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Word Today, August. 1, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Jer 14: 17-22 / Mt 13: 36-43

Today is the memorial of St. Alphonsus of Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist order.  He was a bishop and he has been declared as a "doctor of the Church" because of his teachings and writings.  One of his most celebrated works is a classical devotional book on the Blessed Virgin entitled "The Glories of Mary."  Like all the saints, St. Alphonsus was a great devotee of Mary.

Having authentic devotion to Mary is a sure way of getting close to Christ, our Mediator to God.  St. Louis Grignon de Montfort cites the following example.  If a poor farmer gives an apple to a king, it is not going to have much value.  But if the same apple is given first to the Queen who, in turn, puts it on a golden plate, and presents it to the King, then it acquires great value.  Let us offer our poor merits through the intercession of Mary and it will become more acceptable to God.

Word Today, August 2, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Jer 15: 10, 16-21 / Mt 13: 44-46

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field."  In order to gain it, the discoverer of the treasure "sells everything he owns and buys the field."

This parable tells us that we must give top priority to the things of God.  It is not enough to make our Christian life "compatible" with our worldly ambitions.  We must be ready to subordinate everything else to what God is asking from us.  To gain the kingdom of heaven, we must be ready to sacrifice everything.  Yet such a sacrifice is worthwhile because the kingdom of heaven is the only treasure that can fill us with happiness and that can never be lost.

Word Today, August 3, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Jer 18: 1-6 / Mt 13: 47-53

The parable in today's gospel compares the kingdom of heaven to the work of fishermen who gather in the fish and then sort out the bad ones from the good ones.  "that is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just and throw them into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth."

The children of Fatima, who were beatified last May by the Pope, received a vision of hell.  The Virgin Mary told them that they had to pray and offer sacrifices for the salvation of poor sinners.  This led them to become zealous in their prayers and sacrifices.  The task of the Church is the salvation of souls.  All those who work in the Church should never lose sight of this ultimate goal.  Like those children, they should be zealous in their work to save people from the punishments of hell.

Word Today, August 4, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Jer 26:1-9 / Mt 13: 54-58

Today is the memorial of St. John Mary Vianney,also called the Curate of Ars, who is the patron saint of priests.  He was a simple and dedicated priest who spent much of his time catechizing his flock and guiding them personally through the sacrament of confession.

We should pray for all priests.  They have been selected by God to be channels of grace to their flock.  The faithful should be very supportive of their priests.  They have given their lives and made many sacrifices for the service of God and souls.  Priests, on the other hand, should be faithful to their priestly commitments.  No one else can do the task that they have been given.

Word Today, August 5, 2000 (Saturday, Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

    Lectionary: Jer 26: 11-16, 24 / Mt 14: 1-12

St. Mary Major is one of the four major basilicas in Rome.  It is considered the "mother" of all churches that are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Its erection is closely tied up with the proclamation by the Council of Ephesus of the Divine Motherhood of Mary.  In the "Hail Mary Prayer" we say, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners."  Mary's vocation to be the mother of God is the root of all the other gifts she has received from God.

Mary is also our mother.  She was designated as such when Jesus was dying on the cross and he entrusted all men (in the person of St. John) to her as her children.  Like all mothers, she takes care of us.  Let us be aware of her role in our life.  One way of doing this is to seek her help and intercession in all our affairs.

Word Today, August 6, 2000 (Sunday, Our Lord's Transfiguration)

    Lectionary: Dn 7: 9-10, 13-14 / 2 Pt 1: 16-19 / Mk 9: 2-10

Before undergoing the Passion, Jesus Christ showed himself in all his glory to the three selected apostles, Peter, James and John.  Jesus appeared "transfigured" -- he was radiant and was talking to Elias and Moses.  Peter was so overwhelmed by the sight that he did not want it to end.  He proposed that they put up three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elias, so that they could continue their coloquium.  But that was not the purpose of this display of glory.  It ended right there and then.  A possible reason for this display was that Jesus wanted to strengthen those three apostles for the trials that they would have to endure when Jesus would not be on Mt. Thabor (the mountain of the transfiguration), but on Mt. Calvary (the mountain of the cross).

God sometimes gives us moments of consolation and joy.  We want this never to end.  But that is not our lot here on earth.  Before enjoying glory, we must first undergo suffering.  But these moments of consolation will help us to go on, to persevere in spite of dryness and difficulties.

Word Today, August 7, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Jer 28: 1-17 / Mt 14: 13-21

The gospel today narrates the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  We already say the version of this miracle, as narrated by St. John, two weeks ago.  We can consider only one aspect of this miracle today.

Jesus and his followers had expected to rest from their labors by going off to a secluded place where there were no people.  But the crowd followed them by another route.  When they landed in their place of rest, they found a great crowd.  Instead of getting annoyed at the people's insistence, the gospel says that Jesus "had compassion on them.  And he healed their sick."  Jesus then became concerned for their comfort and well-being, and that is what occasioned this miracle.

Sometimes we expect to rest and instead we find that the people around us have more needs.  This can happen to a working person who comes home expecting rest, but instead finds his or her spouse, or their children, asking for their attention.  They can imitate Christ.  Instead of getting annoyed, they could see this as an opportunity to show their love by changing their personal plans and attending to the needs of others.

Word Today, August. 8, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Jer 30: 1-2, 12-15, 18-22 / Mt 14: 22-36

Today is the feast of St. Dominic of Guzman, the founder of the Order of Preachers, more commonly called the Dominicans.  St. Dominic saw the need to counteract the Albigensian heresy with sound doctrine coupled to a genuine life of sacrifice.  He required his members to be "mendicants", living off the charity of others; and also to be very knowledgeable in their faith.  The Dominican Order boasts of very eminent Christian thinkers, of whom the foremost is St. Thomas Aquinas.  St. Dominic also fostered the devotion to the Holy Rosary.

Because their mission is to preach the Word of God, the Dominicans are especially devoted to study.  Prayerful study of our faith is a pre-requisite to communicating it.  St. Thomas Aquinas defined the apostolate as "passing on to others what one has contemplated."  While contemplation is a gift of God, it also requires our effort to read and ponder prayerfully on God's word.

Word Today, August 9, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Jer 31: 1-7 / Mt 15: 21-28

The gospel today gives us the edifying example of the Canaanite woman who literally pestered Jesus Christ into performing a miracle.  She can be the patron of all those who, in the Philippines, we call "makulit."  Jesus already told her that He was not sent to do miracles for the Canaanites because "it is not fair to get the children's food and throw it to the house-dogs."  But she retorted that "even the house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master's table."

We should never get discouraged when we petition God for something good, even if we do not seem to get our request.  God wants us to insist.  Such insistence is a manifestation of faith.  If we persevere in prayer, God will always answer our petitions, giving us what is best for us.

Word Today, August 10, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: 2 Cor 9: 6-10 / Jn 12: 24-26

Today is the feast of St. Lawrence, one of the first deacons of the ancient Roman Church.  He was martyred by being slowly "roasted" over a grill.  Representations of St. Lawrence depict him with a kind of man-sized frying pan, where he was executed.  As he was being cooked, he still had the sense of humor to tell the executioner, "Turn me over now and eat!"

Cheerfulness, joy, sense of humor these are traits proper of a child of God, a follower of Christ.  Even in the midst of suffering, a child of God can still be happy because suffering brings him closer to God and to his final destiny of eternal happiness.

Word Today, August 11, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Na 2: 1, 3: 1-3 / Mt 16: 24-28

Today is the memorial of St. Clare.  She founded the sister congregation of the Franciscans.  For the Philippines, the name of St. Clare is associated with the very first convent for women in the Far East, the monastery of Sta. Clara.  It has continued to be a focus of devotion in the Philippines as it has moved its location from the old Manila (Intramuros), to a site in the Philippine capital of Quezon City.  Its foundress, Mother Geronima de la Asuncion, was a contemporary of St. Therese of Jesus.  Like most foundations, her work met a lot of opposition in the new colony.

Monastic foundations are an important part of the life of the Church.  They provide a powerhouse of prayer through the persons living there and through the faithful who go there to pray and to ask for prayers.  They may seem to be enclosed, but their influence reaches far beyond the walls of their enclosure.  Let us pray for more vocations to the monastic and contemplative life.

Word Today, August 12, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Hb 1: 12- 2: 4 / Mt 17: 14-20

This is not the first time that Jesus had to rebuke his apostles for their lack of faith.  In the gospel today, they were unable to cast out a devil from a possessed boy in spite of the fact that they had been doing similar feats on other occasions.  The reason for their failure this time, spelled out clearly by Jesus, was "because you have little faith."

Faith is a virtue that we must constantly try to increase and strengthen.  It is not enough to say, "I believe in those teachings."  We can increase the intensity of our faith by being more open to the action of God in us.  We can also increase our faith by being consistent with it in our life.  Finally, we can strengthen our faith by asking God, just like one of the gospel characters, "Lord, increase my faith."

Word Today, August 13, 2000 (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: 1 Kgs 19: 4-8 / Eph 4: 30-5: 2 / Jn 6: 41-51

In these times that we are becoming more aware of the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in individuals, St. Paul has a beautiful piece of advice for all of us.  "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God."  He then goes on to give more specific pieces of advice regarding charity.  "Never have grudges against others...or allow any sort of spitefulness."

Indeed, we would sadden God who lives in our soul in grace, if we were to harbor grudges or entertain spitefulness.  There is a profound incompatibility between God, who is love, and any kind of hatred or bitterness.  When we find ourselves tempted to despise anyone, let us remember St. Paul's advice, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit" in you.

Word Today, August 14, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Ez 1: 2-5, 24-28 / Mt 17: 22-27

Today is the memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe.  He was a polish Franciscan who died as a martyr in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz during World War II.  Moved by heroic charity, he offered his life in exchange for another prisoner who was about to be executed by the Nazis.  Prior to his imprisonment, St. Maximilian also led a life of apostolic zeal, founding the "Militia of the Immaculata" to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to do works of charity.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is one of the many martyrs of the Twentieth Century, the century that we are now leaving.  The Twentieth Century has been one of the epochs of history that has been graced by the martyrdom of many Christians perpetrated by forces hostile to God and religion.  In the third vision of Fatima, the angel sprinkles all the Christians striving to walk to God, with the blood of the martyrs.  Since the garden of the Church is watered by the blood of the martyrs, we hope to have a "new springtime" for the life of the Church in the coming centuries.

Word Today, August. 15, 2000 (Tuesday, Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary)

    Lectionary: Rv 11: 19, 12: 1-6, 10 / 1 Cor 15: 20-27 / Lk 1: 39-56

Today we celebrate the fact that at the end of her life, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up to heaven in body and soul.  Other saints in heaven are only there in their souls.  They have to await the end of the world for the final resurrection.  Mary, on the other hand, has won a complete victory over sin and the devil -- it is but fitting that she should already enjoy the full glory to which she was destined.

The fact that Mary has already received here complete reward fits in very well with her role in our redemption.  It has been the positive will of God that Mary should collaborate in our redemption not only by bringing Christ into this world.  She also helps to bring Christ into each one of us.  She has a very special role in the "economy" of salvation.  She is the one who mediates on our behalf in order to receive all the graces from God.  Although there are still many points to consider, it is the belief of the Church that Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces, in subordination to and in close connection with the sole mediation of Jesus Christ.

Word Today, August 16, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Ez 9: 1-7; 10: 18-22 / Mt 18: 15-20

Today's gospel is about the very Christian practice of "fraternal correction." "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother."

If we see a fellow Christian doing wrong, rather than harbor uncharitable thoughts or, even worse, spreading bad things about that person, charity requires that we help that person.  We should remember to do so with tact and refinement, not putting the person in an embarrassing situation or doing so in a humiliating way.  If we think that the person will not take it well, let us at least pray for that person and wait for the opportune moment to make the fraternal admonition.

Word Today, August 17, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Ez 12: 1-12 / Mt 18: 21- 19: 1

We have a beautiful lesson from the parable of the "unmerciful servant."  That servant was forgiven a very big debt by his master.  But he was not merciful enough to forgive the small debt of a fellow servant.  He deserved punishment from his master who said, "Wicked servant!  I forgave you all the debt because you entreated me.  Should you not have had pity as well on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?"

This consideration can help us in the humanly difficult task of forgiving those who have wronged us.  If we find it very difficult to forgive, might it not be due to the fact that we do not recognize how much more God has forgiven us?  If we are self-righteous, we will end up not forgiving.  If we strive to be humble, to be aware of our own mistakes, we will be more understanding with others and we will end up forgiving them.

Word Today, August 18, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Ez 16: 1-15 / Mt 19: 3-12

In the gospel reading today, Jesus upheld the indissolubility of marriage.  He rejected divorce, which was an accepted Jewish practice.  He re-instated the original plan of God.  "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."  This shows that the indissolubility of marriage is a matter of natural moral law.  It is a non-negotiable moral teaching.

The Church has recently reminded us that persons who divorce and remarry should not receive holy communion.  Why?  A requirement for receiving communion is a good moral life -- of not being conscious of being in grave sin.  A person who receives communion, having violated the indissolubility of marriage (which is a grave matter) and not repentant of it, would be abusing the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.  Besides, they would harm the other Catholics because they would somehow undermine the moral conviction of the others about the immorality of divorce.

Word Today, August 19, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Ez 18: 1-10, 13, 30-32 / Mt 19: 13-15

"Let the children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," Jesus told the apostles who were stopping the children from approaching Him.

Through His actions, Jesus was teaching all of us of the value of children and of the way in the spiritual life called "spiritual childhood."  In effect, we can all become like children before Christ, so that we can approach him with confidence.  The truth is that, "Before God, who is eternal, you are a smaller child than, in your sight, a two-year old toddler." (Escriva)  If we think of this reality, we will find it easier to approach God with the simplicity and candor of little children.

 Word Today, August 20, 2000 (20th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Prv 9: 1-6 / Eph 5: 15-20 / Jn 6: 51-58

"He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him."  Receiving holy communion is the greatest possible union we can achieve with Jesus Christ on this earth.  St. Thomas Aquinas explained that while we assimilate the food we eat into ourselves, in holy communion, we are the ones assimilated by Christ whom we eat.

But we will not benefit from communion if we are not in the state of grace.  Food will do a sick man good, but it won't help a dead man.  Instead, the food will just add to the corruption of death.  So too, a sacrilegious communion will just add to our sins.  That is why the Church has commanded that if a person is aware of an unforgiven mortal sin , he should first go to confession before receiving communion.

Word Today, August 21, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Ez 24: 15-24 / Mt 19: 16-22

Today we remember St. Pius X, who died as the First World War was starting.  He was a holy and well-loved Pope who had to make some tough decisions that brought him much criticism.  His status as a saint is the vindication of the wisdom of his decisions.

Among other things, he encouraged the practice of frequent communion.  He realized that we need to receive the body of Christ, not so much as a reward for virtue, but as a need for growing in it.  By encouraging the frequent reception of communion, provided a person was duly prepared (above all, being in the state of grace), he ushered in a wave of devotion and spiritual growth in the Church.

Word Today, August. 22, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Ez 28: 1-10 / Mt 19: 23-30

Today is the feast of the Queenship of Mary.  This feast very appropriately comes just a week after we have celebrated Mary's Assumption into heaven.  We can imagine how the Blessed Virgin Mary must have been received in heaven!  In the Litany after the rosary, she is called "Queen of Angels" and "Queen of All Saints."

Mary is rightfully called "queen" because Jesus, her son, is "king."  As the queen of the kingdom of heaven, she holds a place of special honor.  She also has great power before God.  Mary's Queenship is another motive for us to have recourse to the intercession of Mary.

Word Today, August 23, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Ez 34: 1-11 / Mt 20: 1-16

"Many are called but few are chosen."  Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council reminded us, all of us are called to holiness.  All of us are called to live the fullness of the Christian life.  This is not something for a few only.

However, we must respond to this call.  Sanctity is accessible to all.  But we all have to work for it, cooperating with the grace of God.  It is not for us to judge others, but only to try our best to correspond to the call that God addresses to each of us.

Word Today, August 24, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Rv 21: 9-14 / Jn 1: 45-51

Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle.  He is also called Nathaniel, and under that name, his vocation is narrated in today's gospel reading.  He was a very frank person, who spoke his mind.  He merited one of the best descriptions from Christ: "Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile."

In our environment of "public relations" and "image making", it is good to remember that a Christian does not have to "build" a false image.  By being truly himself, by being sincere and loyal, he will reflect what a Christian should be.  It is so refreshing to find a person who is simple, straightforward and sincere.  Someone whom you can receive at face value.  The honesty and integrity of a Christian is a sign that can attract more people to the faith.

Word Today, August 25, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Ez 37: 1-14 / Mt 22: 34-40

One of the saints we remember today is the good King Louis, who reigned in France and died in the year 1270.  He was loved by his subjects because he ruled his kingdom with justice and charity.  He was a good family man, raising eleven children in a Christian way.  There is a story that when he was young, his pious mother, Queen Blanche of Castille, instilled the love of God in him by telling him, with much affection, "I would rather see you dead than commit a mortal sin."

There is a saying that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.  But here we see that one can wield power and still retain one's integrity.  But this requires deep convictions and a constant effort to be faithful to one's moral principles.  Those in public life can learn a lot from the motto of St. Louis.

Word Today, August 26, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Ez 43: 1-7 / Mt 23: 1-12

The pharisees were guilty of hypocrisy.  Their particular brand of hypocrisy consisted of teaching the right things but not practicing what they taught.  Thus Jesus told his followers that they should follow their teaching but not their example.

What is the root of such behavior?  Why would someone teach something good but not practice it himself?  If one struggled to do good but failed due to weakness, that is understandable.  We are , after all, "vessels of clay" holding a precious ointment.  But if one did not even try, yet "preached" good things, then he would just be "using" the good teaching for his personal aggrandizement.  So at the root of hypocrisy is the vice of pride.

Word Today, August 27, 2000 (21st Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Jos 24: 1-2, 15-17, 18 / Eph 5: 21-32 / Jn 6: 60-69

"Do you also wish to go away?"  Thus spoke Jesus after the people left him because they could not stomach his teaching that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

We know, of course, that Jesus was referring to the sacrament of his body and blood in the Holy Eucharist.  The fact that he did not retract his statement, but instead allowed people to abandon him, shows that he was not speaking of the sacrament as a merely symbolic presence.  This passage is a very strong support for the Catholic belief in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  Let us take very good care of the Body of Christ that is reserved in the tabernacles or in the adoration chapels of our churches.

Word Today, August 28, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: 2 These 1: 1-5, 11-12 / Mt 23: 13-22

Today is the memorial of St. Augustine, one of the greatest figures in the history of the Church and of mankind.  Augustine is an example of a man of great human qualities who was searching for God.  To him we owe the phrase, found in his autobiography, that says "Lord, you made us for yourself, and our hearts will be restless until they rest in you."

Man is a God-seeker.  He searches for happiness.  But if he looks for happiness in pleasures, riches or even in noble things of this earth, he will be frustrated.  That is one of the lessons of Augustine's life.  Let us learn from him to seek God inside our hearts.

Word Today, August 29, 2000 (Tuesday, Beheading of St. John the Baptist)

    `Lectionary: Jer 1: 17-19 / Mk 6: 17-29

The circumstances of St. John the Baptist's death are indeed pathetic.  Herod did not want to kill him.  He had a certain veneration for John.  However, he was "trapped" by his rash oath.  In order to avoid embarrassment, he committed murder, manipulated by his evil "wife."

Many people are like Herod.  Because of weakness of character, they are easily swayed by their "barkada."  They end up doing things against their better judgment just in order to be part of the group.  Young people should be educated to stand up to their principles and not just follow their peers, especially if the fad or fashion is immoral or in bad taste.

Word Today, August 30, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: 2 Thes 3: 6-10, 16 / Mt 23: 27-32

"If any man will not work, neither let him eat."  This phrase of St. Paul to the Thessalonians has been falsely attributed by some people to Karl Marx, the founder of communism.  The gospel of Christ is also a gospel of work.  Work has a very important place in the Christian life.  Work is a human reality that must be elevated to God.  The first requirement for such an elevation to happen is that we must be immersed in work.

Unfortunately, many Christians do not see this religious dimension of their work.  They work badly, and then try to appear "goodish" to their fellowmen.  They do not gain the respect of their colleagues and instead they give a bad name to their religion.  If we wish to live an authentic Christian life, we should strive to be good workers -- orderly, industrious, and competent.

Word Today, August 31, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 1: 1-9 / Mt 24: 42-51

"Watch therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come."  We can apply these words of Christ to ourselves by considering the reality of death.  It is not a pleasant thing to think about dying.  However, since we shall all die, we must be prepared for it.  In addition, since death can come at any time, our preparation must be constant.

If you were to die today, would you be ready to face Christ?

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