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APRIL 2002

Word Today,
April 1, 2002 (Easter Monday)

    Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33/ 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 2, 2002 (Easter Tuesday )

    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 3, 2002 (Easter Wednesday )

    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 4, 2002 (Easter Thursday )

    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 5, 2002 (Easter Friday )

    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 6, 2002 (Easter Saturday )

    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 7, 2002 (SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER )

    Readings: Acts 2:42-47/ 1 Pt 1:3-9/ 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 8, 2002 (Annunciation of the Lord )

    Readings: Is 7:10-14; 8:10/ Heb 10:4-10/ Lk 1:26-38  

Since we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, it is quite logical that we celebrate his conception nine months before, on March 25. However this is postponed to the present date because March 25 fell on Holy Week. 

The conception of Christ is a truly momentous event. It is the moment of the Incarnation, of the "Word taking flesh." Yet this cosmic event depended on a young village girl in the isolated town of Nazareth. While we celebrate an event in the life of Jesus Christ, we also remember with gratitude how Mary cooperated wholeheartedly in this event. In the Eucharistic celebration, we pray the Preface of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this celebration, we see the blending of Marian and Christological aspects. We go to Jesus through Mary. And Jesus gives us his own mother to be ours. 

Word Today, April 9, 2002 (Tuesday 2nd Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 4:32-37/ Jn 3:7b-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 10, 2002 ( Wednesday 2nd Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 5:17-26/ Jn 3:16-21  

The gospel today contains the words which served as the theme for the 1995 World Youth Day held in Manila. "For God so loved the word that he gave his only begotten Son." That phrase continues, "That those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting." 

Indeed, it was through the Incarnation and then the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, that we are saved, that we can go to heaven or everlasting life. But a pre-requisite for this is to "believe in him." We must first have faith in Christ, that he is truly the God-made-man and therefore, he is our Savior. Such faith comes to us as a gift from God himself. That is why we must love our faith and defend it against doubt, skepticism and rationalism.  

Word Today, April 11, 2002 (Thursday 2nd Week of Easter and Saint Stanislaus, bishop and martyr )

    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 12, 2002 (Friday 2nd 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 13, 2002 (Saturday 2nd 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 14, 2002 (THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER )

    Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33/ 1 Pt 1:17-21/ Lk 24:13-35  

Today's gospel is about the encounter of two disciples of Christ with the Risen Lord. These two men were discouraged and dejected because of the apparent defeat of Christ. But in the course of their conversation with Christ (whom they did not recognize at that time), their spirits were gradually lifted up. When they had fully recovered, then they found out that they had been talking to Christ himself. And they remarked, "Was not our heart burning within us while he was speaking on the road and explaining to us the Scriptures?" (Lk 24:32)  

Although the Risen Lord is now in heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father, He continues to be present on this earth. One way that Christ is present is through the Christians themselves. Every Christian is supposed to be another Christ because he carries the life of Christ in himself. And like Christ, he has to have an uplifting influence on his environment and on the people around him.   

Word Today, April 15, 2002 (Monday 3rd Week of Easter )

    Readings: 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, April 16, 2002 (Tuesday 3rd Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 7:51--8:1a/ Jn 6:30-35  

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, April 17, 2002 (Wednesday 3rd Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 8:1b-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, April 18, 2002 (Thursday 3rd Week of Easter)

    Readings : 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, April 19, 2002 (Friday 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, April 20, 2002 (Saturday 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, April 21, 2002 (FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER )

    Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41/ 1 Pt 2:20b-25/ Jn 10:1-10 

We may not be too familiar with the image of the good shepherd. Sheep raising is not very common in the tropics. But this image was very clear to the early Christians, especially since many of them came from nomadic lifestyles, where so many things depended on the sheep. Because of that, the shepherd was a man who was very concerned for the welfare of his sheep. How reassuring to know that Jesus used this imagery in order to convey the kind of relationship he has with us. He is a shepherd. He cares for the sheep. He cares for you and me.  

In the olden days, shepherds always kept a kettle. They would use it to prepare the medicinal herbs needed to heal the wounds of the sheep. And if a sheep was disabled, he would not leave it alone. He would mount the sheep on his back, bring it to a safe place, and there nurse the wounds of the sheep. That is how Christ cares for us, sinners. A pastor does not leave the sinner alone. Wishing the well-being of the sinner, the pastor tries to apply the medicinal balm, even if it may hurt at times. Even more, the pastor carries part of the burden, so that the medicine will not be more painful than necessary.   

Word Today, April 22, 2002 (Monday 4th Week of Easter )

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

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, April 23, 2002 (Tuesday 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, April 24, 2002 (Wednesday 4th Week of Easter)

    Readings: Acts 12:24--13:5a/ 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, April 25, 2002 (Saint Mark, evangelist feast)

    Readings : 1 Pt 5:5b-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, 2002 (Friday 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, April 27, 2002 (Saturday 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, April 28, 2002 (FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER )

    Readings: Acts 6:1-7/ 1 Pt 2:4-9/ Jn 14:1-12  

Today's gospel contains that famous statement of Jesus about himself: "I am the way, the truth and the life." (Jn 14:6) These are mysterious words, yet they contain a deep meaning for the follower of Christ.  

In our limited space,a we can only reflect on the first part--"Life". We are not talking here about merely physical life. When we say life, we mean a very valuable thing--an existence of dynamism, perfection and happiness. When a person is very unhappy, he may sometimes think that life is not worth living. A vegetable existence is something that no one desires. Life is not just to exist. It is to exist in a meaningful way. So when we think of life, the first thing that we should consider is the meaning of life. When Christ says that He is the life, he seems to be telling us that he holds the key to the meaning of our life.  

When the Pope commented on these words in a meeting with young people in the pilgrim shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, he pointed out how these words apply to our lives. What is the meaning of life, according to Christ? "He will say to you: keep loving. Only the person who forgets self in order to give himself to others fulfils his own life and expresses to the greatest extent the value of his earthly existence."   

Word Today, April 29, 2002 (Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church, Monday 5th Week of Easter )

    Readings: 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, April 30, 2002 (Tuesday 5th Week of Easter)

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

"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. 


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