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MAY 2000

Word Today,
May 1, 2000 (St. Joseph the Worker)

    Lectionary: Gen 1: 26-2: 3 / Mt 13: 54-58

The first reading shows us that God put man in the garden of delights not to lead an idle life but to work.  Man had to cultivate the field.  The second reading identifies St. Joseph as the carpenter or craftsman, and Jesus as his son.  In another narrative, we know that Jesus himself practiced the craftsman's trade. It was customary at that time that children took up the work of their parents.

Work is a gift of God.  Work ennobles man. All work is a sharing in God's activity.  There is no honest work that we should look down upon.  The value of our work depends on the love and diligence that we put into it.  Let us be "proud" of our work and carry it out to the best of our ability.

Word Today, May 2, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Acts4: 32-37 / Jn 3:7-15

In the gospel today, Jesus Christ tells Nicodemus that he must "be born from above."  Nicodemus wonders if it is possible for a man to "go back into the womb again and be born," and Jesus explains that it is a spiritual rebirth.  "That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit."

There has been a lot of polemics about the phrase "to be born again."  It is interesting to note that Jesus himself does not use the phrase "born again," it is Nicodemus.  What Jesus emphasizes is the need to be born "from above" and "through water and the Spirit."  We are born into a new life through the life-giving waters of the sacrament of Baptism.  The new life is the life of God in us.  It is a life that we possess by the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls.

Word Today, May 3, 2000 (Wednesday, Sts. Philip and James, Apostles)

    Lectionary: 1 Cor 15: 1-8 / Jn 14: 6-14

The gospel today contains the mysterious words of Christ, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."  On the occasion Christ said this, he also told Philip, one of the Apostles whom we commemorate today, "He that has seen me has seen the Father… I am in the Father and the Father in me."  At that time, they were probably at a loss about the meaning of these words.  From our perspective, we have a better understanding of these words.

Christ is our mediator to God.  He is our way to God.  Through Christ, we come to know the truth (revelation) and we acquire a new life (a share in God's life).  This is possible because Christ is both man and God.  As God, Christ is in perfect unity with God the Father.  If we go to Christ, we end up in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity.

Word Today, May 4, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Acts 5: 27-33 / Jn 3: 31-36

"Obedience to God comes before obedience to men."  That is how the apostles justified their defiance of the order of the Jewish officials.

Our faith teaches us to obey all legitimate authority because, in the words of St. Paul, "all authority comes from God."  Hence a Christian will tend to be a model law-abiding citizen.  But if an authority goes against the law of God, if it promotes evil and injustice, then it ceases to be "legitimate."  It may sometimes be necessary for a Christian to defy authority in order to be faithful to his conscience.  That is what many martyrs did.  And that is what every Christian should be ready to do. 

Word Today, May 5, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Acts 5: 34-42 / Jn 6: 1-15

The first reading contains the intervention at the Sanhedrin of the teacher Gamaliel.  Gamaliel was Paul's teacher and he was a respected scholar.  His advice was, "If this… movement… is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God."

This advice can be applied to the present situation of the Church.  We do not refer here to the different strange sects that are sprouting due to ignorance, but to movements that are born from the bosom of Holy Mother Church.  We do not have to join or encourage every movement in the Church.  But we must be open to them as long as they are faithful to the teachings and the authority of the Church.  Pluralism, within the unity of the Church, is a sign of good health.

Word Today, May 6, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Acts 6: 1-7 / Jn 6: 16-21

The apostles found that they could not cope with the volume of charitable work that they had to undertake.  Hence they decided to appoint the first deacons, so that the apostles could "continue to devote (themselves) to prayer and to service of the Word."

The ministers of the Church, especially the bishops and priests, have many responsibilities on their shoulders.  Like the apostles, they can delegate some functions.  They should be careful not to fall into what spiritual writers call "activism" or "the heresy of action."  Since service must be an overflow of love, persons who are involved in the active apostolate must not neglect their life of prayer and their service to the Word of God.

Word Today, May 7, 2000 (Third Sunday of Easter)

    Lectionary: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19 / 1 Jn 2: 1-5 / Lk 24: 35-48

All the readings have a common theme.  "You must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out."  "In his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations."  "(Jesus Christ) is the sacrifice that takes our sins away."

God offers forgiveness for our sins.  But it is not automatic, like a vending machine.  We must repent, meaning to say that we must uproot the attachment we have to sin.  For that, we must "turn to God", meaning we must have a change of attitude, a change of heart.  We must value the God over anything else of the world.

Word Today, May 8, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Acts 6: 8-15 / Jn 6: 22-29

Stephen was one of the first deacons.  The reading of two days ago talks about how he was chosen and he was described as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit."  Obviously, aside from helping in the material care of the widows and orphans, the deacons also served in the ministry of the Word.  In today's reading we see Stephen defending the faith through his words.

Deacons are specially qualified to be ministers of the Word.  Through the first level of the Sacrament of Orders that they have received, they share in the prophetic ministry in a special way.  Let us pray for the fruitfulness of the work of all deacons in the Church.

Word Today, May 9, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Acts 8: 26-40 / Jn 6: 44-51

The first reading, from Luke's Acts of the Apostles, talks about St. Paul's cooperation in the martyrdom of St. Stephen.  It says, "Saul entirely approved of the killing."  If anyone could know Saul's inner thoughts about this, it would be Luke who was a very close co-worker of Paul and who recorded in detail most of Paul's activities.

This brings to mind the problem of our "cooperation in evil."  In this complex world our actions are never isolated events.  They may have side effects either for good or evil.  We cannot entirely avoid unintended bad side effects of our actions.  We should try to minimize such side effects and, as the reading suggests, we must not approve of them internally.

Word Today, May 10, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Acts 8: 1-8 / Jn 6: 35-40

After the execution of St. Stephen, a bitter persecution started against the Christians.  Many Christian had to flee for their lives.  But the first reading says, "Those who had escaped went from place to place preaching the Good News."  Those who fled were not guilty of cowardice.  They were just being wise and prudent.  In fact God made use of the persecution to spread the seed of the Faith outside of Jerusalem.

We now find many Filipinos scattered in far-away places because of the need to improve their situation in life.  Many of them bring their faith and religious spirit along.  This is an important source of evangelization.  Let us pray for all our brother Filipinos abroad, so that they may be firm in their faith and learn to spread it to the people around them.

Word Today, May 11, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Acts 8: 26-40 / Jn 6: 44-51

Jesus said of himself, "I am the living bread that has come down from heaven."  At that time, the people did not understand these words.  Now we know that Jesus was referring to the Eucharist, where He is truly present as our spiritual food.

Material food provides nourishment and delight for the body.  Furthermore, when we get sick, we need to eat in order to have the raw material for our physical recovery.  Just like food to the body, the Eucharist must be the nourishment and delight of our spirit.  Through the Eucharistic communion, we also recover from the wounds inflicted by sin in our souls.  Let us receive the Eucharist.  But just as food is useless for a dead man, so the Eucharist would be useless and even harmful if received in the state of mortal sin.

Word Today, May 12, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Acts 9: 1-20 / Jn 6: 52-59

Before the astonishment of the people at the promise of the "bread of life", Jesus reaffirmed the reality of his physical presence.  "I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you."

The dialogue of Christ with the people is a very important proof of the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  Instead of watering down his statement, Jesus emphasized the reality of his words.  His presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist is not merely symbolic.  Jesus Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament that we worship in the churches and in the chapels of adoration.

Word Today, May 13, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Acts 9: 31-42 / Jn 6: 60-69

The people at large could not understand the promise of the Eucharist.  They thought Jesus Christ was promoting cannibalism, and they found that repugnant. Many people stopped following Christ.  But Christ was not about to back off from the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist.  He even challenged the apostles, "What about you, do you want to go away too?"  The answer of Peter seemed inspired, "Lord, who shall we go to?…we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God."

We can see that the apostles had faith, even if Christ's teaching was very difficult to accept.  Their faith was aided by the personal friendship that they had with Christ.  There was affection, intimacy, and commitment in Peter's answer.  We too, when faced with difficult choices presented by our faith, must fall back on our personal intimacy with Jesus Christ.

Word Today, May 14, 2000 (Fourth Sunday of Easter)

    Lectionary: Acts 4: 8-12 / 1 Jn 3: 1-2 / Jn 10: 11-18

In the gospel today Jesus Christ refers to his followers as sheep, and to himself as the shepherd and also as the door to the sheepfold.  The figure of the good shepherd is very dear in Christian iconography.  The very word for those who take care of the Christian community –the pastor-- is derived from this image.   The responsorial psalm is from Psalm 22, which talks about the Lord as our shepherd.  God, our shepherd, guides us along the right path.  He provides for all our needs.

We should be imbued with a deep sense of God's providence.  As long as we do our part and fall in with the plans of God, we can feel very secure about everything.  Another psalm says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then everything else will be given in return."

Word Today, May 15, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Acts 11: 1-18 / Jn 10: 1-10

In some countries (the Philippines included), we can celebrate the commemoration of St. Isidore.  Isidore is the patron saint of his native Spanish city of Madrid.  There are many churches in the Philippines whose patron is St. Isidore or "San Isidro".

Isidore was a farmer – that is his title for sainthood.  In the Philippines he is called "San Isidro Labrador", referring to his occupation.  San Isidro's celebration can be a good reminder that we are all called to sainthood no matter what our occupation may be.  It is also a reminder of the importance of working the land.  Today's celebration can serve as an encouragement to those who choose to remain tilling the land instead of rushing off to the concrete jungle.

Word Today, May 16, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Acts 11: 19-26 / Jn 10: 22-30

"It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians',"  so the Acts of the Apostles states in today's first reading.  Perhaps they were called "Christians" in the same way that followers of teachers were called by their teachers' name.  Thus there were "Aristotelians", "Platonists" or "Pythagoreans." 

But now, to be called "Christian" means more than just following a teacher or philosophical school.  Since Christ taught that he is our Lord and Savior, to be truly Christian means to believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, is truly God himself.  It also means that we must look upon Christ as the person who will deliver us from our sins and will fulfill all the yearnings of our heart.

Word Today, May 17, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Acts 12: 24-13: 5 / Jn 12: 44-50

"One day…the Holy Spirit said, 'I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.'  So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off."  Here we see the connection between the calling of God (also called "vocation") and the empowerment that such a calling entails.  In this case, it seems that Barnabas and Saul received the sacrament of Holy Orders.

We must pray for more vocations to the priesthood. The Philippines has one of the highest ratios of faithful to priests – about 1 priest for every 10,000 Catholics.  Thanks be to God that the number of vocations is increasing.  But the need is truly very great and we cannot stand pat.

Word Today, May 18, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Acts 13: 13-25 / Jn 13: 16-20

Together with the whole Catholic world and many other people of good will, we greet Pope John Paul II a very happy birthday today.  The Pope celebrates his 80th year.  He has been Pope since 1978 and in all the time that he has governed the Catholic Church, he has done so much for the Church and for all humanity.

Let us pray today for the Pope's continued physical and spiritual health.  We might think that it should be the Pope, so close to God, who should pray for us.  That is right, but the Pope also counts on our prayers.  Let us pray for the Pope as little children pray for their father.  Let us be very united to the Pope and follow his initiatives and orientations.

Word Today, May 19, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Acts 13: 26-33 / Jn 14: 1-6

In today's gospel reading, we find Jesus consoling his apostles by telling them that he was preparing a place for them in his Father's house.  In this domestic imagery, we can see that to be in heaven is like being part of God's household.  Since God is the Supreme Being, intimacy with God will fill up all the yearnings of our heart.  Heaven is perfect happiness.

Following the cue set by Jesus, we should foster the hope of reaching heaven.  When faced with difficulties in this life, it is not "escapism" to think about heaven.  It is stark "realism" because heaven is a truth of our faith.  The existence of heaven and our real possibility of achieving it are manifestations of God's goodness and mercy.

Word Today, May 20, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Acts 13: 44-52 / Jn 14: 7-14

"Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."  The Church hangs on these words of Christ.  Thus, most liturgical prayers end with the invocation of Christ: "through Jesus Christ our Lord."

But we might ask, why did I not get my petition when I invoked the name of Christ?  Perhaps we did not really mean what we said when we invoked the name of Christ.  If we sincerely ask in the name of Christ, we shall ask for the will of God to be done.  One of the first petitions of the Lord's prayer (the Our Father) is precisely "your will be done on earth as in heaven."  Hence a condition for all prayers of petition is acceptance of God's will.  God's will is for our good.  He knows better than us what is really good for us.

Word Today, May 21, 2000 (Fifth Sunday of Easter)

    Lectionary: Acts 9: 26-31 / 1 Jn 3: 18-24 / Jn 15: 1-8

The gospel today contains the imagery of the vine.  In the Mediterranean countries where grapes are grown, this is a very powerful image.  The main trunk of the grapevine is pruned every year.  At the appropriate time, green shoots spring out and bear bunches of grapes.  But if the shoots are removed from the main trunk, they soon wither.

The Christian life involves a mysterious interconnection with God, through Christ.  The Christian shares God's abundant life.  This is the mystery of "communion".  We are in communion with God and we are also in communion among ourselves. But we must always be united to Christ because all this is possible only to the extent that we keep close to Jesus.

Word Today, May 22, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Acts 14: 5-18 / Jn 14: 21-26

In the gospel today, Jesus identifies those who love Him as those who keep the commandments and those who "keep my word."  There are some people who claim to be followers of Christ, they say that they have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, yet they do not exert the effort to keep his word, much less the commandments of God.

There is a deep moral dimension involved in accepting Christ.  We must listen to His words (for example, the great commandment, the beatitudes, his exhortations) and then exert the effort to keep those words out of love.  Otherwise, our "love" is only lip service.

Word Today, May 23, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Acts 14: 19-28 / Jn 14: 27-31

"Peace I leave with you,…not as the world gives do I give to you."  These words of Jesus show us that there is a difference between what people think to be peace and the real peace that comes from God.  Most people think of peace only as the absence of war.  Quite often, in the political world, such peace is a result of a precarious balance of opposing forces, all ready to pounce on one another if the status quo were to change.

The peace that comes from God is not a peace of "balance".  We might rather call it a peace of "order" and of justice.  "Opus iustitiae, pax."  Peace is the outcome of justice, not just a balance of power.  And the most important element of justice is to give God his due.  Thus, there can be no true peace unless we are reconciled with our Creator.

Word Today, May 24, 2000 (Wednesday)

    Lectionary: Acts 15: 1-6 / Jn 15: 1-8

"He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing."  From the natural standpoint, it is very true (as Psalm 127 points out) that we cannot do anything without God's help.  "If Yahweh does not build a house, in vain do its builders toil."  But our dependence on God is even more evident when it comes to 'working in the Lord's vineyard.' 

Those who are engaged in any kind of apostolic work must rely above all on their union with God.  Work as they might, all their toil would be fruitless if they were not united to Christ.

Word Today, May 25, 2000 (Thursday)

    Lectionary: Acts 15: 7-21 / Jn 15: 9-11

If being united to Christ is so vital, how do we go about it?  Today's gospel tells us how.  "Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love."

We sometimes identify closeness to Christ with good feelings, perhaps of benevolence or of a deep sense of peace and contentment.  While those sentiments may be signs of being close to God, they are not the real test.  To be united to God is to love Him.  And the essence of love is to do the will of God, which is expressed in his commandments.  Thus, those who want to work for the Lord's vineyard must exert effort to make morally upright choices, even if their feelings seem to go against these demands of the moral law.

Word Today, May 26, 2000 (Friday)

    Lectionary: Acts 15: 22-31 / Jn 15: 12-17

We should not think that loving God by fulfilling his commandments is a cold and robot-like fulfillment of our duties.  The gospel today shows us that our love for God is a love of friendship.  "You are my friends, if you do what I command you."

Friendship implies an intimate sharing of goods.  It involves familiarity and ease in mutual dealings.  Spiritual writers talk about the practice of "presence of God."  God is present in our hearts as a good friend.  We can maintain a conversation and dialogue with him as we go about our tasks for the day.  What a gift Christ has given us by offering us his friendship!

Word Today, May 27, 2000 (Saturday)

    Lectionary: Acts 16: 1-10 / Jn 15: 18-21

Friendship with Christ is not a bed of roses.  "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." We know that friendship is tested in the crucible of suffering and contradictions.  Our true friends are not those with whom we have a nice time, but who disappear when the good times are over.  Our friends are those who will stick by us during our difficult moments.

Friendship with Christ means not to abandon our dealings with him even if we feel dry.  If we stop praying just because we do not get nice feelings, then we were praying for ourselves and not out of friendship with Christ. Really to follow Christ includes readiness to suffer.

Word Today, May 28, 2000 (Sixth Sunday of Easter)

    Lectionary: Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / 1 Jn 4: 7-10 / Jn 15: 9-17

"You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit."  The apostles, to whom these words were addressed, may have recalled that day when, after having spent a whole night in prayer, Jesus called them apart from among all his followers.  They were not necessarily the best nor the most capable.  They were simply God's inscrutable choice.

The calling to serve God, the vocation, is a mysterious reality.  What we can see in this verse is that it is primarily God's initiative.  Hence those who have received a vocation (whether it be to the priesthood, the religious life, or any other form of dedicated life) must be conscious of its divine dimension. They should consider their vocation as a sacred reality and act accordingly.

Word Today, May 29, 2000 (Monday)

    Lectionary: Acts 16: 11-15 / Jn 15: 26 – 16: 4

In today's gospel reading, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit whom he calls "Advocate".  Other versions translate the word as "Paraclete" or "Consoler".  This gospel is like an anticipation of the celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost, which will come in a few weeks.

All these terms referring to the Holy Spirit point to the reality of the Holy Spirit's role in our life.  The Holy Spirit will enlighten us.  The Holy Spirit will come to our defense.  The Holy Spirit will give us consolation.  What Jesus did for his followers two thousand years ago, that the Holy Spirit does for us now.

Word Today, May 30, 2000 (Tuesday)

    Lectionary: Acts 16: 22-34 / Jn 16: 5-11

"Unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."  In a few days, we shall be celebrating the Lord's Ascension to heaven.  Jesus said these words before his passion, death and resurrection.  But he was already have been referring to his final departure from earth. Ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven, the promised Advocate came -- the Holy Spirit who descended upon the gathered disciples on Pentecost.

Yet Jesus continues to remain with us under the appearance of bread and wine in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  This sacramental presence of Jesus is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is a real presence, although we do not have Christ in the way he appeared two thousand years ago.  On this Jubilee Year, which the Pope has declared to be a Eucharistic year,  let us increase our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

Word Today, May 31, 2000 (Wednesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

    Lectionary:  Zeph 3: 14-18 or Rom 12: 9-16/ Lk 1: 39-56

"Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah."  She visited her cousin, St. Elizabeth, who was six months on the family way.  The gospel says that "Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home."  That visit would be the occasion for Mary to pray the beautiful "Magnificat" prayer.  But today we can concentrate on something else. 

That three month stay of Mary in the house of Elizabeth can be considered as a visit of service.  That would have been the most difficult time in Elizabeth's pregnancy.  She had conceived in her old  age, so she was in need of material help. Mary was ready for that.   She went quickly.  She did not drag her feet.  Let us learn from Mary to be prompt and ready to  come to the needs of our neighbors.

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