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APRIL 2001

Word Today,
April 1, 2001 (Fifth Sunday in Lent)

    Readings: Is 43: 16-21 / Phil 3: 8-14 / Jn 8: 1-11

The gospel incident of the woman caught in the act of adultery has many lessons for us.  Today we can concentrate on the reaction of the would-be executioners.  When Jesus challenged them, "Let the one without sin be the first to cast a stone," the reaction was that they began to go away one by one, "starting from the oldest."

When we feel indignant and resentful over wrongs inflicted by others, we should also examine ourselves.  Quite often, we will see that we ourselves have been guilty of those or of other faults, and we would appreciate receiving mercy and sympathy, instead of condemnation.  St. Paul's "hymn of charity" among other things, mentions that "charity is not resentful" (1 Cor 13: 5).  If we find ourselves with thoughts of hatred and violence, we should drive them away with thoughts of understanding and peace.

Word Today, April 2, 2001 (Monday of the 5 th Week of Lent)

    Lectionary: Dn 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30 / Jn 8: 12-20 

In the gospel today, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."  Since Christians form the mystical body of Christ, all of us, and the whole Church, can be considered as "light of the world" or the "light for all nations."

This underscores the reality that, through their words and actions, Christians should bring truth and understanding to their surroundings.  Wherever there is a Christian who is consistent with his beliefs working in a field of human endeavor, the light of Christ must be there.

Word Today, April 3, 2001 (Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 4, 2001 (Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 5, 2001 (Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 6, 2001 (Friday of the 5th Week of Lent)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 7, 2001 (Saturday of the 5th Week of Lent)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 8, 2001 (Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion)

    Readings: Is 50: 4-7 / Phil 2: 6-11 / Lk 22: 14-23-56

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

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

Word Today, April 9, 2001 (Monday in Holy Week)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 10, 2001 (Tuesday in Holy Week)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 11, 2001 (Wednesday in Holy Week)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 12, 2001 (Holy Thursday)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 13, 2001 (Good Friday of the Lord's Passion)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 14, 2001 (Holy Saturday)

    Readings: None 

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

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

Word Today, April 15, 2001 (Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 16, 2001 (Monday, Second Day of the Easter Octave)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 17, 2001 (Tuesday in Easter Octave)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 18, 2001 (Wednesday in Easter Octave)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 19, 2001 (Thursday in Easter Octave)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 20, 2001 (Friday in Easter Octave)

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

The gospel today is about the miraculous catch of fish. Before the resurrection of Christ, there was a similar miracle. But this time, unlike the first one, the evangelist says "the net was not torn" in spite of being full of big fish.  Remember that the Lord had promised Peter that he would be a "fisher of men." Hence, fishing is a very good symbol of the apostolate. In apostolic work, we may sometimes feel that the instruments (ourselves) are inadequate. They may even break. But with Christ, the instruments can hold out. In the midst of apostolic activity, we must keep close to the risen Christ in order not to break.

Word Today, April 21, 2001 (Saturday in Easter Octave)

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

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

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

Word Today, April 22, 2001 (Second Sunday of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 5: 12-16 / Apoc 1: 9-11. 12-13. 17-19 / Jn 20: 19-31

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

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

Word Today, April 23, 2001 (Monday in the Second Week of Easter)

    Lectionary: Acts 4: 23-31 / Jn 3: 1-8

"Amen, amen I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." These words of Jesus indicate that the Christian life is like a "new birth", a "new creation." It is not the same natural and earthly life that we are familiar with. It is a new life, in which we become "sharers in the divine nature."

This new birth takes place primarily through "water and the Spirit." This is a clear reference to the sacrament of Baptism, by which we are initiated into the Christian life. Baptism makes us "new creatures." From children of wrath, we are transformed into children of God. Last Easter, we renewed our baptismal promises. Let us remember them now and thank God for our new life in Christ.

Word Today, April 24, 2001 (Tuesday in Second Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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." 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, April 25, 2001 (Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist)

    Readings: 1 Pt 5: 5-14 / Mk 16: 15-20

St. Mark wrote the gospel which is commonly believed to contain the oral preaching of St. Peter. Aside from our debt of gratitude to St. Mark, we can also learn a lesson from his life.

As a young man, he joined Paul and Barnabas in their first missionary journey. He later abandoned them because he found the task too difficult. However, he was ready to go again on the second missionary journey. Paul did not want to take him because he had failed them the first time. But Barnabas gave him a second chance. This time he stuck it out. Many years later, Paul himself would ask for Mark's help in his ministry. We should not let defeats discourage us. After a mistake, we can always put things right. And we should also learn to give people a second chance.

Word Today, April 26, 2001 (Thursday in Second Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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, April 27, 2001 (Friday in Second Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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, April 28, 2001 (Saturday in Second Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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, April 29, 2001 (Third Sunday of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 5: 27-32. 40-41 / Apoc 5: 11-14 / Jn 21: 1-19

The gospel today is about the second miraculous catch of fish. This one took place after the resurrection of Jesus. We can make use of the dialogue between Peter and the other apostles for our reflection today. Peter said, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also are going with you." And then they had a miraculous catch.

Fishing has always been associated with the apostolate. We must "put out into the deep", we must go fishing, united with Peter, that is, with the Pope. If we follow the orientations and guidelines of the Holy Father, we can be sure that we will have a fruitful apostolate.

Word Today, April 30, 2001 (Monday in the Third Week of Easter)

    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.


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