tradition. The principle of "sola scriptura", which maintains that the bible is the only source of our Christian belief, is paradoxically not upheld by the scripture itself. We must look to the patrimony of the Church (her history, the witness of the first few centuries, the prayers and pious practices) in order to tap all the richness of our belief. For this we must rely on a living reality which enjoys the continuous support of Christ, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the living tradition of the Catholic Church, entrusted by Christ to her legitimate pastors, the successors of the twelve apostles.

Word Today, June 3, 2001 (Pentecost Sunday)

    Readings: Acts 2: 1-11 / 1 Cor 12: 3-7. 12-13 or Rom 8: 8-17 / Jn 20: 19-23 or Jn 14: 15-16. 23-26 (year C)

Today we commemorate that day when, soon after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent upon the early Christian community, filling them with vitality and courage to carry out Jesus' last instruction to them of spreading the Gospel. We should not consider Pentecost as an event that once took place and is over and done with. No. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Church on that day, and the Holy Spirit continues with the Church now, without any diminution of His presence.

The Holy Spirit is like the soul of the Church. The life of the Church is made possible by the action of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit acts, giving effectiveness to the sacraments of the Church, which are the infallible channels of grace. She acts through all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, through the hierarchy and through all the followers of Christ. We should try to sensitize ourselves to recognize the actuation of the Holy Spirit in our ordinary life so that just like those early Christians, we can correspond to the gifts and charisms for the building up of the Church.

Word Today, June 4, 2001 (Monday of the 9th Week, Time Throughout the Year)

    Lectionary: Tobit 1: 3; 2: 1-8 / Mk 12: 1-12

The parable of the unjust servants who usurped the vineyard and even killed the son of the owner, was an illustration of God's plan of redemption. "The stone which the builders rejected is made head of the corner." The stone is Jesus Christ, crucified for our sakes. Rejected by the leaders of the Jews, Christ is the foundation of the New People of God.

To follow Christ often means to change our outlook -- not to judge as the world judges. What the worldly-minded reject (sacrifice, humility, serving others) are the things that make us acceptable to God.

Word Today, June 5, 2001 (Tuesday of the 9th Week)

    Readings: Tobit 2: 9-14 / Mk 12: 13-17

"Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God."  These words of Jesus express the existence of two spheres of activity, the eternal and the temporal.  Strictly speaking of course, we can say that everything belongs to God.  But these words show how there are areas in the temporal sphere in which there is a certain degree of autonomy, because God has wanted it to be so.

The arts and sciences have their own proper methods and activities.  Our faith enters into these spheres when it comes to morals and some issues that have a relevance to divine truth and God's saving plan.  While trying to influence all spheres of life with the leaven of the gospel, we must recognize and work within the legitimate autonomy of these spheres.

Word Today, June 6, 2001 (Wednesday of the 9th Week)

    Readings: Tobit 3: 1-11. 16-17 / Mk 12: 18-27

The first reading, taken from the book of Tobias, talks about the predicament of two persons: the elder Tobias, who had gotten blind and was now in poverty; and the young maiden Sarah, who had been wed to seven husbands, but who were each killed by a devil on the wedding night. As they both prayed, the book of Tobias says that "The prayer of both was heard in the presence of the glory of the great God. And Raphael was sent to heal the two of them."

The angel Raphael is designated as God's healer, and he is represented as a traveler carrying a fish, which he used to heal the blindness of the elder Tobias. He also guided the younger Tobias in his journey, which led to the recovery of his father's eyesight, restoration of wealth, and a new bride, Sarah. Let us turn to St. Raphael, one of God's powerful helpers, for our needs.  We can pray to him especially for matters concerning the guidance of youth in the journey of life.

Word Today, June 7, 2001 (Thursday of the 9th Week)

    Readings: Tobit 6: 10-11; 7: 9-17; 8: 4-9 / Mk 12: 28-34

We are in the month of June, a month which people tend to associate with weddings. That is why the first reading, on the marriage of Tobias and Sarah, is very relevant.  We should not think of marriage as a mere excuse for lust.  Marriage is a holy sacrament and a means of sanctification for the spouses.  Thus, it is important to approach marriage and to enter into it with the correct religious outlook.

Tobias and Sarah spent the first moments of their marriage in prayer. Tobias' prayer states how marriage is part of God's plan when he created man. Tobias then concludes, "I do not take my sister (that is how he referred to his wife) for any lustful motive; I do it in singleness of heart."  Marriage is a commitment to love the spouse.  It must be characterized by self-giving and not self-seeking.  Perhaps many marriages would be much more successful, and the spouses much happier, if they were to live marriage trying to be generous rather than merely seeking their pleasure.

Word Today, June 8, 2001 (Friday of the 9th Week)

    Readings: Tobit 11: 5-17 / Mt 5: 35-37

We can continue the story of the Tobias family.  After the young Tobias and Sarah were married, they went back to the home of the elder Tobias, carrying the wealth from Sarah's family.  But more than wealth, the elder Tobias also received his health.  The angel Raphael had taught the young Tobias how to cure his father's blindness. So in the end, all the trials of the elder Tobias were resolved. He exclaimed, "Blessed be God, blessed be his great name, blessed be all his holy angels...for he has scourged me and now has had pity on me and I see my son Tobias."

We can learn from the attitude of Tobias.  He was not bitter over the trials he received.  Thus, he could be very grateful when the trials were finally over. We should learn to see the loving hand of God in trials, such as poverty and sickness.  Then we shall not become bitter while the trial lasts.  And when it is finally over, our joy will be much greater.

Word Today, June 9, 2001 (Saturday of the 9th Week)

    Readings: Tobit 12: 1.5-15.20 / Mt 12: 38-44

We finally reach the end of the story of Tobias with the recognition that the wise traveling companion was actually an angel (Raphael) sent by God to help them.  On his part, Raphael gives a piece of advice: "It is right to keep the secret of a king, yet right to reveal and publish the work of God."  We should be always prompt to acknowledge the good works of God. That is the purpose of our life -- to give glory and praise to God.

Another beautiful piece of advice from Raphael is this: "Prayer with fasting and alms with right conduct are better than riches with iniquity.  Better to practice almsgiving than to hoard up gold... Those who give alms have their fill of days; those who commit sin and do evil, bring harm on themselves."  Sin contains its own bitter punishment.  It brings discord and sadness here on earth.  If unrepented, it leads to everlasting sadness and despair.

Word Today, June 10, 2001 (Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity)

    Readings: Prv 8: 22-31 / Rom 5: 1-5 / Jn 16: 12-15

The coming of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has profound roots in the Christian belief in God as the Most Holy Trinity.  The one true God is not a lonely God.  He is a God of love, and that love finds its fullest and richest expression in His own Trinitarian love, a love of inner communion.

God destined man to share in this intimate love.  We can compare it to a closely-knit and loving family, which generously invites an orphan to become part of their home.  Adam and Eve failed to live up to the requirements of this invitation.  But this was remedied by God himself.  The Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity became a man, so that through His human nature, we can be united to the Blessed Trinity and enter into God's love.

Word Today, June 11, 2001 (St. Barnabas, apostle)

    Lectionary: Acts 11: 21-26; 13: 1-3 / Mt 10: 7-13

St. Barnabas was not one of the original twelve apostles.  However, together with St. Paul, he is counted as an apostle because, just like the first twelve, they were specially chosen by God for the task of spreading the gospel and being one of the pillars of the young Church.  In the first reading, we see how this happened.  While the early Christian community was praying, the Holy Spirit said, "I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them."  Barnabas and Paul then went off to the different missionary journeys and reached so many people, especially those who did not belong to the Jewish community. 

Let us pray for our missionaries.  They have been chosen by God to perform an indispensable task, often in difficult and harrowing conditions.  Let us help them in any way we can.

Word Today, June 12, 2001 (Tuesday of the 10th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 1: 18-22 / Mt 5: 13-16 

In the gospel today, Jesus compared his disciples to salt. He then says that salt would be useless if it were to lose its strength. 

We are all familiar with the use of salt as a table condiment. It gives tang to insipid food. In ancient times, salt had an even more important use. It was necessary to preserve food from decaying, much as we preserve "daing" and "tuyo" (dried fish) in the Philippines. On both counts (giving taste and preserving from decay) the Christian presence in the world can be compared to salt. So we can apply the Lord's advice. If a Christian does not sincerely cultivate his Christian life, his spirituality, then he cannot give his flavor to the surroundings. He will not be able to fight the forces of decay and corruption in society. 

Word Today, June 13, 2001 (Wednesday of the 10th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 3: 4-11 / Mt 5: 17-19 

Jesus said that he did not come "to destroy the Law or the Prophets" but rather "to fulfill them" or to bring them to perfection. 

There is a "nataural law", based on human nature, which applies to all men. This law is contained in God's revelation of the Ten Commandments. No matter what their belief may be, these basic demands of morality are applicable to all men. But Jesus came to bring us the "law of grace" which brings along with it the help of God to be able to fulfill the requirements of natural law and even go beyond that. For example, natural law ("Thou shalt not steal") requires that we be just in respecting the property of others. But Christ requires more than justice. We must practice generosity with others and detachment from our own goods for the needs of others.  

Word Today, June 14, 2001 (Thursday of the 10th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 3: 15-4:1.3-6 / Mt 5: 20-26 

In the gospel today, Jesus warns us against harboring hatred towards our neighbor. So important is it to have a heart free of hatred that it even takes precedence over the external fulfillment of our acts of worship. Indeed, our acts of worship to God would be meaningless or contradictory if we harbored hatred towards any person, because God loves each one and goes out of his way to seek out the lost sheep. 

Conflicts with other people, differences of opinion or preferences, are inevitable. But these do not have to lead to hatred. When clashes arise, we should seek to minimize it and, if it does occur, we should remove any rancor from our heart. This is more easily said than done. Quite often, we need to ask God to give us a heart like Christ's, ready to forgive even those who were unjustly crucifying him.  

Word Today, June 15, 2001 (Friday of the 10th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 4: 7-15 / Mt 5: 27-32 

Jesus' words are crystal clear: "I say to you that anyone who so much as looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Sin comes from the heart of man. That is why bad thoughts are sinful even if they are not executed. The struggle to be good must be waged in our thoughts by not consenting to the suggestions that may come from the devil or our own sensuality. 

We should bring the effort to be pure even one step ahead. Many impure thoughts are initiated by images and other sensory inputs. Hence we should guard what we see and hear. That is why we should avoid forms of entertainment that capitalize on impurity. 

Word Today, June 16, 2001 (Saturday of the 10th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 5: 14-21 / Mt 5: 33-37 

"Let your speech be, 'Yes, yes'; or 'No, no'." We can consider these words of Christ as an injunction to be very truthful. It is very refreshing to know that one is dealing with a person who is sincere. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deal with a person whose words are not trustworthy. 

In order to grow in the virtue of sincerity, we should cultivate a genuine love for the truth. We must abide by the truth, even if the truth brings difficulties along with it. Lying tends to feed on itself. One lie requires another lie in order to cover up. After a while, a liar may even end up believing his own lies and living in a make-believe world of fantasy.  

Word Today, June 17, 2001 (Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ)

    Readings: Gn 14: 18-20 / 1 Cor 11: 23-26 / Lk 9: 11-17 

Today the Church wants to honor the Holy Eucharist in a special way. After the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the people followed Jesus Christ to the synagogue at Capernaum. There he told his listeners about the Eucharist. He told them that his flesh was indeed food and his blood, drink. This scandalized most of his listeners. Yet Christ did not back out from that statement. Later on, at the last supper, it would be made clear that the bread would be transformed into his body and the wine into his blood, at the words of the consecration. 

This is the reason why we must firmly believe in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He is truly present, not just in a symbolic way. He is present really and substantially, but under the appearance of bread and wine. This is a great mystery of our faith. But we must believe whatever Christ has revealed. It seems difficult, but it is not impossible. For, in the words of the hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas, "What the truth (Christ) has spoken, that for truth we hold." 

Word Today, June 18, 2001 (Monday of the 11th Week, after Corpus Christi)

    Lectionary: 2 Cor 6: 1-10 / Mt 5: 38-42 

We can continue reflecting prayerfully on the great mystery of the Holy Eucharist in the next few days. Yesterday, there was a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a beautiful Eucharistic devotion, which manifests how we want Christ to be part of our daily life. We want him, not only inside the tabernacle, not only inside the church, but we want him to be in our homes, in our streets, in our daily activities. 

The Blessed Sacrament, since it is Christ himself, is the treasure of the Church. How would we treat Jesus if he came in person, in his human appearance? Well, that is how we should treat him in the Eucharist -- with reverence, love and affection. 

Word Today, June 19, 2001 (Tuesday of the 11th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 8: 1-9 / Mt 5: 43-48 

"You must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect." That is how Jesus concludes this section of the sermon on the mount. This phrase is a call to the fullness of the Christian life, for everyone. "You have the obligation to sanctify yourself...Who thinks this is the exclusive concern of priests and religious? To everyone, without exception, our Lord said, 'Be perfect..." (Escriva, The Way, 291) 

The Second Vatican Council proclaimed the universal call to holiness. Previous to that, some people had the attitude (which may still be lingering today) that priests and religious had the obligation to be holy, while the ordinary Christian could remain mediocre. He did not have to be a saint. He did not have to strive for perfection. No. All have to strive for sanctity, but in different ways, according to each one's state in life. 

Word Today, June 20, 2001 (Wednesday of the 11th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 9: 6-11 / Mt 6: 1-6. 16-18 

The gospel today is a dire warning against the vice of hypocrisy. Christ warns us not to do good things for the twisted intention of being praised for it. We should not be "publicity hounds", looking for opportunities to be seen and admired. Above all, we should not use the things of God for our personal ambitions. 

On the positive side, the words of Christ are an exhortation to rectitude of intention, to ensure that what we intend corresponds to the reality of our actions. If we give alms, it should be with the genuine desire to help the poor. If we pray, it should be in order to communicate with God. Even better, whether we want to relieve suffering or want to communicate with the Lord, we should try to do all for the greater glory of God

Word Today, June 21, 2001 (Thursday of the 11th Week)

    Readings: 2 Cor 11: 1-11 / Mt 6: 7-15 

At the end of the Lord's prayer, Christ elaborates more on one of its points, thus showing us its importance. "For if you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your offenses. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offenses." 

Forgiving those who have offended us is one of the easiest things to say, but it is the hardest thing to do. Perhaps part of the reason is that the offenses we receive are so concrete and specific, they remain etched in our memory; while the counsel to forgive is general and abstract. That is why, one way of helping us to forgive is to think vividly of Christ's sufferings on the cross. He gave us this lesson of forgiveness not as an abstraction but as something he himself practiced as he was gasping for breath on the cross. Hence, a prayerful person can forgive more easily. 

Word Today, June 22, 2001 (Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus)

    Readings: Ez 34: 11-16 / Rom 5: 5-11 / Lk 15: 3-7  

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus emphasizes the great love that Jesus Christ, who is both God and man, has for all of us. The heart refers to the whole human personality, the deepest core of our being. The divine love, which is infinite, is manifested to us in a very human way. There is a saying in Spanish, "Amor con amor se paga." (Love is paid back with love)  

When we realize how much Christ loves us, we will be drawn to love him in return. "Greater love than this, no man has, that he should lay down his life for his friends." The ultimate proof of Christ's love for each one of us was his passion and death on the cross. That is why the Sacred Heart of Jesus is represented to us as burning in flames (representing love), wounded and surrounded by a crown of thorns. Let us exclaim, "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!" 

Word Today, June 23, 2001 (Immaculate Heart of May)

    Readings: Is 61: 9-11 / Lk 2: 41-51 

The feast of today comes right after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mary is so intimately associated with Jesus that as soon as we come to consider Christ's redemptive love for us, we immediately think of Mary's role in leading us to Jesus. 

The Holy Father beatified two of the visionaries of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco, during the Jubilee Year. The apparitions and the message of Fatima have received the complete approval of the Church. Part of the message of Mary was her desire to spread the devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Mary loves us as a mother, and that is saying a lot. She became our spiritual mother when she accepted this role from Jesus himself as he was dying on the cross. Today's feast helps us to turn to Mary with great confidence. We can be absolutely sure of her help if we turn to her intercession.  

Word Today, June 24, 2001 (Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist)

    Readings: Is 49: 1-6 / Acts 13: 22-26 / Lk 1: 57-66. 80  

St. John the Baptist was the chosen person to prepare the coming of the Messiah. When Mary visited Elizabeth, the pregnant mother of John the Baptist, the baby in her womb leapt for joy. The baby in the womb sensed the presence of Christ, also in the womb (of Mary). The liturgical celebration of John the Baptist's birth is an indication of the belief of the Church that John was sanctified even before he was born. 

John the Baptist led an austere life in the wilderness of the mountains of Judea. His words gained credibility because of his radical detachment from material goods and his difficult lifestyle. He can be considered a model of the consecrated religious life. By making a radical profession of chastity, poverty and obedience, the consecrated person becomes a credible witness of the Christian message. Let us pray that all consecrated persons be faithful to their vows and their mission. 

Word Today, June 25, 2001 (Monday of the 12th Week)

    Lectionary: Gen 12: 1-9 / Mt 7: 1-5 

"Do not judge that you may not be judged…Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye, yet do not consider the beam in your own eye?" We all have the tendency to judge other people. Yet we do not want to be evaluated by others in the same way. 

One consideration that can help us to avoid judging others is to remember that we are never in a position to judge the inner thoughts, the real motives, behind a person's action. Hence, just like Jesus when he was being crucified, we can always find an excuse for the bad actions of others. They may not realize what they are doing. They may be blinded by their passions or by some other factors. Hence, no matter how badly a person may act, we can still think of that person in a charitable way.

Word Today, June 26, 2001 (Tuesday of the 12th Week)

    Readings:.Gen 13: 2. 5-18 / Mt 7: 6. 12-14

Today we can celebrate the memory of Blessed Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei who died on June 26, 1975.  The Pope beatified him in 1992.  He was a very holy priest who faithfully carried out the mission God gave him in 1928 to spread the message of the universal call to sanctity.  We are all called to be saints.  Holiness is not limited to a few special persons.

This message is at the heart of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.  And so Blessed Josemaria Escriva is considered to be an important precursor to the Second Vatican Council, the Church event that has brought so many blessings to the world.  As a person who has been beatified, the Church acknowledges his holiness, encourages Catholics to turn to his intercession, and to imitate his virtues in their own specific way.

Word Today, June 27, 2001 (Wednesday of the 12th Week)

    Readings: Gen 15: 1-12. 17-18 / Mt 7: 15-20

Today we remember St. Cyril of Alexandria, a Doctor of the Church who led the opposition to the Nestorian heresy, which denied the unity of Jesus Christ as well as the divine motherhood of Mary.  In the Council of Ephesus, held in the year 431, the Church defined the doctrine that Mary can be truly called "Mother of God" because Jesus Christ, her son, is true God.

When we pray the "Hail Mary", we address the Virgin Mary as "Holy Mary, Mother of God."  Because she is the mother of the God-made-man, Mary has a very special role in our redemption.  Just as she was God's instrument for the Christ to enter into the world, she is now God's instrument for Christ to enter into our hearts.  It is a happy coincidence that this day, we can also remember the Virgin Mary under the title of "Our Lady of Perpetual Help."  Indeed, how can a mother not help her children?  Let us turn to Mary, and she will lead us to Jesus.

Word Today, June 28, 2001 (Thursday of the 12th Week)

    Readings: Gen 16: 1-12. 15-16 / Mt 7: 21-29

The last paragraphs of the account of the Sermon on the Mount point to the need to put all those nice considerations into practice.  It is not enough to hear the Word of God, we must apply them to our life. Who shall enter the kingdom of heaven?  "He who does the will of my father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven."

This is a time-tested principle.  We must discern the will of God and then do our best to fulfill it.  How do we know it?  Look for it first in your ordinary duties, because those duties come from God.  Seek it next in the inspirations that you may receive to lead a better Christian life.  Then, we can truly say that we love God, because we keep his commandments.

Word Today, June 29, 2001 (Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles)

    Readings: Acts 12: 1-11 / 2 Tm 4: 6-8, 17-18 / Mt 16: 13-19

The celebration of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul is very important for the whole Church.  St. Peter was designated by Christ to be the head of the Catholic Church.  St. Paul, by a special plan of God, was the great apostle of the gentiles, the person who made the Church spread out because of his apostolic zeal.  Both these apostles were martyred in the City of Rome, thus making Rome the center of the Catholic world.

The Pope is the head of the Church because, as bishop of Rome, he is the successor of St. Peter. Because of St. Peter, the Church of Rome was, from the earliest days of Christianity, accepted as the head of all the other Churches.  This primacy and leadership is not exercised in a despotic way, but it is a service of charity.  When the Pope exercises his authority, he is doing what Christ told Peter to do, "Feed my lambs…feed my sheep."

Word Today, June 30, 2001 (First Martyrs of the Church in Rome)

    Readings: Gen 18: 1-5 / Mt 8: 5-17

After celebrating the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, it is very fitting that we now celebrate the memory of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.  Who were they?  Do you remember the mad emperor Nero, who is said to have played the "violin" or more probably a kind of harp, as he saw the poor quarter of Rome being burned?  Nero may have been responsible for that conflagration, in order to continue his construction projects for the city of Rome.  But the Christians, since they were quite unknown, became the scapegoat for the fire.  Many people did not know who they were. People saw them as a strange sect that was also subversive. Hence, the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire began.  Many of the early Christians were martyred.

There is a saying, "The field of the Church is watered by the blood of the martyrs."  The sacrifice of these first Christians attracted God's grace for the conversion of many more.  Let us be grateful to these heroes of the faith, and let us not hesitate to do the same if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation.

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