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SEPTEMBER 2001

Word Today, Sept. 1, 2001 (Saturday of the 21st Week)

    Readings: 1 Thes 4:9-11/ Mt 25:14-30

"As for the unprofitable servant, cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth." That is how the parable of the talents ends - with the condemnation of the servant who did not make use of the talent entrusted by the master. The "talent" here refers to an amount of money. But "talent" can also be understood as our natural gifts from God. 

We all have our talents. We have talents not for ourselves but for the service to other persons and to society. We have the obligation to use these talents, not to keep them idle. Once again, we can see how important it is for the Christian not to lead an idle and useless life. 

Word Today, Sept. 2, 2001 (Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29/ Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a/ Lk 14:1, 7-14  

The gospel reading of today contains a very valuable piece of advice from Jesus Christ. "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted". (Lk 14:11) History is replete with examples of the downfall of those who allowed themselves to be blinded by their pride.  

The virtue of humility is said to be the "foundation" of the spiritual life. It is what all the other virtues have to build on. For example, deeds of service and acts of charity, if based on pride and self-complacency, will be worthless before God's eyes. They would not really be charity, because they would just be outlets for the assertion of one's ego and sense of superiority. 

On the other hand, the humble person is ready to receive the transforming influence of the grace of God. Since he does not think too highly about himself, he is ready to receive the objective criticism of others. If he makes a mistake, he is not overeager to cover up his tracks in order to hide the mistake; but he is ready to rectify and is even filled with joy because the resulting correction will be objectively better. The humble person is truthful and objective. He seeks the good, and the least important consideration is who gets the credit for it. 

Word Today, Sept. 3, 2001 (Monday of the 22nd Week)

    Readings: 1 Thes 4:13-18/ Lk 4:16-30  

The Messiah is identified by the prophecy. "He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favor." Later on, when the Baptist's disciples inquire about Jesus' credentials, he tells them "the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them." 

The Church has always recommended the relief of the material and spiritual needs of our neighbors. Thus tradition has come to enumerate the so-called seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. We should engage in these works of service to our fellow men. Our readiness to serve them with personal sacrifice is a sign that Jesus is with us. 

Word Today, Sept. 4, 2001 (Tuesday of the 22nd Week)

    Readings: 1 Thes 5:1-6, 9-11/ Lk 4:31-37  

The gospel says that Jesus' "teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority." What does "authority" in this context mean? The "author" of a book is the one who made it. Being the maker, who else could know it better? Who else could speak with more credibility and reliability? The supreme authority is God since he is the creator, the author, of all things. But God governs us through others. As St. Paul says, "All authority comes from God." Hence we must respect and obey all legitimate authority. If not, we shall end up in chaos, not knowing what to follow. 

By divine institution, the authority in the Church resides in the hierarchy. It does not come from the people but from God. On the other hand, civil authority can come in various ways. Christians should obey the civil authority as representing God in the temporal sphere. There is no conflict in the heart of the Christian between his religious loyalty and his loyalty to his country. They both allude to God in different spheres of life. 

Word Today, Sept. 5, 2001 (Wednesday of the 22nd Week)

    Readings: Col 1:1-8/ Lk 4:38-44  

The gospel today talks about Simon Peter's mother-in-law who was cured by Jesus and who then began to wait on Jesus and his followers in Peter's house. This incident shows that Peter, the prince of the apostles, was a married person. Some people cite this to try to remove the requirement of celibacy for the priesthood in the Latin rite. Thus it would be good to make a short clarification. 

While it is true that Peter was a married man, the practice of celibacy for priests and bishops in the Catholic Church hails from apostolic times. How? The primary meaning of celibacy is related to continence or abstention from the conjugal act. In the early Church, those who became priests and bishops practiced such continence, so they were either non-married persons or, if they were married, the wife agreed to this requirement of the priesthood. The modern mind may find this incongruous or even impossible. Yet an outlook with faith and a true appreciation of the Catholic priesthood will help us understand it. In fact there are many priests who joyfully practice this voluntary renunciation in a close imitation of Christ and the apostles. 

Word Today, Sept. 6, 2001 (Thursday of the 22nd Week)

    Readings: Col 1:9-14/ Lk 5:1-11  

"Master, the whole night through we have toiled and have caught nothing; but at your word I will lower the net." Peter could have alleged many more reasons for not doing what Christ said. Peter was the expert on fishes while Christ's expertise was more in the field of carpentry. Peter must have been very tired after having fished all night long.  

The obedience of Peter was rewarded with the miraculous catch. In retrospect, it was not the fish that mattered, it was the lesson imparted. In the tasks of God, we must value obedience. Once we are sure that a command comes from the Lord (and such would be the case if it is obedience to the legitimately consituted superiors in the Church), then we should obey wholeheartedly. The fruits of our labors will depend more on obedience than on our own skills. 

Word Today, Sept. 7, 2001 (Friday of the 22nd Week)

    Readings: Col 1:15-20/ Lk 5:33-39  

In the gospel reading today Jesus Christ refers to himself as the bridegroom. This symbolism is found in other places. For example, in his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul compares Christ to the groom and the Church to the bride. He uses this as a model of mutual marital love. 

While this may not be the main reason for it, this is one of the arguments that can help us understand why it is so appropriate that the priesthood in the Catholic Church be reserved to men only. Since the priest has to be another Christ, and Christ is the groom of his bride, the Church, then the priest should appropriately be a man. This will also help us understand the appropriateness of priestly celibacy. The priest is already "married" to the Church. 

Word Today, Sept. 8, 2001 (The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

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

Today is the liturgical celebration of the birthday of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. We of course don't know the exact date of Mary's birth. Nevertheless, we can set aside a particular day to commemorate this most wonderful event that St Andrew of Crete says is the "prelude" for the "union of the Word with flesh." In any case, the Church is consistent in celebrating Mary's birth exactly nine months after the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. 

Just like Christ, Mary is alive right now. She is in heaven, body and soul. Having a personal relationship with her as Mother of the Church and Mother of each one of us, we should make this a day of rejoicing. It is also a good day to do what we normally do on birthdays - give gifts. What gift will you offer the Blessed Mother today? 

Word Today, Sept. 9, 2001 (Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Wis 9:13-18a/ Phlm 9b-10, 12-17/ Lk 14:25-33  

The lesson we find in the gospel is based on real events. "Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not sit down first and calculate the outlays that are necessary, whether he has the means to complete? Lest, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all who see begin to mock him--this man began to build and was not able to finish." (Lk 14:28-30)  

Based on this down-to-earth example, Jesus Christ is teaching us something referring to our Christian life. The Christian life has been compared to a building. There are many attractive features in it; but there are also difficulties in its "construction". If we truly want to embark on it or to persevere in it, we have to be ready to face these obstacles. The Christian life contains the promise of a relative happiness on earth and an absolute one in heaven. It is truly worth pursuing. At the same time, we must be ready to undertake it wholeheartedly and without half-measures. Thus we can understand why Christ demands a readiness on our part to sacrifice everything else that we may hold dear--such as loved ones, and our very own life. In other words, we have to put God in the first place, and have no qualms about it.   

Word Today, Sept. 10, 2001 (Monday of the 23rd Week)

Readings: Col 1:24--2:3/ Lk 6:6-11  

St. Paul makes a bold assertion in the letter to the Colossians that comprises today's first reading. "(W)hat is lacking of the sufferings of Christ I fill up in my flesh for his body, which is the Church." 

We know that Christ saved us through his suffering, death and resurrection. The cross is the symbol of our salvation. But it is not automatic. We have to identify ourselves with Christ on the cross. St. Paul's words could mean that our voluntary acceptance of sufferings has a great value of atonement. We can help the rest of the Church if we learn to accept tribulations and sufferings. As the Pope said in one of his letters, suffering has a special salvific value. Let us learn to find this value in our daily setbacks.

Word Today, Sept. 11, 2001 (Tuesday of the 23rd Week)

    Readings: Col 2:6-15/ 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, Sept. 12, 2001 (Wednesday of the 23rd Week)

    Readings: Col 3:1-11/ 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. 

Word Today, Sept. 13, 2001 (Thursday of the 23rd Week)

    Readings: Col 3:12-17/ Lk 6:27-38  

What a demanding gospel! "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who calumniate you." Is it really possible to do this? Or is this just a rhetorical exaggeration? 

Perhaps the best answer to this question is Christ himself. He died on the cross, brutally treated, yet he died forgiving those who killed him. He even had a "rationalization" for them: they do not know what they are doing. So the answer to our question is that this must be possible. It is possible if we look to Christ. When we find it hard to forgive those who have done us wrong, let us think of Christ on the cross and ask him for grace and strength to fulfill his demands. 

Word Today, Sept. 14, 2001 (The Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

    Readings: Nm 21:4b-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, Sept. 15, 2001 (Our Lady of Sorrows)

    Readings: 1 Tm 1:15-17 (442)/ 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. 

Word Today, Sept. 16, 2001 (Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14/ 1 Tm 1:12-17/ Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10  

We are fortunate indeed that Jesus Christ has revealed to us that God has a father's heart. He never turns aside a sinner who is truly repentant. The prodigal son's father, for all his readiness to accept his son back, could not do so unless the son himself had realized his foolishness and decided to return home. No matter how much God would want us to repent, God cannot do the repenting for us. We have to make a move. That move consists of two things: first, to recognize our guilt; and second, to decide to turn away from it and to return back to God. After all, we are free creatures.  

But yes, the parable of the prodigal son encourages us to do precisely those things, because it shows us how ready God is to accept us. God is a God of justice, but He is not a God of hatred. God will require due payment for our actions and their consequences, but not in a cold and merciless way. He is ready to restore our lost dignity to us, and to let us reside once again in our father's home.  

Word Today, Sept. 17, 2001 (Monday of the 24th Week)

    Readings: 1 Tm 2:1-8/ 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, Sept. 18, 2001 (Tuesday of the 24th Week)

    Readings: 1 Tm 3:1-13/ Lk 7:11-17

In today's gospel, Jesus Christ resurrected the only son of a widow because "he had compassion on her." She would have been left all alone in this world. 

While we must all face the reality of death, when it does come close to us, as in the death of a loved one or a member of the family, we all feel the need for the sympathy of other people. Then we should remember this incident. Christ himself takes compassion on us, as we mourn the loss of our loved ones.  

Word Today, Sept. 19, 2001 (Wednesday of the 24th Week)

    Readings: 1 Tm 3:14-16/ Lk 7:31-35

Jesus Christ compared the attitude of his contemporaries to that of "spoiled brats" who keep on complaining just because things do not turn out exactly as they want it. "We have piped to you, and you have not danced; we have sung dirges, and you have not wept." They always found fault with Christ. 

Fault-finding, negative criticism, ultimately comes from selfishness and egotism. If it is not our duty to do so, we should refrain from judging and criticizing others. Instead, we should look at the good traits of others and praise God from whom all good things come. 

Word Today, Sept. 20, 2001 (Thursday of the 24th Week)

    Readings: 1 Tm 4:12-16/ Lk 7:36-50  

The incident of the penitent woman narrated in Lk 7:36-50 has many wonderful lessons for us. Today we can focus on the reaction of Jesus, of how he told his host Simon that he somehow "missed" the small details of affection and courtesy from him; on the other hand, the penitent woman, because she loved much, showed him such details. 

When there is love, then affection is shown in details. That is why a clear manifestation of love for Christ is the care we take of all things related to him. For example, we should take care of cleanliness and order in the house of the Lord. We should treat reverently all those things that have to do with worship. These are not just external forms -- they show our love for Christ. 

Word Today, Sept. 21, 2001 (St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist)

    Readings: 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 are 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, Sept. 22, 2001 (Saturday of the 24th Week)

    Readings: 1 Tm 6:13-16/ Lk 8:4-15 Saturday of the 24th Week

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, Sept. 23, 2001 (Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Am 8:4-7/ 1 Tm 2:1-8/ Lk 16:1-13 or 16:10-13 

The Gospel of today contains a very accurate observation that is also a wise piece of advice: "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much." (Lk 16:10) Fidelity! What a wonderful quality that we would all like to benefit from. What assurance we have if we can count on a friend who is loyal and faithful. What consolation to know that our partner in life is a faithful spouse. What good could be done if priests and religious were always faithful to their commitments to God and their superiors. Likewise, what dread fills us when we think of the treacherous friend, of the unfaithful spouse, or the lukewarm person of God.  

Fidelity is a virtue of strength. A person may be amiable to us--but he is a faithful friend only if that bond of friendship endures even in times of trouble and need. We may have been attracted to our lifelong partner, but fidelity will be tested only if the union remains strong even if the attraction has faded and the problems of daily living have to be faced. A consecrated person is faithful--and there are many wonderful examples in our midst--when he remains in his station, even when the odds of indifferentism are up against him. And because it is a virtue of strength, faithfulness has to be nurtured by little things. Those strong cables that are capable of holding up tons of concrete and steel, get their strength from each small strand that makes it up. So fidelity in our commitments will only be possible if we are faithful in little things.  

Word Today, Sept. 24, 2001 (Monday of the 25th Week)

    Readings: Ezr 1:1-6/ Lk 8:16-18

"There is nothing hidden that will not be made manifest; nor anything concealed that will not be made known and come to light." Nothing can be hidden from the eyes of God. And ultimately, because the last judgment will come, nothing can be hidden from everyone else. 

This is a consideration that should move us to be very sincere. We must love the truth. This also means that we should live in such a way that we do not have anything to hide, because we are acting in an upright way.  

Word Today, Sept. 25, 2001 (Tuesday of the 25th Week)

Readings: Ezr 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20/ Lk 8:19-21 

"My mother and brethren are they who hear the word of God, and act upon it." With these words, Jesus Christ pointed out the foundation of a Christian's close relationship with God. 

A Christian is a child of God. God is his father. This is because we are brothers and sisters of Jesus. We become his brothers and sisters by receiving the word of God in faith, and striving to put these words into practice. Jesus was not belittling his relationship with Mary. Rather, he was showing the true foundation of Mary's greatness. Of all persons, she was the one who best accepted and acted upon God's word. 

Word Today, Sept. 26, 2001 (Wednesday of the 25th Week)

    Readings: Ezr 9:5-9/ Lk 9:1-6

The apostles were sent on a mission involving visiting people ("Whatever house you enter, remain there...") and healing the sick. From the very first centuries of Christianity, the Church has always wanted to accompany those who are sick by alleviating their sufferings and helping them to give meaning to their pain. 

It has been said that a civilization can be evaluated based on the way its members take care of the weaker ones of society -- the sick, the little children, the aged, etc. When there is such care, then there is genuine humanity and civilization. When such care is missing, it shows a general disregard for the person. In spite of material wealth, that society is really poor in humanity. There is no true joy. 

Word Today, Sept. 27, 2001 (Thursday of the 25th Week)

    Readings: Hg 1:1-8/ Lk 9:7-9

The gospel today points out that Herod was anxious to see Jesus because he had heard of the many marvels that Jesus did. However, we know that this eagerness was not satisfied. And when Jesus appeared before Herod during the Passion, Jesus did not even open his mouth to satisfy Herod's curiosity. 

On the other hand, Jesus told his follows, "Blessed are you because you see and hear." They were not just moved by idle curiosity. They were truly seeking God, so Jesus revealed himself to them. He gave them lessons and wisdom, he showed them works of kindness. Let us be like the apostles in our eagerness to know Jesus and our readiness to change our life accordingly. Let us not be like Herod who only saw Jesus as an "interesting specimen", without any desire to change his life.

Word Today, Sept. 28, 2001 (St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions)

    Readings: Hg 1:15b--2:9/ Lk 9:18-22

Today is the feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions. As we all know, St. Lorenzo is the first canonized Filipino saint. It has taken four centuries before we had our first canonized saint. Yet the faith has truly taken deep root in our hearts and in our culture. Perhaps it is also providential that we have had to wait because we now see a deeper meaning behind St. Lorenzo's life. 

It is significant that our first canonized saint was a layperson, an active parish member, and an exile of some sort because he had to go overseas in an effort to flee from injustice. Many of our countrymen are in the same situation. But above all we should identify with St. Lorenzo is his readiness to stand up to his faith even if he felt the temptation of saving his own hide at the expense of conscience.  

Word Today, Sept. 29, 2001 (Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels)

    Readings: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 or Rv 12:7-12a/ Jn 1:47-51 

Today the Church remembers the Holy Archangels whose names appear in Sacred Scripture. These are Michael, depicted as God's warrior; Gabriel, the messenger of God; and Raphael, depicted as God's healer and guide for travelers. 

Sept. 29 was originally the feast of St. Michael alone. Hence it is appropriate that we recall here the beautiful prayer of St. Michael that was included among the devotional prayers after mass by Pope Leo XIII. "St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do you, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen." 

Word Today, Sept. 30, 2001 (Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings: Am 6:1a, 4-7/ 1 Tm 6:11-16/ Lk 16:19-31

The gospel of today is all about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man was completely unconcerned for the situation of his poor neighbor Lazarus. The rich man enjoyed himself while Lazarus wallowed in his needs. But when they died, and had to receive their eternal recompense, the situation was reversed. Lazarus was in heaven (the bosom of Abraham), while the rich man was thrust to hell. We can say that the rich man had made a very bad investment of his riches.  

The Church, following the teachings and actions of Christ, has always had a special concern for all those in need--the poor, the orphans and widows, the sick, prisoners, travelers, etc. Some people falsely claim that the Church has historically sided with the rich, to the disadvantage of the poor; and that now, the Church has to change sides because of a greater awareness of the need for social justice. That position is historically and doctrinally wrong. The Church does not take sides in temporal matters because Her aim is a supernatural one--the salvation of souls, of all souls, sick and poor, young and old, black and white. However, she does manifest a preferential love for the poor, because of Christ's commandment of love.  

Historically, the Church has always had a preferential love for the poor and the needy, without in any way neglecting the materially rich who, in some way, may be even more needy. The apostles already had a special concern for the care of the helpless (e.g., poor widows), as we can read in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. To alleviate the various needs, especially of people who were neglected by society, the Church inspired the establishment of charitable institutions, such as leprosariums, hospitals, orphanages, educational centers, etc. The Church has always fostered the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. 
 

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