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MAY 2001

Word Today,
May 1, 2001 (St. Joseph theWorker)

    Readings: 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, 2001 (Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 3, 2001 (Sts. Philip and James, Apostles)

    Readings: 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, 2001 (Friday in 3rd Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 5, 2001 (Saturday in 3rd Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 6, 2001 (Fourth Sunday of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 13: 14. 43-52 / Apoc 7: 9. 14-17 / Jn 10: 27-30

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." We can apply these words of Christ to the need for all Christians to hear the voice of Christ. How do we do that? We hear the voice of Christ when we read the Scriptures and when we listen to the representatives of the Church expound them. We hear the voice of Christ when, in the depth of our heart, we listen to the inspirations of the Spirit. 

Above all, we hear Christ when we talk to him personally, in an intimate conversation of friends. Then Christ can truly say that he "knows" us, just like a friend. Only then can we be his true followers. A Christian does not merely follow a code of conduct, he is following a living person, to whom the Christian is personally committed. 

Word Today, May 7, 2001 (Monday in the 4th Week of Easter)

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

In today's gospel, Jesus described himself as "the door of the sheep." He continues, "If anyone enter by me he shall be safe, and shall go in and out, and shall find pastures." These words can be complemented by St. Paul's observation that there is only one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ. 

The Church has reminded us, in the Declaration Dominus Iesus, that Jesus is the exclusive savior, and that his salvation is inseparable from the Church. Other religions may have elements of truth and salvation, and some of them can be considered as human preparations for receiving the grace of Christ. Let us appreciate our Christian heritage and be ready to share it in sincere inter-religious dialogue with other persons.

Word Today, May 8, 2001 (Tuesday in the 4th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 9, 2001 (Wednesday in the 4th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 9,000 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 10, 2001 (Thursday in the 4th Week of Easter)

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

Jesus said, "He who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me." God is a God of order. There is an order established by God in his communication to men. Part of this order is the hierarchy of the Church he established. 

We must follow the legitimate superiors in the Church. In doing so, we can be sure that we have the spirit of Christ. The great founders of religious orders and new movements in the Church always sought the approval of the hierarchy. That was their assurance that they were making the right kind of "innovations" in the life of the Church. 

Word Today, May 11, 2001 (Friday in 4th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 12, 2001 (Saturday in 4th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 13, 2001 (Fifth Sunday of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 14: 21-27 / Apoc 21: 1-5 / Jn 13: 31-35 

One of the legacies the Lord left his followers was the "new" commandment of love. What is so new about this commandment? Were not the commandments to love God and to love our neighbor already in the Old Testament? Yes indeed. The novelty in Christ's commandment may lie in his qualification of loving the others "as I loved you." In other words, the new model of loving is Jesus' love for us, which is really just God's love for all men. 

Christian love goes beyond mere sentiments. It surpasses sympathies and antipathies. If we imitate Christ's love and ask for his grace to do so, we will end up forgiving and loving those who injure and insult us. This is indeed new and difficult. But with the new order of grace and forgiveness instituted by Christ, it is the requirement for a truly Christian behavior. 

Word Today, May 14, 2001 (St. Matthias, Apostle)

    Lectionary: Acts 1: 15-17. 20-26 / Jn 15: 9-17 

St. Matthias was the apostle who was chosen to "substitute" for Judas. His being counted among the apostles is narrated in the first reading. St. Peter interpreted the scripture, "His ministry let another take," to mean that someone had to take the place of Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then hanged himself. 

We can see here the mystery of the divine calling. Why does God call some people to his special service? While certain requirements must be fulfilled (for example, they could only choose among those who were present from the beginning of Jesus' public life), ultimately it is not based merely on human qualifications. It is based on a positive choice of God that, in its proper time, is manifested to the person concerned and, perhaps, to others around him. Today, let us pray that God send more vocations to the priesthood, the consecrated life and other forms of ecclesial commitment.

Word Today, May 15, 2001 (Tuesday in the 5th Week of Easter, San Isidro Labrador)

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

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, 2001 (Wednesday in the 5th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 17, 2001 (Thursday in the 5th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 18, 2001 (Friday in 5th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 19, 2001 (Saturday in 5th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 20, 2001 (Sixth Sunday of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 15: 1-2. 22-29 / Apoc 21: 10-14. 22-23 / Jn 14: 23-29

It might sound a bit presumptuous that the apostles, gathered together as a body, should say, "It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond the essentials." Yet that is what they said as a consequence of what we may call the first council of the Church at Jerusalem. So close to our Lord's time, the apostles were aware that their decision had a special quality, so that it could really be said that they were acting with the Holy Spirit.

Since then, the successors of the apostles have met many more times as a collegial body in what are now called "Ecumenical Councils." Ecumenical councils enjoy a special place among the ways that the apostolic college exercises its authority. The latest one was the Second Vatican Council that ended in 1965. That council brought a wind of renewal into the Church. Among the most important fruits of that council was the reminder that all of us, priests, religious and lay persons, are called to live the fulness of the Christian life in their own state in life. We can say that this message of the universal call to holiness is also a message addressed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Word Today, May 21, 2001 (Monday of the 6th Week of Easter)

    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 22, 2001 (Tuesday in the 6th Week of Easter)

    Readings: 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 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. Let us increase our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

Word Today, May 23, 2001 (Wednesday in the 6th Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 17: 15. 22-18: 1 / Jn 16: 12-15

"But when he,the Spirit of truth, has come, he will teach you all the truth." It may sound presumptuous, but as a follower of Christ, we must accept that we have received "all the truth." This does not refer to merely human teachings, because God has left us the sphere of temporal realities to go on discovering truths, as in the case of natural sciences. This fulness of truth refers to the "saving truth" of divine revelation.

Since Christ is the Word of God made man who came to save us, he has given us the fulness of saving truth. Christ is the only mediator between God and man. Other beliefs may have a share or participation of Christ's fulness. These elements help their adherents to get close to God and, eventually, to Christ the Savior.

Word Today, May 24, 2001 (Thursday in the 6th Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 18: 1-8 / Jn 16: 16-20

"I go to the Father." With these words, Jesus Christ may have been talking about his Ascension to heaven, that will follow his resurrection. Today, however, it may be good to concentrate on the fact that Christ referred to God the Father.

Like Christ, we must all be imbued with a deep awareness that God is our father. Like the good father that he is, God wants us to be happy. Heaven is a place and state of perfect union with God, who will fill up all the yearnings of the human heart. To go to the Father is to go to heaven.

Word Today, May 25, 2001 (Friday in the 6th Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 18: 9-18 / Jn 16: 20-23

Jesus Christ said, "I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you." This passage makes us consider the joy a Christian should have. Christianity, although its symbol is the cross (which is associated with hardship), is a religion of joy and happiness. 

Anyone can have a good laugh and still be sad deep down inside. Joy is not just having a fun time. True joy, the one that "no one shall take from you", is based on the deep conviction coming from faith that God is our father who loves us madly. When hardships come (and come it must for everyone because we live in an imperfect world), Christian joy is not removed. By uniting our sufferings with Christ on the cross, our joy becomes even more firmly rooted. A Christian can continue to smile in spite of external and internal hardships.

Word Today, May 26, 2001 (Saturday in the 6th Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 18: 23-28 / Jn 16: 23-28

In the first reading we have an example of the apostolic fervor of the early Christians. Priscilla and Aquila, a Christian couple who were close to St. Paul, came across Apollo, who was an eloquent man who talked about Jesus Christ. But Apollo had not received proper Christian initiation through sacramental baptism. So Priscilla and Aquila "took an interest in him and gave him further instruction" about Christianity.

As we go about our day, we must take a genuine interest in the well-being of our companions. We should not let occasions to do good pass us by. If we see an opportunity to bring someone closer to God (for example, by encouraging them in their Christian life), we should care for them enough to go out of our way to do so. We could help our friends avail of the many graces coming from God through the different liturgical celebrations as we prepare for the Lord's Ascension. 

Word Today, May 27, 2001 (Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension)

    Readings: Acts 1: 1-11 / Eph 1: 17-23 or Heb 9: 24-28/ Lk 24: 46-53 (year C)

After giving them the command to preach the gospel and to "make disciples of all nations", Jesus Christ gave them an assurance. "And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time."

These words are the scriptural basis for our belief in the "indefectibility" of the Church. To be indefectible does not mean that the Church, as the People of God, composed of men and women redeemed by Christ, is free of defects. The Pope's apology for the sins of the children of the Church is a clear admission of the presence of sin and defects in the bosom of the Church. "Indefectibility" means that the Church, the "universal sacrament of salvation", will not fail in its ultimate mission of distributing the fruits of the redemption of Christ. The Catholic Church will last until the end of the world. Meanwhile, it will continue fulfilling the charge laid on it by Christ to preach the Gospel and to invite those who believe to be washed from their sins through the waters of Baptism.

Word Today, May 28, 2001 (Monday after Ascension)

    Lectionary: Acts 19: 1-8/ Jn 16: 29-33

The first reading today can apply to the sacrament of confirmation. After being baptized, Paul "laid his hands" on the new converts then "the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy." 

Confirmation strengthens our commitment to our Christian vocation. It implies the obligation to become "witnesses" of Christ, just like the apostles. That is why the apostolate is not just an obligation of some sectors of the Church. Each and every Christian must be aware of his obligation to be a witness of Christ in his own way, in the place where God has put him.

Word Today, May 29, 2001 (Tuesday after Ascension)

    Readings: Acts 20: 17-27 / Jn 17: 1-11

The gospel contains a very moving prayer of Christ. "I pray for them (the apostles present then)... for those you have given me because they belong to you... I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world." 

Christians live in the world but they belong to God. Most Christians have to continue living in ordinary society because that is where God has placed them. In the imagery of an ancient Christian writer, Christians are in the world just like the soul is in the body. Christians have to give life and meaning to human realities just as the soul vivifies the body. But in order to fulfill his mission towards the world, a Christian cannot be "worldly" in the sense of being imbued with materialistic values. It can be done because we can count on Christ's prayer for his disciples.

Word Today, May 30, 2001 (Wednesday after Ascension)

    Readings: Acts 20: 28-38 / Jn 17: 11-19

In his prayer, Jesus Christ is asking for the holiness, for the sanctity of his followers. Then he says, "And for them I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."

There is a saying that "No one can give what he does not have." This has a special application for those who are active in the apostolate. Just like Christ, if we want the persons around us to become better, we should begin with ourselves. Church workers, like priests or catechists, must try to be consistent in their lives with what they teach. They can only have real apostolic fruits if they strive, like Jesus Christ, to sanctify themselves, to consecrate themselves truly to God.

Word Today, May 31, 2001 (The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

    Readings: 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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