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APRIL 2000

Word Today,
April 1, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Hos 6:1-6 / Lk 18:9-14

What a contrast!  Jesus Christ shows us the figure of the self-satisfied and smug Pharisee.  He can find no fault in himself.  He only sees what he thinks as "virtues".  But they are not really virtues.  They are just external observances lacking in virtue because they do not refer to a good state of soul.  On the other hand we have the figure of the Publican.  He is aware of his sinfulness, and can only ask for God's mercy.  It was the Publican that "went home again at rights with God."

We cannot address ourselves to God with self-complacency.  God is truth, and so we cannot face God with the bold-faced lie that we are "good".  Rather, we must face our human condition, our shortcomings and miseries.  Then we can, with humility, look at God and relate to him as the prodigal son in the parable.

Word Today, April 2, 2000 (Sunday)

    Lectionary: 2 Chr 36:14-17 / Eph 2:4-10 / Jn 3:14-21

"God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son."  These words were the theme of the 1995 World Youth Day that took place in Manila.  On that day, there were four million (others even say five) people gathered around the Holy Father.  This is, to date, the biggest single gathering of people in all of human history.

People sang these words.  They acted it out, they danced it out.  We should continue spreading the message of God's love.  The best way to see God's love is to get close to Jesus, whom God gave us to be our brother and guide. This Jubilee celebration commemorates two thousand years of Jesus' presence.  Now we have him in our midst in the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is the sacrament, the visible presence, of God's love for us.

Word Today, April 3, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Is 65:17-21 / Jn 4:43-54

"There is no respect for a prophet in his own country."  That was the reason why many of the town-mates of Jesus could not accept him.  Don't we find something similar happening in the lives of many Christians?

When a person decides to take the faith seriously, that person will often have to deal with ridicule and disbelief from people he/she is close to.  Co-employees, members of the family, close friends, may all wonder, "What has gotten into you?"  That person should not be discouraged.  The initial skepticism can be overcome by perseverance.  Consistency of life is the most eloquent form of apologetics.

Word Today, April 4, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Ez 47: 1-9 / Jn 5: 1-16

Today's gospel is about the curing of a lame person at the pool of Bethsaida.  The man's situation was that he could not avail of the miraculous waters of the pool because, when he had the chance to get in to be cured, other people would go ahead of him.  Being lame, he could not move by himself, and besides, "I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred." 

How many people there are who could give the same excuse to God when they face the last judgment!  They could not avail of the curing grace available in the Church's sacraments because there was no one to help them. We cannot stand by passively while we see relatives and friends far from God.  Some of them may need just a little bit of encouragement so that they go to the sacrament of reconciliation. We have a responsibility to help those around us in their physical and spiritual needs. 

Word Today, April 5, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Is 49: 8-15 / Jn 5: 17-30 

"Amen, amen I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the father doing ...Of myself I can do nothing." These words of Jesus Christ manifest his absolute unity with God the Father, the perfect fulfillment of the will of God. 

We too, seeking to be close to God, should strive to do everything with God's help. We should recognize that without God's help, we would end up bungling everything.  When things turn out well, we should readily recognize that whatever good we may have achieved comes from God.  When things turn out badly, we must recognize our fault, perhaps for not corresponding enough to the help that God is providing us. 

Word Today, April 6, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Ex 32: 7-14 / Jn 5: 31-47 

"The works that I do bear witness to me, that the Father has sent me." The apostles were especially chosen witnesses, to testify on the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  All Christians are called to be witnesses to their belief in Christ.  The sacrament of confirmation constitutes the follower of Christ to be a witness. 

The best way of witnessing is through a consistent life.  If we truly live as children of God, then we will practice the first commandment, the commandment of charity.  And we will be filled with joy.  Charity and joy are two of the most convincing "arguments" in favor of the faith. 

Word Today, April 7, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Wis 2: 1, 12-22 / Jn 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30 

The gospel readings of the past few days depict the growing rift between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews.  In today's reading, this reaches the point where "they wanted to seize him, but no one laid hands on him because his hour had not yet come." 

A few days ago we commemorated the anniversary of the martyrdom of the second Filipino to be raised to the altars, Blessed Pedro Calungsod.  He, with the head of the mission, earned the ire of the apostate who would kill them out of hatred for the faith.  Every person who wants to follow Jesus must be ready to face difficulties and even to face martyrdom.  If ever it comes, we know that it is all in the plan of God.

Word Today, April 8, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Jer 11: 18-20 / Jn 7: 40-53 

In today's gospel we find the daring defense that Nicodemus makes in favor of Jesus.  That defense earned Nicodemus the antagonism of his companions in the Sanhedrin.  His colleagues even criticized him personally, "Are you also a Galilean?" 

We first saw Nicodemus going to Christ secretly for fear of the other Jews.  Now he is ready to stick out his own neck for Christ.  Later on he would even be bolder.  In Jn 19: 39, he would help anoint the body of the apparently defeated Christ.  To be a witness to Christ, we should not be afraid or ashamed to speak out on his behalf.  We should not be ashamed to show our faith to our colleagues and friends, even if it may bring us unfair criticism. 

Word Today, April 9, 2000 (Sunday)

    Lectionary: Jer 31: 31-34 / Heb 5: 7-9 / Jn 12: 20-33 

We are just a week away from Holy Week.  We are being prepared by the Church for the commemoration of the Paschal Mystery.  The gospel today contains the rationale of the events of Holy Week.  "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit." 

Christ will have to die, so that we can all live.  It will not be easy for Jesus to do so.  "My soul is troubled now."  But he freely decides to go ahead with the plan because that is the whole purpose of his earthly existence.  We too may have difficulty in following God's plan for our life. When we find it hard, let us remember that no fruit can come unless the grain apparently dies. 

Word Today, April 11, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Nm 21: 4-9 / Jn 8: 21-30  

The tension between Jesus Christ and the leaders of the Jews is building up.  In today's gospel reading, Jesus Christ sounds exasperated at the hardheadedness of the leaders.  Finally he tells them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he." 

In retrospect, we now know that the "lifting up" refers to the method of execution called the crucifixion.  The victim was fastened by the arms or hands to a bar of wood, which was then lifted up to be supported by a vertical piece.  The cross, which was a method of execution, is now the sign of a follower of Christ.  What was meant to be the final weapon of defeat has turned out to be the symbol of victory.  If we remain faithful to God, our apparent defeats will also turn out to be victories.  

Word Today, April 12, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Dn 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95 / Jn 8: 31-42  

Jesus said, "The truth shall make you free."  Many people associate freedom with the mere absence of external constraints.  But while that may be an important condition for freedom, the core of freedom does not lie in an absence or a negation.  Freedom is an affirmation.  It is an affirmation of our ability to make choices, to decide, to determine ourselves.  

If freedom is the ability to choose, then true knowledge is something that liberates.  And the opposite of truth, error or ignorance, is what really oppresses man. The more we search for truth and embrace it, the more free we become.  But if we allow ourselves to be moved by our whims and passions instead of true principles, we will find ourselves enslaved by those very whims.  

Word Today, April 13, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Gn 17:3-9 / Jn 8: 51-59  

The gospel today contains one of the clearest assertions of the divine nature of Jesus Christ. "Before Abraham came to be, I am."  Jesus was obviously referring to the proper name of God, unmentionable to the pious Hebrew, "Yahweh" or "I am who am," the name by which God identified himself to Moses at the burning bush.  

We cannot reduce Christ to a popular political figure, a great teacher of life or a philosopher.  The most important reality about this man whom the gospels talk about is that he is the true Son of God, God himself. A Christian believes not only in the wisdom of Christ's teachings, he believes in the person of Christ himself.  He believes him to be God, otherwise he is not a Christian.  That is why, with all due respect for their opinion, the Philippine sect called "Iglesia ni Cristo" that follows the Arian teaching that Jesus is only a very special man, cannot really be considered "Christian."  

Word Today, April 14, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Jer 20: 10-13 / Jn 10: 31-42  

The gospel of today shows us that to be the true "Son of God" is the same as to be God.  The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which is recited at the Eucharistic Celebration, contains the formula that Jesus Christ is "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in Being with the Father."  That repetition of like coming from like refers to the unity of nature between God the Father and God the Son.  To be the true son is to be of the same nature as the progenitor.  

Jesus then is the "only-begotten" Son of God.  But, as John says in his gospel, we also have the power of becoming sons of God.  We can become so not by nature, but by grace, by a kind of adoption by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ.  Our "divine sonship" is the foundation of our Christian life.   

Word Today, April 15, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Ez 37: 21-28 / Jn 11: 45-57  

"It is expedient for us that one man die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing."  Here we have an example of how God can communicate to us at different levels of understanding.  While the Sanhedrin were thinking in political categories, the evangelist could see that there was a deeper and more lasting meaning to those words.  Their deeper meaning belonged to the order of salvation for all time and for all men.  

Jesus Christ died in order to make us "children of God."  How grateful we should be to God.  He did not leave us alone in our sinfulness.  He did what was necessary to restore us to his friendship.   

Word Today, April 16, 2000 (Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion)

    Lectionary: Is 50: 4-7 / Phil 2: 6-11 / Mk 14: 1- 15: 47  

Today we begin the Holy Week.  The opening liturgy re-enacts Jesus Christ's triumphal entry to Jerusalem, as he is acclaimed by the people through the waving of palms.  But this apparent victory is short-lived.  The gospel reading is about the passion of the Lord, from his agony in the garden all the way to his death and burial.  

By presenting the passion to us, the Church is encouraging us to reflect this week on those fateful events.  We can only fully appreciate the Paschal Mystery if we know the meaning of the suffering and death of Christ.  As we reflect on the different aspects of the passion, there is an important viewpoint we should always maintain.  Christ endured all that suffering out of love for us.  We should not remain indifferent.   

Word Today, April 17, 2000 (Monday in Holy Week)

    Lectionary: Is 42: 1-7 / Jn 12: 1-11  

The gospel reading today contains the incident that may have confirmed the traitor Judas in his decision to betray Jesus.  Judas was "scandalized" by what he considered the excessive prodigality of Mary of Bethany towards the person of Jesus.  "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?"  Jesus corrected Judas not because of his concern for the poor, but for his lack of refinement with Christ himself.  

There is no conflict between concern for the poor and generosity in worship.  The physical conditions of the church and of the materials used for worship, especially those which come in contact with the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, must be elegant and noble.  Without being luxurious, they should be dignified.  The anawim, the poor of the Lord, appreciate generosity in worship.  They are like the widow who gave in her little mite and earned the admiration of Christ for her generosity.   

Word Today, April 18, 2000 (Tuesday in Holy Week)

    Lectionary: Is 49: 1-6 / Jn 13: 21-33, 36-38 

The gospel today talks about two disappointing events.  The first event is betrayal of the Lord by Judas.  The second event is the prediction of St. Peter's denial.  At this point, they both seem to be equally disappointing. We know that later on, however, the betrayal of Judas will end up in apparent despair, while the denial of Peter will end up in repentance. 

We are all prone to fall short of the expectations God has for us.  Let us try to react like Peter rather than like Judas.  The key is to keep close to Christ, to turn to Jesus Christ, even in our very failures.  Turn to Christ in sorrow and repentance, with the hope of being forgiven.  Do not fall into despair.  

Word Today, April 19, 2000 (Wednesday in Holy Week)

    Lectionary: Is 50: 4-9 / Mt 26: 14-25 

The gospel reading still focuses on the betrayal of Judas.  We can learn something from Matthew's narrative.  We know that Judas had already decided to betray Jesus.  Yet when each apostle asks the Lord if he (the apostle who is asking the question) would be the unknown betrayer, Judas has the audacity to pretend that he still was not aware of his betrayal.  He was being insincere and hypocritical. 

Perhaps the difference between Peter's ability to repent and Judas' recourse to despair lies in their sincerity.  Peter, in spite of his weakness, was sincere.  Judas, with all his apparent cleverness, was insincere.  We have a test of sincerity in the sacrament of Penance.  By being sincere in confession, we can turn our mistakes into opportunities for conversion.  

Word Today, April 20, 2000 (Holy Thursday)

    Lectionary: Chrism Mass: Is 61: 1-3, 6, 8-9 / Rv 1: 5-8 / Lk 4: 16-21
    Mass of the Lord's Supper: Ex 12: 1-8 / 1Cor 11: 23-26 / Jn 13: 1-15

Today is a very special day.  We commemorate the institution of two very important sacraments.  In the Chrism Mass, we remember how Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament we now call "Holy Orders", by designating the apostles present at the Last Supper as priests, by telling them to do the Eucharistic sacrifice "in remembrance of me."  In the Mass of the Lord's Supper, we pay more attention to the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. 

Let us pray today for more vocations to the priesthood.  Let us pray for the holiness and faithfulness of all priests.  Let us try to accompany the Eucharistic Lord in the altars of repose where he will be kept this evening.  

Word Today, April 21, 2000 (Good Friday)

    Lectionary: Is 52: 13- 53: 12 / Heb 4: 14-16, 5: 7-9 / Jn 18: 1- 19: 42 

Perhaps we are puzzled by the designation of this Friday of the Lord's death as something "good".  It goes along the same line as the phrase we shall find during the Easter chant (Exultet) which refers to the fall of Adam and Eve as the "happy sin".  This is a good Friday because our redemption is finally accomplished.  Heaven is opened for us.  The fall of our first parents is "happy" because, as the chant says, it was the cause for the coming of such a wonderful Redeemer and Savior. 

Today there is a communion rite and adoration (or veneration) of the cross.  We adore the cross in so far as the cross is the special symbol of Christ himself who is God.  As we gaze at the dead Christ limp on the cross, we look forward to his coming resurrection.  

Word Today, April 22, 2000 (Holy Saturday)

    Lectionary: None 

Today is a day without any official liturgy.  We remember the Lord as he lay in the tomb.  In anticipation of the joy of Easter, we now consider the loneliness of death and sin. 

Sin separates us from God.  A soul separated from God is desolate and empty.  As Augustin said, our hearts have been made for God, and they remain restless until they rest in God.  If we find ourselves cut off from God by sin, let us not hesitate to turn back to him.  The greatest joy is the joy of conversion.  

Word Today, April 23, 2000 (Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection)

    Lectionary: Acts 10: 34a, 37-43 / Col 3: 1-4 (or 1 Cor 5: 6-8) / Jn 20: 1-9 

Easter is the most important celebration for Christianity. With faith, we do not consider it merely as an event that has taken place and is over. Easter is an on-going reality because Christ IS risen. 

The motto of this Great Jubilee Year is "Christus, heri, hodie, semper." It means "Christ, yesterday, today, always."  Jesus Christ lives and exists right now, just as he was two thousand years ago.  As followers of this living Christ, we are invited to be his friend, to have a personal relationship with him.  

Word Today, April 24, 2000 (Monday, second day of Easter Octave)

    Lectionary: Acts 2: 14, 22-32 / Mt 28: 8-15 

So important is the celebration of Easter that the Church actually celebrates it for the whole week.  "Octave" means a period of 8 days, counting Easter Sunday up to the next Sunday.  In fact, every Sunday is like a reminder of Easter.  Sunday is the Lord's day because it was the day that he rose from the dead. 

This week, we are invited to consider the risen Christ in a more vivid way. We shall see the different ways that he appeared to his followers. We should seek Christ in our daily life.  Perhaps we can find him in all those persons we meet who are in some kind of need.  

Word Today, April 25, 2000 (Tuesday, third day of Easter Octave)

    Lectionary: Acts 2:36-41 / Jn 20: 11-18

In the first reading, we see one of the first fruits of the resurrection of Christ.  Peter told the people that they had to "repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven." At the end of the day, "some three thousand were added to their number."

Through the sacrament of Baptism, we enter into the new life of God.  Baptism is the foundation of our Christian life.  Through it we become children of God and heirs of heaven.  Last Sunday, we renewed our baptismal commitments.  The demands of our Christian life are nothing more than the very same demands of our baptism.

Word Today, April 26, 2000 (Wednesday, fourth day of Easter Octave)

    Lectionary: Acts 3: 1-10 / Lk 24: 13-35

The encounter of Jesus Christ, incognito, with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, is one of the most moving and dramatic apparitions of the Lord.  Jesus gradually healed the wounds of the two disappointed persons.  And when their faith had been restored, then Christ revealed himself to them.  They then commented, "Were not our hearts filled with ardent yearning when he was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scripture?

Christians have to be other Christs.  Through our behavior, can our friends and colleagues feel a special presence of the Lord?

Word Today, April 27, 2000 (Thursday, fifth day of Easter Octave)

    Lectionary: Acts 3: 11-26 / Lk 24:35-48

In the apparition narrated in today's gospel, Jesus emphasizes his material and visible characteristics.  He asks them to "look" at his wounds, to "touch" him.  As a clincher, to show that he is not a spirit, he asks them for something to eat.

As human beings, we are not pure spirits.  Even the noblest things reach us through sensible realities.  There is a philosophical adage that says, "Nothing is in the mind that was not first in the senses."  Hence we can understand the appropriateness of images and other visible signs in religion.  The use of images is not idolatry.  Images are referred to God and his special friends, the saints in heaven.  Images emphasize the reality of the incarnation of Christ.

Word Today, April 28, 2000 (Friday, sixth day of Easter Octave)

    Lectionary: Acts 4: 1-12 / Jn 21: 1-14

The gospel today is about the miraculous catch of fish.  Before the resurrection of Christ, there was a similar miracle.  But this time, unlike the first one, the evangelist says "the net was not torn" in spite of being full of big fish,

Remember that the Lord had promised Peter that he would be a "fisher of men."  Hence, fishing is a very good symbol of the apostolate.  In apostolic work, we may sometimes feel that the instruments (ourselves) are inadequate.  They may even break.  But with Christ, the instruments can hold out.  In the midst of apostolic activity, we must keep close to the risen Christ in order not to break.

Word Today, April 29, 2000 (Saturday, seventh day of Easter Octave)

    Lectionary: Acts 4: 13-21 / Mk 16: 9-15

As we end this first week of Easter, the Church brings to our attention the mission that Christ gave his Church.  "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News… The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned."

The Second Vatican Council called the Church the "universal sacrament of salvation."  This means that it is the external symbol as well as the visible instrument of the salvation of all men.  The Church is necessary for salvation.  But this does not mean that non-Christians are condemned.  Those who have not received the Good News or who have not accepted it through no fault of their own, can be saved through the grace of Christ.  They have to be faithful to their conscience and live up to the demands of natural morality, just as baptized Christians should.

Word Today, April 30, 2000 (Second Sunday of Easter)

    Lectionary: Acts 4: 32-35 / 1Jn 5: 1-6 / Jn 20: 19-31

The apparition recorded in today's gospel reading is very significant.  It is the first apparition of Christ to the apostles gathered as one.  Christ's words on this occasion are preceded by the very solemn and emphatic introduction, "As the father has sent me, so I send you."  We are made to understand that Jesus is giving them a very important mission, tied up with his very own mission.  What is this?

On this occasion, Jesus gave the apostles the power to forgive sins.  "For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained."  The Church has exercised this power in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.  We need to go to the bishops and priests (the successors of the apostles in this regard) to receive forgiveness.  Yes, they are human.  But Christ gave them this power which they exercise in humility and in the awareness of their own failings.

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