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JULY 2000

Word Today,
July 1, 2000 (Saturday, Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)

    Lectionary: 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.

Last May 13, the Holy Father beatified two of the visionaries of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco.  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, July 2, 2000 (13 th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Wis 1: 13-15, 2: 23-24 / 2 Cor 8: 7, 9: 13-15 / Mk 5: 21-43

The gospel today presents us with two miracles.  One was a spectacular one, involving a prominent person and witnessed by many people the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus.  The second one was a quiet miracle, wrought on a very shy woman who was suffering from hemorrhage and who silently touched the robe of Jesus, convinced that she could be well again.  Jesus was moved by her faith and gave that timid woman a loving assurance of his support: "My daughter, your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint."

In the Eucharist, we not only touch Jesus.  We even eat him.  We can derive so much grace from God every time we go to communion.  Let us increase our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Let us increase our faith in the healing power of being in contact with the Eucharist.

Word Today, July 3, 2000 (Monday, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle)

    Lectionary: Eph 2: 19-22 / Jn 20: 24-29

The apostle Thomas is one of the most attractive characters in the gospel.  Like many of us, he tended to rely a lot on his own judgment.  We also see that before the passion of Christ, he was firmly committed to Christ, even ready to die for the Master.  But great love can also give rise to great disappointment.  His disappointment was so deep that he hesitated to believe in the resurrection of Christ.  Perhaps he did not want to believe and then get hurt again.

How good Jesus is to bend to the needs of Thomas!  Jesus accommodated himself to what Thomas wanted not just to see, but to touch the wounds.  And with that obstacle out of the way, the faith of Thomas would be revived in a wonderful phrase that says all: "My Lord and my God!"  Whenever we find our faith wavering, let us repeat this phrase of Thomas, the doubting apostle.

Word Today, July 4, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Am 3: 1-8, 4: 11-12 / Mt 8: 23-27

Today's gospel narrates how Christ was asleep in the fishing boat as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee.  A storm broke out and the apostles in the boat panicked.  Jesus, having been awakened by the apostles, calmed the waves and the storm.

The Church has often been compared to the boat of Peter.  The Church is sometimes beset by the storm of persecution and the inner weaknesses of us Christians.  At times, we may feel that the boat is in danger of sinking while Christ seems to be asleep.  Let us not fear.  Since Christ is in the boat, the boat will not sink.  The Church will weather all difficulties.  Let us keep close to Jesus, confident that at his word, he can easily stem the storm.  The storm is there so that we can manifest our faith in Jesus.

Word Today, July 5, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Am 5: 14-15, 21-24 / Mt 8: 28-34

The gospel today is about the casting out of devils in the country of the Gadarenes.  This incident is an eloquent testimony of the existence of devils.  Devils exist; they are not just mythological creatures.  The existence of devils corresponds to the existence of angels, because the devils were angels who did not pass the test to which God subjected all the angels.

Christ refers to the devil as "the father of all lies."  The evil of devils lies in their hatred for God, who is Truth himself.  The presence of diabolical activity need not be manifested in such dramatic terms as possession.  The devil can manipulate people through their pride and vanity.  Very often the devil is present when malicious falsehood is spread.  Some people, without their realizing it, are playing into hands of the devil when they do not respect the truth.

Word Today, July 6, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Am 7: 10-17 / Mt 9: 1-8

Today we remember St. Maria Goretti, a 12-year old Italian girl who died in the year 1902.  She was a kind and pious girl who became the victim of an attempted rape.  In strongly resisting the advances of the rapist, she was stabbed to death by the assailant.  She is hailed as a martyr for the defense of the virtue of purity.

One of the clearest causes of the increase in rape incidents is the atmosphere of impurity that now reigns in much of our media.  Pornography is harmful for the individuals who indulge in them.  These people can become "sex addicts" and, just like other types of addiction, they lose self-control and resort to any measure in order to get what they want.  Hence pornography is also harmful to society.  That is why the leaders of society have a duty to fight pornography and try to get rid of this social "pollution."

Word Today, July 7, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Am 8: 4-6, 9-12 / Mt 9: 9-13

Jesus said that he "did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners."  We should avoid having a smug sense of self-complacency and think that others are sinful while we ourselves are virtuous.  It is better to think of ourselves as "vessels of clay" who are striving to be good, but are beset by weaknesses that predispose us to sin.  Thus we can say that we are all sinners and are therefore the object of Christ's attention.

The gospel today shows how Christ mingled socially with people whom others considered as sinners.  A Christian should try to help and win over those who are far from God.  No person is completely evil.  There are many points of convergence and dialogue with people.  From these common points, one can help others get closer to God.

Word Today, July 8, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Am 9: 11-15 / Mt 9: 14-17

What a down-to-earth example! "No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse."  What's the point?  It seems that Jesus Christ is emphasizing the need to see the radical novelty of his teaching.

Indeed, Christ did not only come to teach new ideas.  He established a completely new order of things.  He came to bring us a new life, the life of God in us, which we call "grace".  To avail of this new order, we must also be ready to get rid of the "old stuff", of what St. Paul refers to as "the old man" in us.  Conversion to God requires readiness to do away with former practices that are incompatible with the life of a child of God.

Word Today, July 9, 2000 (Sunday)

    Lectionary: Ez 2: 2-5 / 2 Cor 12: 7-10 / Mk 6: 1-6

The gospel today shows how the "kababayans" of Jesus found it hard to accept the teachings and miracles of Christ, simply because they had known him as the town carpenter and they were familiar with all his relatives.

We may find a similar phenomenon in every family, in every environment.  When a man decides to take up the "new life" and to struggle to do away with "the old man", people who knew him before may find it hard to accept him.  Perhaps it is because behind every conversion, there is an implicit call to others to do the same.  Our own resistance to conversion makes us incredulous about the conversion of others.  Let us pray that we be open-minded enough to recognize that people can change and that, by the grace of God, great conversions do take place.  Let us recognize the transforming power of God's grace.

Word Today, July 10, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Hos 2: 16, 17, 18, 21-22 / Mt 9: 18-26

In the miracle of the raising of Jairus' daughter from the dead, Jesus Christ told the bystanders that "the little girl is not dead, she is asleep."  Indeed, for a Christian, death can be considered a kind of sleep because we believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Just like sleep, death is not final.  There is a new awakening.  Death is a change from one state of life or consciousness, to another.

Such a vision of death makes burial (by which a person is "laid to rest") a very appropriate symbol of the resurrection.  The Church no longer forbids cremation, provided it is not done out of ideological reasons contrary to Church doctrine.  Nevertheless, burial is preferred because of the symbolism it contains.

Word Today, July 11, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Hos 8: 4-7, 11-13 / Mt 9: 32-38

"The harvest is rich but the laborers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest."  The Church needs many committed men and women who will work in the field of the Lord in order to harvest the fruits of the Redemption.  We have to pray for this because vocation is a calling from God, it is a divine initiative.

The Church has many vocation programs.  But the most important aspect of this effort is to pray for more vocations.  Another important aspect is the life of those who are already working for God.  They should lead lives that inspire young people to follow their way.  With prayer, example and hard work, God will certainly grant the Church enough workers to reap an abundant harvest in this new millennium.

Word Today, July 12, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Hos 10: 1-3, 7-8 / Mt 10: 1-7

The gospel reading says that Jesus gave to the 12 chosen disciples (the apostles) the authority "over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness."  We know that later on, this authority would extend over the Church.

The successors of the apostles are the bishops.  They are there with the authority from Christ.  Like the apostles, they may have their personal failings.  But in the end, we must recognize that the hierarchy constitutes the legitimate authority over the Church and they have the guarantee of Christ.  We should always respect the authority of the hierarchy.

Word Today, July 13, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Hos 11: 1, 3-4, 8-9 / Mt 10: 7-15

Christ gave instructions on how the apostles should behave in fulfilling their mission.  Among other things, he told them, "Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or staff, for the workman deserves his keep."  Christ did not say that such things should not be used, but rather, that the apostles should not worry about those things.  They should be provided for by those to whom they minister.

In the apostolate, we should make use of whatever material things are needed, but we should not rely on them.  The apostle must be detached from the things that he uses.  While availing of the necessary means, he knows that his real treasures are in heaven.

Word Today, July 14, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Hos 14: 2-10 / Mt 10: 16-23

"Be wise as serpents yet innocent as doves."  Those who work for God cannot be nave simpletons.  They must have their feet firmly planted on the ground.  The great saints and apostles, while they sometimes appeared foolish in the eyes of their contemporaries, had great common sense.  That is why they were able to achieve great works.

At the same time, they should not have the so-called "prudence of the flesh."  To ensure that they are "innocent as doves," they must have a pure intention.  They work for the glory of God.  Their wise plans are not for themselves but for God and for the service of their fellowmen.

Word Today, July 15, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Is 6: 1-8 / Mt 10: 24-33

The gospel today contains very consoling words of assurance from Christ. "Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows."

Humorously, we may blame God for the thinning of our hair or its loss.  But the lesson here is that the providence of God covers every facet of our life.  If we work for God, we must not be anxious or worried about difficulties.  In the first part of the gospel, Christ refers to the persecution and contradictions that the apostles must face.  But these contradictions should not make us lose heart.  God is always in control.  He never loses battles.  We just have to work constantly, confident that God will derive good from any apparent evil that can beset us.

Word Today, July 16, 2000 (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Am 7: 12-15 / Eph 1: 3-14 / Mk 6: 7-13

Paul's letter to the Ephesians contains a very profound truth about our lives.  "Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence."

Our lives are not the result of blind forces.  God's plan governs our lives.  This plan is not something that is based on expediencies, like a basketball team that calls for a time-out in order to plan out the next move.  Everything has been planned by God.  We gradually see this plan unfolding in the mystery of human freedom.  The object of this plan is the holiness of each person.  The object of holiness is to live through love in God's presence.  These considerations should make us realize that our lives and everything that happens in it are meaningful.

Word Today, July 17, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Is 1: 10-17 / Mt 10: 34- 11: 1

The requirements of following Christ seem to be very demanding.  In some translations, he talks about the need to "hate" father, mother, daughter or son.  Other translations are less radical, and use the words "not to prefer". The ultimate meaning is the same.  We must put God above all things, even above our natural inclinations of filial or paternal love.  We must even put God above our very own life, above that strong instinct we all have for self-preservation.

That is why martyrdom, or the readiness for it, is a requirement of genuine Christian living.  The Holy Father has wanted to emphasize the need to recognize the martyrs of this century.  Indeed, many Christians, as we now see in the so-called "third secret of Fatima," have faced martyrdom from those who persecuted the followers of Christ in this century. 

Word Today, July 18, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Is 7: 1-9 / Mt 11: 20-24

The gospel today shows us how, in spite of the miracles and marvels wrought in their presence, many people still did not repent.  The third message of Fatima (it is no longer a "secret") can be summarized in the words of the angel in the vision: "Penance! Penance! Penance!"  There is no lack of miracles or marvels even in our days.  Yet there is a lack of penance and repentance.

The first requirement of repentance is the humble recognition of our need for it.  We must admit our faults and sins.  That is why one of the best ways to achieve a renewal of the Church is to foster and foment the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This one good that trying to gain the Plenary Indulgence of the Jubilee Year can bring about.

Word Today, July 19, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Is 10: 5-7, 13-16 / Mt 11: 25-27

Jesus blessed God the Father for "hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children."  This passage is one of the bases for the so-called way of spiritual childhood.  The Church declared St. Therese of Lisieux as a doctor of the Church precisely for promoting this path to God.

To be receptive to the lights and graces from God, we have to become like little children in the sense of becoming aware of our absolute dependence on God, whom we should try to deal with as a loving father.  To be a child, we cannot have a sense of self-sufficiency.  We must strive to be humble, simple and trusting in our relationship with God.

Word Today, July 20, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Is 26: 7-9, 16-19 / Mt 11: 28-30

"Shoulder my yoke...my yoke is easy and my burden light."  What is God's yoke?  The yoke is the wooden support that is placed on the beast of burden so that the master can place the plow or any other burden upon the animal.  We can consider the yoke of Christ as the duties and obligations that our Christian life requires of us.  In the end, the yoke of Christ is our obligation to do the will of God.

At times, the will of God looks formidable.  But we must be convinced that by lovingly accepting and embracing God's will, we will achieve true peace of heart.  It looks difficult, but when we take it up out of love for God, we will find it bearable and a source of joy.

Word Today, July 21, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Is 8: 1-6, 21-22, 7-8 / Mt 12: 1-8

The gospel reading shows us the spirit of camaraderie and the spirit of freedom enjoyed by the apostles as they traveled with Christ.  We should not be fettered by useless casuistry and hair-splitting.

St. Augustin once said, "Love and do whatever you want."  If we truly love God, we will feel very free.  The commandments will not be seen as burdens but as liberating guidelines for loving.

Word Today, July 22, 2000 (Saturday, Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene)

    Lectionary: Sgs 3: 1-4 / Jn 20: 1-2, 11-18

Mary Magdalene is one of the most attractive characters we can find in the gospels.  She is often identified with the woman from whom Christ drove away seven devils, or the repentant sinner who lavished her gratitude on Christ.  Whatever the case may be, she has come down in history as the model of the repentant sinner.

We are all sinners.  No matter how low we may have fallen into sin, God's mercy is always greater.  The greater the fall, the greater the forgiveness.  The greater the forgiveness, the greater our gratitude.  Our past sins need not burden us in the wrong way.  Rather, they should lead us to a stronger awareness of God's merciful goodness.

Word Today, July 23, 2000 (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: Jer 23: 1-6 / Eph 2: 13-18 / Mk 6: 30-34

After a stint of working for the spread of the kingdom of heaven, Christ told the apostles, "You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while."

The Church encourages her workers (and this applies to all Christians, because they are all called to spread the gospel) to pause every once in a while to make sure that they do not get dissipated or "burned out."  We can even say that if the apostle does not take care of his own spiritual life, he may end up doing an empty and useless work.  That is why it is good to attend a recollection at least once a month and to go on a spiritual retreat about once a year.

Word Today, July 24, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Mi 6: 1-4, 6-8 / Mt 12: 38-42

The reading from the prophet Micah presents us with a wonderful summary of how to act. "This is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God."

We can translate this advice as follows.  We must do what is right.  We must do things out of love.  And we must acknowledge that the good we do is only possible because of God's help.  Hence, we must cultivate a personal relationship with God. We must "walk with Him."

Word Today, July 25, 2000 (Tuesday, Feast of St. James, apostle)

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

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

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

Word Today, July 26, 2000 (Wednesday, Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary)

    Lectionary: Jer 1: 1, 4-10 / Mt 13: 1-9

There is no mention in Sacred Scripture of the names of the Blessed Virgin Mary's parents.  But in the light of her Immaculate Conception and how God provides adequately for his plan of Redemption, it seems very fitting indeed to honor the parents of the Mother of Christ.  The names of Mary's parents come from extra-biblical sources.  In Jerusalem, there has long been a church that is named after St. Anne.

Today's feast is a good occasion to remind parents of their very important role in the development of each person and especially in developing a Christian life. No one can replace the parents in their task.  Many of us learned our first prayers and eventually how to relate to God through the words and example of our parents.  Parents should see the children God sends them as signs of God's confidence in them.

Word Today, July 27, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Jer 2: 1-3, 7-8, 12-13 / Mt 13: 10-17

In the gospel today, Jesus explained to the apostles why he resorted to parables in order to give his message.  Parables are stories taken from everyday life containing a moral or spiritual application.

When we listen to the word of God, we should not be merely theoretical.  Since God's word is eminently salvific, it can have an application to our daily life.  Every time we read or hear the gospel, let us look for some concrete resolution that we can implement to improve our Christian life.

Word Today, July 28, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Jer 3: 14-17 / Mt 13: 18-23

The gospel today contains the explanation of the parable of the sower.  We can concentrate on just one of them.  "The one who received it (the seed) on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy.  But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once."

There is a Filipino trait we call "ningas kogon", referring to the burning of superficial grass on the mountain, that spreads very fast but immediately dies out.  It is negative trait to begin things with enthusiasm only to drop them for superficial reasons.  In order to be "good soil", we must avoid superficiality and frivolity.  When we take up a project, especially apostolic ones, we must be ready to face trials, especially the personal and internal trial of losing our first enthusiasm.  We must persevere and work even without the consolation that often comes with starting something.  That is where true holiness can be found.

Word Today, July 29, 2000 (Saturday, Feast of St. Martha)

    Lectionary: 1 Jn 4: 7-16 / Jn 11: 19-27

St. Martha has come down to us as the typical figure of a responsible older sister, an "ate", who does her duty and complains of the lack of responsibility of her younger sibling.  Jesus' defense of Mary is not a justification for laziness.  It is rather a lesson for all those who tend to fall into "activism" or what some spiritual writers called "the heresy of action."

Church workers have to be busy and active.  There is a lot of work ahead.  But they should never forget that the first priority is their life of prayer.  Without a life of prayer, someone who works for God's vineyard will get burned out.  And if they continue their activity, they will end up falling into hypocrisy because "no one can give what he does not have."

Word Today, July 30, 2000 (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Lectionary: 2 Jgs 4: 42-44 / Eph 4: 1-6 / Jn 6: 1-15

The gospel today narrates the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  We should have no doubt that this was a real miracle, not just a moral miracle of people "opening up" their "baons" and then sharing it with the rest.  That interpretation has no foundation in the scriptural text.

Focusing on the loaves, this miracle is also a kind of symbol of the great miracle of the Eucharist, which is the bread of life.  The body of Christ is, for us Christians, the necessary sustenance that we need for our spiritual life.  This bread is multiplied whenever the Eucharist is celebrated and the real presence takes place.  Christ gives himself to us abundantly.  Let us correspond to his generosity by eagerly receiving his body in communion and preparing ourselves adequately through repentance.

Word Today, July 31, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Jer 13: 1-11 / Mt 13: 31-35

Today is the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order.  He was a soldier who, while convalescing from his wounds, was converted to a life of dedication to God through his readings.  He had wanted to read some books of chivalry, but someone instead gave him a book of the lives of saints.

To grow in our Christian life, we must devote some time to scriptural and devotional reading.  Reading is the food of the soul.  If all we read are novels, newspaper articles and gossip columns, then that is what we are feeding our soul.  We must include some spiritual input into our daily reading fare.  Then we can have material for reflection that will eventually leave its mark in our life.  Aside from the Bible, we can profitably read writings of the Fathers of the Church, of the great saints, and of reliable contemporary authors.

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