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Word Today, October 1, 2000

    Readings from the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Num 11: 25-29 / Jas 5: 1-6 / Mk 9: 38-43.45.47-48

"If your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off."  Jesus is not legitimizing the practice of self-mutilation.  He was using what we may call a "hyperbole", an exaggeration in order to emphasize a point.  The point Jesus wanted to emphasize was that we must be radical in removing any occasion of sin, thus impressing upon us the evil of sin.

Sometimes we say that we are sorry for having committed a sin.  But the true test of our sorrow is our decision not to sin again.  One sign that we really do not want to sin again is to get rid of whatever was the cause or the proximate occasion of our sin.  For example, if we keep certain pictures or readings that have caused us to sin, then we should get rid of them.  Otherwise, they may be a source of temptation and we would not really be determined to avoid the sin.

Word Today, October 2, 2000 (Monday)

    Readings from the Memorial of the Guardian Angels: Ex 23: 20-23 / Mt 18: 1-5.10

The existence of a guardian angel for each one of us is part of the ordinary teaching of the Church.  The word "angel" appears in the Sacred Scripture at least 300 times.  When Peter was miraculously released from prison and he knocked at the door of Mark's house (See Acts 12: 13), the occupants of the house could not believe it was Peter himself.  They told the excited Roda, "It must be his angel,"  who was knocking.

It is indeed fitting that God, who is a loving father, should want to protect us by providing us with a powerful guide and companion.  Let us be more aware of our guardian angel's presence.  We can do so by addressing him or her (the angels have no gender since they are pure spirits) as we would a good and helpful friend who is always by our side.

Word Today, October 3, 2000 (Tuesday of 26th Week)

    Readings:  Job 3: 1-3. 11-17. 20-23 / Lk 9: 51-56

"Lord, do you want us to bid fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"  These were the words of the brothers James and John, when some towns did not receive them well.  They really deserve the nickname Christ gave them of "sons of thunder" because they seem to have had very strong and fiery temperaments.  Jesus corrected them, calming their spirit and telling them that "the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

In apostolic work, we may come across resistance and opposition.  The reaction of a good apostle is not to get angry with those people but to be more patient with them.  The task of an apostle of Jesus is not to destroy but to build up.  We must temper our tendency to return evil for evil.

Word Today, October 4, 2000 (St. Francis of Assisi)

    Readings: Job 9: 1-12. 14-16 / Lk 9: 57-62

St. Francis, the founder of the great Franciscan religious family, shocked the world of his time by his radical profession of the virtue of poverty.

While not all Christians are called to the vow of poverty in the Franciscan manner, we are all called to practice the virtue of poverty.  To be "poor" is to be interiorly detached from all things – both spiritual and material.  Such interior detachment will, in turn, bring about the freedom of spirit that makes it possible to love God and neighbor. And paradoxically, with detachment comes a sense of mastery and ownership over everything.  Francis referred to the things surrounding him as if they were "his".  He called them all, even the animals and the plants, his brothers and sisters.

Word Today, October 5, 2000 (Thursday of 26th Week)

    Readings:  Job 19: 21-27 / Lk 10: 1-12

The gospel today contains a lesson that could very well be the continuation of the other day's reading, when James and John reacted badly to the towns that did not receive them well.  Here, Jesus tells them how to react: "If they do not receive you, go out to its streets and say, 'Even the dust from your town that cleaves to us we shake off against you; yet know this, that the kingdom of God is at hand."

We should not wish evil upon anyone, not even those who may not receive the Gospel well.  However, we should not be hindered from preaching the good news and reiterating to those same persons that the kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand.  If they do not receive it well, they will be responsible for the consequences of their lack of correspondence.  Perhaps that will give them food for thought and help them in their future conversion.

Word Today, October 6, 2000 (Friday of 26th Week)

    Readings:  Job 38: 1. 12-21; 40: 3-5 / Lk 10: 13-16

"He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me; and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me."  These words of Christ were applied to the apostles and disciples who had been sent by Christ.  Nowadays, we can very well apply them to the successors of the apostles and disciples in the Church.

The successors of the apostles are the legitimate bishops of the Church.  In spite of their all too human weaknesses, they rule with the authority of Christ.  We should listen to them and follow them in everything that is their proper competence.

Word Today, October 7, 2000 (Memory of Our Lady of the Rosary)

    Readings:  Acts 1: 12-14 / Lk 1: 26-38

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  "Rosary" literally means a garland of roses.  In the rosary, each rose, each bead, represents a vocal prayer – the Hail Mary, Our Father, the Glory Be or the Creed.  But the heart of the rosary is the reflection and prayerful consideration of the "mysteries" of the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

Some find the rosary repetitious and boring.  But repetition should not necessarily lead to boredom.  Just as the refrain of a song is repeated thus highlighting the mood or some aspect of the song, so the repetition of vocal prayers can serve as a backdrop for our contemplation of the mysteries.  The rosary is pleasing to God because, through the contemplation of the mysteries, we are led "To Jesus through Mary."

Word Today, October 8, 2000 (27th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings:  Gen 2: 18-24 / Heb 2: 9-11 / Mk 10: 2-16

The gospel today is about how Jesus Christ revoked the option of divorce and restored marriage to its original condition.  "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder."  The indissolubility of marriage is not just an ideal.  It is a reality that the Church must defend.  In doing so, She is also defending the foundations of every human society.

At least in the Philippines, it is not true that majority of marriages are breaking apart, thereby necessitating divorce in order to give the spouses a second try with another partner.  In the first place, irretrievably broken marriages are not as widespread as divorce propagandists would like to present.  In the second place, instead of helping to strengthen marriages, the possibility of divorce only makes marriages more difficult to work out.  Above all, we must follow the clear teaching of Jesus that marriage, by its very nature and by the intention of God, is "till death."

Word Today, October 9, 2000 (Monday of 27th Week)

    Readings:  Gal 1: 6-12 / Lk 10: 25-37

"What must I do to gain eternal life?"  All of us want to know.  And Jesus answers us with the so-called "Great Commandment", the commandment to love God "with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

Love of God must be the ruling force in the life of a Christian.  "God does not ask for a place in our heart and soul and mind, a slot for him among other loves.  He wants the totality of our love: not a little bit of our love; a little of our life; like something rationed.  God …must be loved ex toto corde –absolutely." (Ocariz)

Word Today, October 10, 2000 (Tuesday of 27th Week)

    Readings:  Gal 1: 13-24 / Lk 10: 25-37

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; and yet only one things is needful.  Mary has chosen the best part." (Lk 10: 41-42)

People in the service of God, or who are engaged in apostolic or evangelical works, would do well to heed the Lord's advice.  The only thing truly necessary is union with God.  This does not mean that we should neglect our duties and other concerns.  But it means that no matter how pressing a work may be, we must always prioritize our prayer life.  Otherwise that pressing work will become bereft of true meaning.

Word Today, October 11, 2000 (Wednesday of the 27th Week)

    Readings: Gal 2: 1-2.7-14 / Lk 11: 1-4

"Lord teach us to pray." (Lk 11:1)  When the Pope was asked in the book Crossing the Threshold of Hope about how he prayed, he said, "The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray."

While prayer can be described quite simply as having a conversation with God, and as such it should be the most natural thing in the world, we also see in the Pope's phrase that the initiative must come from God.  God wants to talk to us, even more than we want to talk to Him.  God is constantly calling us, knocking at the door of our heart.  All we need to do is be attentive and recognize, in the things that happen daily to us, that God is addressing us.

Word Today, October 12, 2000 (Thursday of 27th Week)

    Readings:  Gal 3: 1-5 / Lk 11: 5-13

In the archdiocese of Zamboanga and in the diocese of Imus, the feast of their principal patron Nuestra Señora del Pilar is celebrated today.  It is also celebrated in some other churches in the Philippines and especially in Spain where there is an age-old veneration for Our Lady of the Pillar.  Many girls are named "Pilar" (as in Pepe and Pilar), precisely after her.

In the cathedral of Zaragoza in Spain they venerate a marble pillar upon which an ancient story says that the Virgin Mary appeared to the apostle St. James.  She encouraged James to persevere in spite of the difficulties of evangelizing the Iberians (present day Spaniards), considered then to inhabit the farthest place of the world.  Devotion to Our Lady of the Pillar shows our conviction that Mary, the mother of Jesus, intercedes for us and encourages us to persevere in difficult tasks.

Word Today, October 13, 2000 (Friday of 27th Week)

    Readings: Gal 3: 7-14 / Lk 11: 15-26

"Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses."  While Christ said this to show that he was not casting out devils by the power of the devil, as his enemies accused him of, the same idea can be applied to the Church.  Hence Christ ardently prayed for the unity of the whole Church – "That all may be one."

The movement for unity within the Church is called "ecumenism".  The objective is the unity of all Christians.  One of the greatest desires of the Holy Father is that all those Christian communities that have separated from the main trunk of the Church eventually be united, respecting their traditions and sensibilities.  But we should also work for the unity within the Catholic Church.  We should avoid useless divisions and factions by respecting the individual charisms of the different groups and individuals within the Church, so long as they are in full communion with the source and sign of unity, which is the Holy Father.  It is senseless to make derogatory remarks about any recognized institution of Holy Mother Church.

Word Today, October 14, 2000 (Saturday of the 27th Week)

    Readings:  Gal 3: 22-29 / Lk 11: 27-28

A voice was suddenly heard rising above the crowd, "Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked."  She must have been a mother herself.  But Jesus drew something more from that exclamation.  He said, "Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it."

We should not interpret Jesus' words as if he were not in favor of the praise to his mother. Rather, he is pointing out where the merit of Mary primarily lies.  Mary is very special not only because she physically conceived, gave birth to and nurtured Jesus.  More than that, she was the person most attentive to the word of God and the most faithful in keeping it.  We see this in all the gospels.  She pondered on God's words and she gave that fateful "Fiat" (Let it be) that brought us the Redeemer.

Word Today, October 15, 2000 (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings:  Wis 7: 7-11 / Heb 4: 12-13 / Mk 10: 17-30

After the rich young man rejected the call of Jesus because of his attachment to riches, the apostles, who had in fact left all their possessions behind, were told by Jesus that they would receive "a hundredfold" as much of what they had given up, "in the present time."  Besides, they would receive life everlasting as a future reward.

Indeed, those who have made sacrifices for the sake of Christ receive some kind of reward, even in this life.  It may seem paradoxical, but those who have decided to give up everything for God in fact have a much happier life, even on this earth.  It is nice to see the peaceful and joyful faces of elderly persons who have spent their lives serving God.  They have lived much fuller lives than many worldly people who have only sought to satisfy themselves.  Besides, these servants of God can look forward, with hopeful confidence, at the eternal reward reserved for them.

Word Today, October 16, 2000 (Monday of 28th Week)

    Readings:  Gal 1: 6-12 / Lk 10: 25-37

One of the saints that is remembered today is St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun of the Order of the Visitation who died in the year 1690.  She was responsible, in great part, for the very important devotion, so widespread nowadays, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Once, Jesus Christ appeared to St. Margaret Mary and showed her His heart, saying "Behold the heart which has so much loved men that it has spared nothing, even exhausting and consuming itself in testimony of its love.  Instead of gratitude I receive from most only indifference, by irreverence and sacrilege and the coldness and scorn that men have for me in the sacrament of love."

The sacrament of love is the Holy Eucharist.  In the Body of Christ, we have the Heart of Christ, given to us for our food and for adoration.  Let us correspond to the love of Jesus by treating the Holy Eucharist with love and devotion.  Let us not be indifferent to His presence among us in every church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is kept.  Let us correspond to Christ's great love for us.

Word Today, October 17, 2000 (Tuesday of 28th Week)

    Readings:  Gal 5: 1-6 / Lk 11: 37-41

Christ reproved the Pharisees in these words: "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but within you are full of robbery and wickedness.  Foolish ones!"  Christian morality gives importance not only to the external observances but, above all, to the internal dispositions and inner attitudes.

This gospel can be an occasion for us to examine our own inner attitudes and dispositions.  It is not enough to do what is right.  We must do it for the right intention.  That intention, in the age-old Christian tradition, is the glory of God and the sincere service to our fellowmen.

Word Today, October 18, 2000 (St. Luke, Evangelist)

    Readings: 2 Tim 4: 10-17 / Lk 10: 1-9

Today is the feast of St. Luke, the author of one of the gospels as well as of the Acts of the Apostles.  Both works are preceded by his explanation that he had somehow "researched" what he had written, based on eyewitnesses and reliable written accounts.

We have here an example of the adage, "God helps those who help themselves."  We know that, being part of the Sacred Scriptures, the works of St. Luke are inspired, and therefore their principal author is God himself. At the same time, St. Luke is a real author and his personal characteristics, in this case reliability and accuracy of details, are present in those works. God acts through our efforts.  We must pray and act at the same time.  We must act diligently and know that while we seem to be putting in everything, it is actually God who puts the effectiveness and goodness in our actions.  

Word Today, October 19, 2000 (Thursday of 28th Week)

    Readings:  Eph 1: 1-10 / Lk 11: 47-54

"Woe to you lawyers!  Because you have taken away the key of knowledge; you have not entered yourselves and those who were entering you have hindered."  Obviously Jesus is not condemning the legal profession.  He was rather denouncing those who professed to be assiduous followers of the Mosaic Law during his time, for their hypocrisy.  They taught the law, but did not practice it themselves.

The Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, all about the role of the laity in the Church and in the world, speaks about the need for lay persons to have a "unity of life."  This means that they must not have a double standard in their behavior.  They must be consistent with their life as a Christian and their life in the world – as a professional, a politician, a housewife or any other situation in the world.  Unity of life is necessary if the leaven of Christianity is to influence temporal structures.

Word Today, October 20, 2000 (Friday of 28th Week)

    Readings: Eph 1: 11-14 / Lk 12: 1-7

"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings?  And yet not one of them is forgotten by God…. Therefore do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows." 

These words of Jesus are an invitation to all of us to trust in divine providence.  Everything, even the smallest event, is under the complete control of God.  Therefore, if we are trying to do God's will, we should not fear anything.  God is a loving father who takes care of all our needs.

Word Today, October 21, 2000 (Saturday of the 28th Week)

    Readings:  Eph 1: 15-23 / Lk 11: 27-28

"He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."  This phrase found in today's gospel has puzzled many people.  In another passage Jesus speaks of the unforgivable "sin against the Holy Spirit."

These words should not lead anyone to discouragement.  In ordinary life, we can say that for practical purposes all sins can be forgiven.  God wants to forgive our sins – that is why he redeemed us.  We should not be afraid to go to confession thinking that we have unforgivable sins.  Some authors say that the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is unforgivable, could be the sin of final impenitence (how can one be forgiven if he/she is obstinate to the very end?); or the sin of attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the devil.  In the latter case, it would be unforgivable because we go against the very source of the grace of repentance and conversion.  But in no case should we fall into despair due to our personal miseries.

Word Today, October 22, 2000 (29th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings:  Is 53: 10-11 / Heb 4: 14-16 / Mk 10: 35-45

"Whoever wishes to become great shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the slave of all; for the Son of Man also has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Positions of authority in the Church are not positions of privilege but of service.  This does not mean that those in authority should not exercise their authority.  It means, rather, that it should be exercised in a spirit of service.

The Archbishop of Manila has, as his episcopal motto, a single Latin word, "Serviam."  It means "I will serve", in contraposition to the motto of the devil when he chose to disobey God with his "Non serviam," – "I will not serve."  Those who command should command, but in doing so, they are obeying a higher law.  They exercise their authority considering the charge that God has given to them to take care of the common good of their flock.

Word Today, October 23, 2000 (Monday of 29th Week)

    Readings:  Eph 2: 1-10 / Lk 12: 13-21

Today's gospel contains a beautiful parable.  A man had become so successful and rich that he was so absorbed in providing for his security, but he did not realize that he was going to die that very same day.

We must all be aware of the reality of death.  Many people plan for their life.  How few plan for their death.  A Christian "plans for death" not only by taking out a memorial plan.  Above all, he must "lay up treasures in heaven" in this life.  These treasures are the good works that we do for God and for our neighbor.  These are the true riches.  So if we are blessed with material riches, we must use it for doing works of faith and charity.

Word Today, October 24, 2000 (Tuesday of 29th Week)

    Readings:  Eph 2: 12-22 / Lk 12: 35-38

Be prepared for the return of the master from the wedding feast.  Wedding feasts in the time and place of Christ were long drawn affairs that had no definite time of ending.  Hence the people who remained at home had to be ready for the unannounced return of the master. "Happy those servants if he finds them ready." 

We can apply this to ourselves.  We have to be ready for the coming of Christ into our lives.  In the first place, we must be sure that we are in a situation of friendship with God -- this is the "state of grace."  If we have offended God and neighbor, we must seek reconciliation in the sacrament of forgiveness. Then we should be ready for the inspirations that the Spirit may whisper in our hearts, so that we can respond to them generously.  

Word Today, October 25, 2000 (Wednesday of the 29th Week)

    Readings: Eph 3: 2-12 / Lk 12: 39-48

"But of everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will demand the more."

When we realize our good qualities or good situation, we should not get complacent about them.  Rather, with a Christian vision of life, we must realize that these good things have been given to us for a purpose, not just for our personal profit.  We must use our talents and possessions for helping others.  When we face God in judgment, we will have to render an accounting of God's gifts.

Word Today, October 26, 2000 (Thursday of 29th Week)

    Readings:  Eph 3: 14-21 / Lk 12: 49-53

"I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?"  We can loosely apply these words of Christ to the love of God.  Love has often been compared to a burning flame.  That is why in the apparitions of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary, He showed her His heart burning with love.

As Christians, we must be filled with a holy zeal to spread God's love.  Imagine the world burning in flames, consumed by the love of Christ!  All of us, through our words and apostolic action, are called to be the spark that will ignite God's love in the heart of everyone we meet.

Word Today, October 27, 2000 (Friday of 29 th Week)

    Readings: Eph 4: 1-6 / Lk 12: 54-59

"How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?"  That is how Jesus accuses those persons who were rejecting his preaching in spite of seeing the signs and wonders he was working.  They could interpret the signs of the weather, but they could not interpret the "signs of the times".

Some persons have loosely interpreted the term "signs of the times" as if the teaching of the Church had to adjust to fashionable trends.  But the gospel shows precisely that what we should do is to recognize that the time of Christ has come.  We are already in the third millennium of the Christian era and there is still much to be done.  This is the moment for all Christians to make a renewed effort in evangelization so that the saving teaching and power of Christ may find wider acceptance in our times. 

Word Today, October 28, 2000 (Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles)

    Readings:  Eph 2: 19-22 / Lk 6: 12-19

Today is the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles.  Jude is the author of one of the epistles in the New Testament.  Simon and Jude preached the gospel in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia.  Like many other apostles they were martyred in defense of the faith.

In the Philippines there is a devotion to St. Jude as intercessor for so-called "impossible cases".  Nothing (except absurdities and contradictions, like making a square circle) is impossible with God.  But there are very difficult situations men find themselves in.  Difficulties make men realize that they have to turn to a higher power.  However, we should not see God only as a "problem-solver".  In fact, God is our last end, the object of our love.  But when we realize our helplessness, it helps us see that God loves and cares for us so that we can love him in return.

Word Today, October 29, 2000 (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

    Readings:  Jer 31: 7-9 / Heb 5: 1-6 / Mk 10: 46-52

"Master, grant that I may see."  This was the request of the blind Bartimeus whom we meet in today's gospel.  The incident of the cure of Bartimeus is a beautiful example of faith and trust in Jesus.  Bartimeus received not only his physical sight.  He also received an increase in his life of faith.

Faith is a kind of light that enables us to see things sub specie aeternitatis, under the aspect of eternity, that is to say, in the light of God himself.  It is a gift of God.  That is why we must ask God for more faith.  Bartimeus' request can be a good prayer asking God to give us more faith.

Word Today, October 30, 2000 (Monday of 30th Week)

    Readings:  Eph 4: 32-5: 8 / Lk 13: 10-17

The gospel today shows how Jesus cured a woman who was "bent double and quite unable to strand upright."  Another translation says that the woman was "unable to look upwards." When Christ cured her, she was straightened up and she glorified God.

We can make an allegorical interpretation of this passage.  Many people are spiritually "bent double" and they cannot look up.  Their vision is so horizontal; they do not see the transcendental meaning of life and events.  Such a situation calls for the healing of Christ.  When we fight against sin and evil in ourselves, we get "straightened up" and our vision becomes more penetrating.

Word Today, October 31, 2000 (Tuesday of 30th Week)

    Readings:  Eph 5: 21-33 / Lk 13: 18-21

In today's gospel, Jesus Christ compared the kingdom of God to yeast.  Only a small amount of it is mixed with flour, but it leavens all of the dough.

Many Church documents have emphasized that Christians are like leaven.  Wherever they may be, they should be a positive influence in their environment. This is especially true for Christians who are involved in different social and political institutions.  They must strive to bring the saving teachings of Christ to their field of competence. They should not be intimidated by being in the minority.  By working tenaciously for God, they can help to raise the moral and spiritual level of their surroundings.

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