Readings: Jer 18:1-6/ Mt 13:47-53
The parable in today's gospel compares the kingdom of heaven to the work of fishermen who gather in the fish and then sort out the bad ones from the good ones. "That is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just and throw them into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth."
The children of Fatima, who were beatified by the Pope, received a vision of hell. The Virgin Mary told them that they had to pray and offer sacrifices for the salvation of poor sinners. This led them to become zealous in their prayers and sacrifices. The task of the Church is the salvation of souls. All those who work in the Church should never lose sight of this ultimate goal. Like those children, they should be zealous in their work to save people from the punishments of hell.
Word Today, Aug 2, 2002 ( Friday of the 17th Week)
Readings: Jer 26:1-9/ Mt 13:54-58
When Jesus began his public life, many of his relatives and neighbors in Nazareth thought that he had gone mad. And in his first visit to Nazareth, as we read in today's gospel, his "kababayans" refused to recognize any supernatural or special content in his message. As time went by, Christ continued to meet with opposition, yet he continued steadfastly in his salvific mission.
Christ requires the same firmness and tenacity from his followers. We should realize that our behavior as Christians will often clash with the behavior of people who oppose Christian moral demands or who are satisfied with a half-hearted discipleship. Then we should act according to the model of the Master. Let us not give in to so-called "human respects". Let us be consistent with our faith.
Word Today, Aug. 3, 2002 (Saturday of the 17th Week)
Readings: Jer 26:11-16, 24/ Mt 14:1-12
The death of John the Baptist. King Herod, in spite of not really wanting to execute John the Baptist, ended up killing him in a most horrible way. He was beheaded and his head was presented to a young girl as a "reward" for her dancing skills. And why did he end up doing such an unjust act? He did not have the guts to take back a rash oath which he had made.
How many people end up doing things they really did not want to all because of a false sense of shame. They are ashamed to do what is right, yet they end up ashamed to do what is needed to rectify their error. How easily we sin. How difficult to be sorry and then confess our sins. Let us not be like Herod.
Word Today, Aug. 4, 2002 (Eighteenth SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Is 55:1-3/ Rom 8:35, 37-39/ Mt 14:13-21
The gospel of today narrates the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, by which Jesus Christ was able to feed 5,000 men (not counting the women and children) starting from five loaves and two fishes. This has been considered a symbol of the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, which feeds us all spiritually. Jesus himself alludes to this miracle when he promised the Eucharist at the synagogue at Capernaum.
There is a ridiculous and unsubstantiated interpretation of this gospel that would like to eliminate the "physical" miracle of multiplication, and limit the miracle to a "moral" one by which the 5,000 men would allegedly have taken out their hidden provisions and shared them with their neighbors. There would be no "multiplication of loaves" but only "changes of heart" from selfish people to generous ones. This is old hat. This interpretation hails back from the rationalists of the 19th century, who had the bias that miracles were just impossible. What is ridiculous is that this should be mouthed by Catholics who should know better. If you have faith, why twist the scripture just to explain away the obvious miracle?
Word Today, Aug. 5, 2002 (Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Rome)
Readings: Jer 28:1-17 / Mt 14:22-36
"Man of little faith, why did you doubt?" This was Jesus' reproach to Peter who began to sink under the water after having advanced some distance walking over the water, contrary to all natural laws. Did Peter really merit that reproach? Wouldn't any one of us think twice if we were walking over water? But let us not forget that Peter was already walking upon the invitation of Christ. He was already believing, then he doubted.
Faith is a gift of God. No human power can force us to believe. There must be a divine help. But once we have faith, it is wrong to doubt. To doubt the faith, which is based on God's gift, is to doubt God himself. Difficulties to understand, we can have; but that is not the same as to doubt. To doubt is to withdraw our assent. To have difficulties is to be puzzled, but it is compatible with a firm assent, based on our confidence in the Revealer. As Newman said, "A hundred difficulties do not add up to single doubt." Let us address our difficulties, but let it not lead to doubt.
Word Today, Aug. 6, 2002 ( The Transfiguration of the Lord)
Readings: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14/ 2 Pt 1:16-19/ Mt 17:1-9
Today we celebrate Christ's Transfiguration. Before the Passion, Christ showed himself to the three selected apostles in all his glory. So impressed were they that St. Peter just wanted to remain there. But that was not the plan of Jesus.
Jesus gave them this kind of "break" at Mt. Tabor, perhaps in order to strengthen them for the trial of faith that they would have to face at Mt. Calvary. God gives us good times, times of consolation and light. Let us not be surprised if God also sends us bad times, times of aridity and deepening shadows. It is all part of God's plan. All of it, if we are faithful, will lead to the joy of the Resurrection.
Word Today, Aug. 7, 2002 (Wednesday of the 18th Week)
Readings: Jer 31:1-7/ Mt 15:21-28
The gospel today is a very moving one. It is about the Canaanite woman who engaged Jesus in a dialogue of faith. At first, Jesus did not want to perform the mircle of curing her daughter because it was not part of the "original" plan. But he ended up doing it because of the woman's great faith. "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done to you as you will."
Her faith was manifested in her way of reasoning out. "Even the dogs (referring to herself, and her condition as a non-Jew) eat of the crumbs…" Living faith means that we must count on our beliefs in our way of thinking, of reasoning out, and consequently in our actions. Faith demands consistency in our actions and decisions.
Word Today, Aug 8, 2002 (Thursday of the 18th Week, Saint Dominic, priest memorial)
Readings: Jer 31:31-34/ Mt 16:13-23
Today is the feast of St. Dominic of Guzman, the founder of the Order of Preachers, more commonly called the Dominicans. St. Dominic saw the need to counteract the Albigensian heresy with sound doctrine coupled to a genuine life of sacrifice. He required his members to be "mendicants", living off the charity of others; and also to be very knowledgeable in their faith. The Dominican Order boasts of very eminent Christian thinkers, of whom the foremost is St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Dominic also fostered the devotion to the Holy Rosary.
Because their mission is to preach the Word of God, the Dominicans are especially devoted to study. Prayerful study of our faith is a pre-requisite to communicating it. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the apostolate as "passing on to others what one has contemplated." While contemplation is a gift of God, it also requires our effort to read and ponder prayerfully on God's word.
Word Today, Aug 9, 2002 (Friday of the 18th Week)
Readings: Na 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7/ Mt 16:24-28
"If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." In a materialistic and pleasure-seeking world, a Christian has to witness to this reality. We are following a God who, in his humanity, died on the cross in order to bring us to heaven.
We take up the cross of Christ by rejecting the pleasure principle as the driving force of our life. We take up Christ's cross by our determination to do the will of God, manifested in our daily duties and in our service of charity towards others. We take up His cross by embracing the lot of all men in the various forms of human suffering. Through the cross, borne with Christ, we put a new meaning into sufferings and hardships.
Word Today, Aug. 10, 2002 (Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr )
Readings: 2 Cor 9:6-10/ Jn 12:24-26
Today is the feast of St. Lawrence, one of the first deacons of the ancient Roman Church. He was martyred by being slowly "roasted" over a grill. Representations of St. Lawrence depict him with a kind of man-sized frying pan, where he was executed. As he was being cooked, he still had the sense of humor to tell the executioner, "Turn me over now and eat!"
Cheerfulness, joy, sense of humor - these are traits proper of a child of God, a follower of Christ. Even in the midst of suffering, a child of God can still be happy because suffering brings him closer to God and to his final destiny of eternal happiness.
Word Today, Aug. 11, 2002 ( NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a/ Rom 9:1-5/ Mt 14:22-33
In the Second Reading, we see St. Paul feeling the great desire to convert the Jews. "I would even desire that I myself suffer the curse of being cut off from Christ, instead of my brethren."
While recognizing the differences of our beliefs, the Church has a very great respect for the Jewish people. There are numerous historical records of the help that the Church has given to the Jews. During the holocaust, Pope Pius XII made use of all his diplomatic prerogatives to save Jews from the Nazis. There is a movie, based on real life, entitled The Scarlet and the Black that narrates this. The present Holy Father, himself a victim of Nazi oppression, had many, and continues to have many, Jewish friends in Poland and in other countries. As Christians, we can say that our greatest loves are Jews -- Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Word Today, Aug. 12, 2002 (Monday of the 19th week)
Readings: Ez 1:2-5, 24-28c/ Mt 17:22-27
The incident narrated in today's gospel is unique to St. Matthew, perhaps because it involved the collection of taxes, which was Matthew's former trade before being called to the apostolate. Although Christ, as the son of God, was not subject to any human authority, he nevertheless wanted to give us a lesson of order and propriety. Hence he ordered Peter to pay the required taxes, making use of a small miracle to produce the amount needed.
We learn from here that if we want to imitate Christ, we must strive to be good citizens who fulfill all their duties and exercise their rights. Christians should have a sense of civic involvement. It does not mean that we have to be "political" in the partisan sense. It means that we have to face up to our secular condition and not be inattentive to the needs of the "city of man.
Word Today, Aug. 13, 2002 (Tuesday of the 19th Week)
Readings: Ez 2:8--3:4/ Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven." Indeed, we cannot approach God with a sense of self-sufficiency. We must approach God conscious of our weakness and our need for his grace and help.
To become like a child is to be aware of our smallness before God. It is a sure path to the virtue of humility, which is the foundation of all spiritual progress.
Word Today, Aug. 14, 2002 (Wednesday of the 19th Week, Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr )
Readings: Ez 9:1-7; 10:18-22/ Mt 18:15-20
The gospel today contains the promise of the sacrament of penance or reconciliation. "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you unbind on earth will be unbound in heaven." When Jesus had risen from the dead, his first act recorded with the apostles was to fulfill this promise. He then told the apostles, "For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained."
We should be very grateful to Christ for the sacrament of confession. With it, we are certain of receiving forgiveness for the sins for which we are truly sorry. Every Catholic has the right to receive this personal attention from the pastors of the Church. Hence the pastors have the duty to make themselves available for administering this sacrament of God's love.
Word Today, Aug 15, 2002 (The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Readings: Vigil: 1 Chr 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2/ 1 Cor 15:54b-57/ Lk 11:27-28 // Day: Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab/ 1 Cor 15:20-27/ Lk 1:39-56
The Assumption of Mary marks the end of her earthly life. When the time set by God for her stay on earth had passed, God took up Mary to heaven in body and soul. There are two traditions about this -- some say this took place at Ephesus, where she was living with the apostle St. John; others say this took place in Jerusalem where most of the other apostles were. Whatever the case, she is now in heaven without experiencing the common lot of men -- that of remaining in the grave until the end of the world.
Mary is in heaven with her body NOW. And in heaven, we know that she intercedes for us in a special way. Having recourse to the intercession of Mary does not detract from the worship and honor of Jesus Christ. It was Christ himself who set up Mary as our mother. He expects us to treat her as such. And what child does not ask help from his mother? Any honor we give to Mary redounds to Christ; for what child will begrudge any honor given to his mother?
Word Today, Aug 16, 2002 (Friday of the 19th Week)
Readings: Ez 16:1-15, 60, 63 or Ez 16:59-63/ Mt 19:3-12
In today's gospel reading, we see how Christ restored the integrity of marriage by declaring that divorce is against the plan of God. "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder."
Many countries, ignoring the word of Christ, allow divorce for various reasons. In our own country, there are some people who want to remove the indissolubility of the marriage bond alleging that it is needed for the good of society. There are many reliable studies that show the many evils that come from divorce and remarriage. If we want to strengthen the family, we should not allow divorce. Problems of married couples have better solutions. If divorce is possible, then people may no longer try to solve their difficulties and instead seek to run away, to the detriment of many people, especially of their children.
Word Today, Aug. 17, 2002 (Saturday of the 19th Week )
Readings: Ez 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32/ Mt 19:13-15
"Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them." Jesus loved all men of all ages. But he had a special concern and love for the young. He did not consider time spent with them a useless.
The Church, following Christ, has a great love for young people. The future of the Church and of the world belong to them. It is important that the idealism and energy found in young people are channeled to God.
Word Today, Aug. 18, 2002 (TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Is 56:1, 6-7/ Rom 11:13-15, 29-32/ Mt 15:21-28
How consistent are we with our Faith? Like the Canaanites woman, can we also be as logical about our convictions as Christians? Does our faith really enter into our way of thinking and of viewing things?
Let us examine our way of thinking. Whenever we reason out, as the philosophers will point out, we form a "syllogism". Man is rational. Pedro is a man. Therefore, Pedro is rational. The syllogism contains premises, and the connection of these premises forms the logical conclusion. To be consistent with our faith, the beliefs that we profess should really form part of our implied "syllogisms". They should appear in the premises.
For example, we may be faced with some family, social or economic problem. It might tend to make us depressed and sad. Yet quite often, if we were to view things with the logic of faith, perhaps that thing which is bothering us now should not really be doing so. Are we aware that we have no lasting place here on earth? That what really matters is our eternal destiny? Therefore, without losing our interest in that matter, which we have the duty to attend to, we could perhaps acquire a more detached perspective.
Word Today, Aug. 19, 2002 (Monday of the 20th week)
Readings: Ez 24:15-24/ Mt 19:16-22
Today's gospel is about the rich young man who was called by Christ, but who could not get himself to follow Christ because of his attachments to his riches. The gospel concludes that the man "Went away sad."
Many of us think that riches will make us happy. Yet very often it becomes a source of anxiety and even of strife. Even if we have a peaceful possession of our belongings, they do not truly satisfy the deep yearnings of the human heart where happiness calls. The book of Proverbs 25, 20 says that "As moth to the cloth and termite to the wood, so sadness harms the heart of man." Hence the advice of St. James in his letter is the appropriate remedy. "Is anyone sad? Let him pray."
Word Today, Aug. 20, 2002 (Tuesday of the 20th Week)
Readings: Ez 28:1-10/ Mt 19:23-30
As a continuation of the incident of the rich young man who refused to follow Christ, the apostles asked Christ what would happen to themselves. The answer of Christ is very consoling. Those who have given up everything for the kingdom of God will receive a hundredfold of what they have given up. On top of that, they will receive everlasting life.
The "hundredfold" is not something only for the next life. Those who have given up their possessions and other earthly attachments for the kingdom of heaven are filled with joy. Their life has meaning. Just look at the joy of the apostles. Contrast it with the sadness of this nameless youth
Word Today, Aug. 21, 2002 (Wednesday of the 20th Week, Saint Pius X, pope)
Readings: Ez 34:1-11/ Mt 20:1-16a
St. Pius X reigned as Pope at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. He died in 1914 just as the first World War was breaking out. The ecclesial significance of Pius X can be gleaned from the fact that he is the only Pope, since Pius V who lived in the Sixteenth Century, to be canonized. In the Opening Prayer, the Church summarizes the salient characteristics for which he is known. He "defended the Catholic faith" and "made all things new in Christ." This was his motto, the same motto that our own Second Plenary Council of the Philippines adapted: instaurare omnia in Christo.
As ordinary Christians, we all have our role to play in these two activities of defending the faith and renewing all things in Christ. In your place of work, in your field of expertise, you have to carry out the "apology" of the faith. By being aware of your apostolic responsibility to those around you in the activity in which you are engaged, you will bring Christ to all these activities.
Word Today, Aug 22, 2002 (The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Readings: Ez 36:23-28/ Mt 22:1-14
Today is the feast of the Queenship of Mary. This feast very appropriately comes just a week after we have celebrated Mary's Assumption into heaven. We can imagine how the Blessed Virgin Mary must have been received in heaven! In the Litany after the rosary, she is called "Queen of Angels" and "Queen of All Saints."
Mary is rightfully called "queen" because Jesus, her son, is "king." As the queen of the kingdom of heaven, she holds a place of special honor. She also has great power before God. Mary's Queenship is another motive for us to have recourse to the intercession of Mary.
Word Today, Aug 23, 2002 ( Friday of the 20th Week)
Readings: Ez 37:1-14/ Mt 22:34-40
In the gospel today, Jesus upheld the validity of the commandment of love of God as the first and most important commandment. This commandment was already in the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy. Once we realize who is God, what God means to us, then it follows that we must render to God our complete and total dedication.
This commandment shows us that we must always put God first. In order to love God, it is not enough to lead a mediocre existence. We must strive for Christian perfection in our own place and situation. We must learn to know God and love Him through our daily existence.
Word Today, Aug. 24, 2002 (Saint Bartholomew, apostle )
Readings: Rv 21:9b-14/ Jn 1:45-51
Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle. He is also called Nathaniel, and under that name, his vocation is narrated in today's gospel reading. He was a very frank person, who spoke his mind. He merited one of the best descriptions from Christ: "Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile."
In our environment of "public relations" and "image making", it is good to remember that a Christian does not have to "build" a false image. By being truly himself, by being sincere and loyal, he will reflect what a Christian should be. It is so refreshing to find a person who is simple, straightforward and sincere. Someone whom you can receive at face value. The honesty and integrity of a Christian is a sign that can attract more people to the faith.
Word Today, Aug. 25, 2002 (TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Is 22:19-23/ Rom 11:33-36/ Mt 16:13-20
Today's gospel contains the conferment on Peter of the primacy over the Church. "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church." Throughout the centuries, the great fathers and doctors of Christianity have interpreted this verse to support the privileged place of the Pope, Peter's successor, as the head of the universal Church.
In the bible, the name is often indicative of the person's mission or vocation. And when there is a change of name, this is even more so. Such was the case with Abraham, with Jacob and some other biblical characters. St. Peter's name was Simon. Now it will be Peter, which means rock or stone. Upon this stone, upon Peter and not upon any other element, the Church will find a solid support. Nowadays, the Pope is the strong defender of the unity and integrity of the faith and of the Church. Let us pray so that the Lord continue giving our Holy Father the strength to guide our Church.
Word Today, Aug. 26, 2002 (Monday of the 21st week)
Readings: 2 Thes 1:1-5, 11b-12/ Mt 23:13-22
There is a beautiful connection between the first and second readings. In the first reading, we see the concern and solicitude of Paul for the Christians in Thessalonica. "We always mention you in our prayers." In the gospel, on the other hand, Christ berates the scribes and Pharisees for being "blind guides", with no real concern for the spiritual well-being of those who follow them.
It is very difficult to be one's own guide in the spiritual life. When it comes to evaluating our own selves, we can be quite biased due to our emotions or our pride. Thus, we need a good guide. One of the greatest gifts we can receive is to have someone who can orient us in our journey to god. Let us pray to God that we find such a person.
Word Today, Aug. 27, 2002 (Tuesday of the 21st Week, St. Monica)
Readings: 2 Thes 2:1-3a, 14-17/ Mt 23:23-26
St. Monica was the mother of St. Augustin. We know about her life because of the autobiography of the great doctor of the Church entitled "Confessions." St. Monica shed many tears, praying to God for the conversion of her son whom she had tried to bring up as a good Christian, but who was instead drawn by the wiles of the world and of the flesh. Yet she never stopped. Her perseverance was rewarded by the miraculous conversion of Augustin who later on became one of the greatest saints of the Church.
Nowadays there are also many mothers who are suffering because the children they love and have raised without sparing any effort, are going astray. The environment of materialism and sensuality, coupled with organized efforts to corrupt the youth through drugs and pornography, is leading many young people to destruction. Mothers should not give up their efforts. They should pray earnestly to God and also do whatever they can for the conversion of their wayward children.
Word Today, Aug. 28, 2002 (Wednesday of the 21st Week, Saint Augustine)
Readings: 2 Thes 3:6-10, 16-18/ Mt 23:27-32
Today is the memorial of St. Augustine, one of the greatest figures in the history of the Church and of mankind. Augustine is an example of a man of great human qualities who was searching for God. To him we owe the phrase, found in his autobiography, that says "Lord, you made us for yourself, and our hearts will be restless until they rest in you."
Man is a God-seeker. He searches for happiness. But if he looks for happiness in pleasures, riches or even in noble things of this earth, he will be frustrated. That is one of the lessons of Augustine's life. Let us learn from him to seek God inside our hearts.
Word Today, Aug 29, 2002 ( The Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist )
Readings: 1 Cor 1:1-9 (428)/ Mk 6:17-29*
St. John the Baptist died through the intrigue of Herodias and the excess of "human respect" of Herod. Although Herod did not want to kill John the Baptist, he found himself in an embarrassing position because of his rash vow to Herodias' daughter.
We ought to keep our promises. But if the promise refers to something wrong or unjust, then we have no obligation to keep that promise. That "promise", in fact, loses all its binding force because of its immorality. In the case of Herod, he was not really thinking about right and wrong. He was only concerned for his reputation among his guests.
Word Today, Aug 30, 2002 ( Friday of the 21st Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 1:17-25/ Mt 25:1-13
The parable of the wise and the foolish virgins bears an important lesson for all of us. At the end of the parable, the foolish virgins who were not prepared for the coming of the newlyweds, were left outside of the feast.
The way that we use our time, our sense of responsibility for our duties, has a great bearing on our eternal salvation. The Christian life is not just a matter of "not doing bad things". We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven just by avoiding evil. We have a positive obligation to do good. That is why a person who wastes his time in idleness runs a very great risk of missing the boat.
Word Today, Aug. 31, 2002 ( Saturday of the 21st Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 1:26-31/ Mt 25:14-30
"As for the unprofitable servant, cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth." That is how the parable of the talents ends - with the condemnation of the servant who did not make use of the talent entrusted by the master. The "talent" here refers to an amount of money. But "talent" can also be understood as our natural gifts from God.
We all have our talents. We have talents not for ourselves but for the service to other persons and to society. We have the obligation to use these talents, not to keep them idle. Once again, we can see how important it is for the Christian not to lead an idle and useless life.