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Word Today, Feb. 1, 20021 (Friday of the 3rd Week)

    Readings: 2 Sm 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17/ Mk 4:26-34  

The parable today narrates a common experience of those who plant. "Thus is the kingdom of God, as though a man should cast seed into the earth, then sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow without his knowing it." 

One lesson we can derive from this is not to become like the impatient children who plant a seed and expect to see something sprouting the following day. Some people want to get instant results in their Christian life. If they do not receive any sensible consolation, they immediately get discouraged and think that God has left them. No. We should be patient and be confident that what we have sown in prayers and the sacraments are quietly but surely growing.  

Word Today, Feb 2, 2002 (The Presentation of the Lord )

    Readings: Mal 3:1-4/ Heb 2:14-18/ Lk 2:22-40 or 2:22-32 . 

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. We commemorate the Holy Family's fulfillment of the Jewish rite to offer to God the first born son. It is traditional in many places to bless candles and have a procession on this day. 

Some people have been spreading an alleged prophecy that there will be "three days of darkness" when the only light that we will have will come from blessed candles. Some people may have been taken in by this assertion and so they keep a store of blessed candles "just in case". While the custom of blessing candles, having a procession with them and even keeping some in the house are pious and worthy practices, the threat of having three days of darkness is not a credible one. It has no basis in the teachings of the Church and the alleged private revelations on which it is based is very questionable. There is a need for conversion, but God does not ask for conversion on the basis of irrational fears. 

Word Today, Feb. 3, 2002 (FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME )

    Readings: Zep 2:3; 3:12-13/ 1 Cor 1:26-31/ Mt 5:1-12a  

The gospel of today is about the eight beatitudes. They are called "beatitudes" because they are preceded by the words "Blessed," followed by certain requirements that Jesus presents for his followers.  

The wonderful thing about the beatitudes is that they do not set a lower limit. Rather, they point upward. They tell us the exigencies of a truly Christian life. Thus, based on the beatitudes, we can have an idea of a positive program for Christian living. The beatitudes tell us about the need to be detached from material goods and not to make them ends in themselves (poverty of spirit). They teach us about the importance of kindness and long-suffering. They encourage us to seek justice, holiness and peace. They show us the need for mastery over our passions (purity of heart). Finally, the beatitudes tell us that we need to persevere in spite of difficulties--persecution of some sort will always be the lot of those who want to really follow the teachings of Christ.  

Word Today, Feb. 4, 2002 (Monday of the 4th Week)

    Readings: 2 Sm 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13a/ Mk 5:1-20   

The gospel today is about the expulsion of the devils (there were so many of them, they were called "legion") from a possessed man in the country of Gerasa, across the lake of Galilee. That group of devils were given leave to enter a herd of swine and the swine ended up committing "mass suicide", running over the cliff and drowning in the sea. 

It is a good day to remember the reality of the devil. The devil is not a mythological figure.

The devil is a pure spirit. He was an angel but he failed to choose God and instead, moved by pride, the devil chose himself. We should pray to be protected from the wiles of the devil. As in the garden of paradise, the devil continues to tempt men through lies, especially inciting human beings to pride.  

Word Today, Feb. 5, 2002 (Tuesday of the 4th Week)

    Readings: 2 Sm 18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30--19:3/ Mk 5:21-43  

One of the side-incidents in today's gospel is the cure of a woman who had suffered from hemorrhage for twelve years. In the hustle and bustle of the crowd, she moved up behind Jesus and timidly touched his cloak. Suddenly she felt the bleeding stop, at the same time that Jesus felt power go out of him.

Jesus then praised the timid woman for her faith. 

In the letter of the Philippine bishops on Filipino spirituality, they mentioned the propensity of some Filipinos to touch images of Jesus Christ and the saints. Admittedly, there are some persons who do not approve of the practice. However, provided it is not done in a superstitious spirit but in a spirit of devotion, there is really nothing wrong with wanting to have physical contact with the image that is venerated (not worshipped). How many lovers have kissed the photograph of their loved one? We are human beings, not angels. We need to express our love and appreciation through sensible and material gestures. 

Word Today, Feb. 6, 2002 (Wednesday of the 4th Week)

    Readings: 2 Sm 24:2, 9-17/ Mk 6:1-6  

Jesus did not get a good reception when he went to preach in his hometown. The townspeople said, "This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother (meaning, relative) of James and Josef and Jude and Simon." 

This gospel shows us that previous to his public ministry, Jesus must have led an ordinary life as a carpenter or craftsman. This shows us the value of our ordinary life. Jesus spent the great majority of his years on earth as a working man. We can see, from here, that our daily work can be something very valuable in the eyes of God. 

Word Today, Feb. 7, 2002 (Thursday of the 4th Week)

    Readings: 1 Kgs 2:1-4, 10-12/ Mk 6:7-13   

It is significant that when Jesus sent off his disciples, he specifically instructed them to "take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses."  

The apostolate must rely on some human means. Jesus asked them to bring a staff, to make use of sandals, and to have a tunic (but not a spare one). But even more, the apostle should rely on God's providence. He must be detached from material things. If not, rather than being a help, material things can become a hindrance to the apostle's freedom of action and movement. 

Word Today, Feb. 8, 20021 (Friday of the 4th Week)

    Readings: Sir 47:2-11/ Mk 6:14-29   

The gospel today narrates how Herod beheaded John the Baptist upon the instigation of Herodias, Herod's illegitimate queen, because she was actually the wife of Herod's brother. It all came about because of bragging. He told Herodias' daughter, "Ask me anything you like and I will give it to you." Having said this in the presence of his guests, he could not back out when she asked for the head of John. 

It is quite common that in a group with friends some people start bragging out of vanity. Then they may find ourselves in a tight situation because they cannot honor their boasting without doing wrong. The best thing is to avoid bragging. But if due to boasting someone falls into a commitment he cannot justly fulfill, the next best thing to do is humbly to acknowledge one's mistake and face the embarrassment rather than do wrong. 

Word Today, Feb 9, 2002 (Saturday of the 4th Week)

    Readings: 1 Kgs 3:4-13/ Mk 6:30-34   

In the midst of all their activities, Jesus told the apostles to "go off by yourselves to a remote place and have some rest." Jesus was concerned for the rest and well being of the apostles. Rest and recreation are important activities because men cannot be constantly on the move. We are all familiar with the phenomenon of being "burned out". 

There can be many forms of resting. Here Jesus told them to look for a remote place, a place where they could have some solitude. One of the most refreshing forms of rest is to go on retreat. A spiritual retreat is a period of days (usually three or more) of getting away from our daily activities in order to spend some time to be with God. Let us consider going on a retreat in order to have a renewal that will foster a deep conversion. 

Word Today, Feb. 10, 2002 (FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME )

    Readings: Is 58:7-10/ 1 Cor 2:1-5/ Mt 5:13-16  

Christ compares his followers to salt. What is the meaning of this imagery? When we speak of salt, the first thing that comes to mind is the need for salt in order to put some tang into the food we eat. Without it, most dishes would become flat and tasteless. But before the advent of modern refrigeration, salt had an even more important role, that of preventing food from corrupting. Especially in regions where the gathering of food was seasonal, it was so important to have salt in order to preserve food for the hard months.  

The Christian can be compared to salt in these two aspects. He is supposed to give meaning to everything around him. Without the Christian message, all our feverish activity would not be worthwhile; they would not really lead to our happiness and the happiness of other men. The Christian's presence also prevents corruption from spreading in society. The presence of a consistent and committed Christian in a given environment is like an uplifting force that prevents the baser aspects of human nature from having free reign.  

Word Today, Feb. 11, 2002 (Monday of the 5th Week, Our Lady of Lourdes)

    Readings: 1 Kgs 8:1-7, 9-13/ Mk 6:53-56  

"And wherever he went, to villages, towns or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplace and begged him to let them touch just the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured." This emphasis on the sensible contact with Jesus can help us reflect on the importance of pilgrimage sites. The Pope has spoken of the fact that there are special times of grace (kairos), as there are also special spaces or places of grace, like those places where Christ himself walked on, or where perhaps the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared or manifested her motherly care. 

Making a pilgrimage to such places helps us to see our life as a pilgrimage or a journey. We are all moving in time, towards our final destination, which is heaven. But to reach our destination, we must continually stay in the right direction. We should not lose our bearings, but go towards God.  

Word Today, Feb. 12, 2002 (Tuesday of the 5th Week)

    Readings: 1 Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30/ Mk 7:1-13  

In the gospel today Jesus condemned once again the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. At the end of his harangue, Jesus summarizes what is wrong with their way of acting: "You nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on." 

In this verse, Jesus condemns the human traditions introduced by the Pharisees, in violation of the word of God. Some people use this to denounce the Catholic Church's valuing of traditions. This point needs clarification. What the Church values as a source of revelation is "Sacred Tradition", that is to say, the word of God (teachings of Christ and the apostles) as passed on to us not in written form. Sacred Tradition is not opposed to Sacred Scripture, they are complementary. In fact we would not know what is the authentic Sacred Scripture if it were not for the Sacred Tradition kept by the Church. We should note, however, that not everything "traditional" forms part of the Church's Tradition. Discernment of what is and what is not deposit of faith is the competence of the successors of the Apostles. 

Word Today, Feb. 13, 2002 (Ash Wednesday)

    Readings: Jl 2:12-18/ 2 Cor 5:20--6:2/ Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 

Today we begin the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is a forty-day preparation for Easter, and the emphasis is on our conversion through the spirit of penance. It is therefore very appropriate that Ash Wednesday be a day of fasting and abstinence. As a reminder, with the exception of those who are sick or are somehow legitimately prevented from doing so, all who are fourteen years and above are bound by abstinence (avoiding to eat meat). All those between eighteen and sixty years old are bound by fasting (usually fulfilled by eating only one full meal a day). 

There are two possible formulas in the distribution of the ashes. One is from Mk 1:15, "Turn away from sin and believe the gospel." The other one has reference to Gen 3:19, "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return." They are complementary. If we remember what we are, it is easier for us to turn away from sin.  

Word Today, Feb. 14, 2002 ( Thursday after Ash Wednesday)

    Readings Dt 30:15-20/ Lk 9:22-25  

"I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live in the love of the Lord your God." Unfortunately, in many places what prevails is a culture of death. Out of love of comfort and pleasure, people are willing to kill the unborn child or the non-productive elderly. They say they are pro-choice - what choice? They are actually choosing death. To be pro-life is to be truly pro-choice, because when one is dead there is no choice left. 

In the Philippines, the forces of the culture of death are present. The bishops have reiterated their opposition to anti-life and anti-family measures being promoted in some quarters. We must sustain that opposition so that Filipinos may live "in the love of the Lord." We choose life, not because of earthly pleasure but because of the greater happiness that is promised for those who follow the law of God.   

Word Today, Feb. 15, 20021 (Friday after Ash Wednesday)

    Readings: Is 58:1-9a/ Mt 9:14-15   

Today's responsorial psalm is taken from Ps 50, the psalm of repentance attributed to King David after he recognized his sin of adultery compounded by murder. The response is, "A broken, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn." 

As we go through this Lenten season, we should be reassured by that response. God is merciful. If we are proud, refusing to accept our "brokenness", we cannot expect God's forgiveness. But if we are humble, God will take us back like a good father. Let us overcome our sense of shame. Let us be willing to admit our sins and go to the sacred minister to receive the forgiveness of God. This Lenten season is an ideal time to have a good confession. 

Word Today, Feb 16, 2002 (Saturday after Ash Wednesday)

    Readings: Is 58:9-14 / Lk 5:27-32 

"I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance." This is how Jesus explained his behavior of socializing with people whom the Pharisees considered as sinners. 

Christ's explanation can work for us in two directions. In the first place, we should never be discouraged by our sins. God is seeking us out because he wants our conversion. In the second place, we should not be complacent if we think we have virtues. God is not happy with the self-satisfied person. Not that we should deliberately sin in order to be an acceptable sinner. Rather, we must remember that if we have not sinned, it is because of God's help. In view of our existential condition, we can always consider ourselves as sinners.  

Word Today, Feb. 17, 2002 (FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT)

    Readings: Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7/ Rom 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19/ Mt 4:1-11  

It is consoling to know that even Jesus Christ was not exempt from temptation. But let us examine these temptations in more detail. Is there really anything wrong with eating and drinking after undergoing a rigorous 40-day fast? And although it may be a waste of time, what's wrong with jumping off a cliff if one knows it won't harm you in any way? Finally, is there anything really wrong with acquiring wealth and power, especially if one intends to use it for good purposes? So what's so bad about the devil's temptations, and why did Christ reject them so flatly?

In all these temptations, we can see one common element--and perhaps it is there where their malice lies. In order to satisfy what could otherwise be a legitimate human need, the devil was actually enticing Christ to make use of His divine powers. The devil was trying to deflect Christ from his mission of redemption. There can be no greater nor subtler perversion than to misuse the things of God for our own selfish ends. Christ's divine power would later on be used to alleviate human misery--but that was in fulfillment of His messianic mission. Now the devil is tempting Him to use it to satisfy His personal needs. This is a temptation that can beset all of us, and especially those who work more closely in the Lord's vineyard. Some people use the name "Catholic" just to be able to get ahead in the world of business. What a horrible sin it would be to use the things meant for the kingdom of heaven just to stuff our mattresses on earth! Like Jesus Christ, let us reject this temptation with decisiveness and determination.  

Word Today, Feb. 11, 2002 (Monday 1st Week of Lent)

    Readings: Lv 19:1-2, 11-18/ Mt 25:31-46  

The gospel today is about the last judgment. On that day, Jesus will pass final sentence on everyone. What will be the basis of the judgment? The gospel speaks of works of charity (to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit those in prison, etc.) that are done to our fellowmen, in whom we should see Christ. 

St. John of the Cross said that at the twilight of our life (when we approach our death), the only thing that will really matter is love. Have we loved God, or have we loved ourselves? The Church has, over the years, identified the so-called corporal and spiritual works of mercy as genuine works of love. If we truly love Christ, we will end up attending to the bodily and spiritual needs of our neighbors. There is no place for egotists in the kingdom of heaven. 

Word Today, Feb. 19, 2002 (Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent)

    Readings: Is 55:10-11/ Mt 6:7-15  

In the gospel today, Jesus warned his listeners against "wordiness" in praying. "When you pray do not use a lot of words as the pagans do." This warning against wordiness is not against the use of formulated words in prayer. In fact right after this warning, Jesus gave his listeners the formula of the "Our Father", a prayer that is like a summary of the whole Christian life. 

The Christian prayer tradition has always recognized the existence of what is called "mental prayer", sometimes called "meditation" or "contemplation." This goes hand in hand with what are called "vocal prayers", which are fixed prayer formulas that have come from the Sacred Scripture or from the spiritual patrimony of the Church. These vocal prayers are valuable because they enunciate for us what are the fitting thoughts, sentiments and affections we should address to God. The important thing is that when we recite such prayers, we have our mind on their meaning or on God, and not just recite them thoughtlessly.  

Word Today, Feb. 20, 2002 (Wednesday of the 1st Week of Lent)

    Readings: Jon 3:1-10/ Lk 11:29-32  

Both readings today refer to Jonah, the prophet who tried to evade his mission but ended up having to do it anyway. In the process, he spent three days in the belly of a big fish. Jesus Christ referred to this event when he said that his listeners would receive the "sign of Jonah". Christ meant that he would spend three days in the belly of the earth. Christ was actually talking about his resurrection from the dead. 

The resurrection is unique. Someone once said that in all the other religions, there is something between the present followers and their founders - a tomb or a grave containing the mortal remains of their founder. In Christianity, there is a tomb but it is empty. Christ is risen! Our religion is not a mere ideology or code of ethics. It is the following of an acting and living person, Jesus Christ the God-made-man.  

Word Today, Feb. 21, 2002 (Thursday of the 1st Week of Lent)

    Readings: Est 12: 14-16, 23-25/ Mt 7:7-12  

The gospel today contains one of the most beautiful reassurances of Jesus Christ. "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." We must have great confidence in the power of prayer. Why? Not because of the worth of our actions but because of the goodness of God. God is our father. What good father does not want the best for his children? 

If at times we think that God has not kept his part of the promise because our petitions to him seem to be unanswered, it is because he wants something even better for us. Perhaps what we are asking is not really for our long-term good. Or God may be giving us the good of patience, humility or detachment. That is why we should always end our petition to God with the wholehearted acceptance of his will for us.  

Word Today, Feb. 22, 20021 (The Chair of Saint Peter, apostle )

    Readings: 1 Pt 5:1-4/ Mt 16:13-19  

"You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church." Today we celebrate the feast of the "chair" of St. Peter. We are probably familiar with the so-called "professorial chair." The Latin term for this kind of chair is "cathedra". It is where the word "cathedral" comes from. The cathedral is the church where the bishop has his "chair". Chair here therefore connotes a symbol of authority because of the position held by the one sitting on it. 

Today then we should remember the authority of St. Peter. It is an authority that came from Christ. This authority is passed on to the successor of St. Peter, who is the Pope. Together with authority is the special assistance of Christ. "The gates of hell can never hold out against it." We must have complete confidence in the Pope and submit to his authority in everything that has to do with the saving and liberating mission of the Church.  

Word Today, Feb 23, 2002 (Saturday of the 1st Week in Lent)

    Readings: Dt 26:16-19/ Mt 5:43-48  

The gospel today contains what could be considered the conclusion or summary of the Sermon on the Mount. "Be therefore perfect as your heavenly father is perfect." A pioneer in lay spirituality, Blessed Escriva, saw in these words of the Lord the message of the universal call to holiness. He expressed it thus in 1945: "You have the obligation to sanctify yourself. Yes, even you! Who thinks this is the exclusive concern of priests and religious? To everyone, without exception, our Lord said: Be perfect, as my heavenly father is perfect." (The Way, N. 291) 

The universal call to holiness, especially addressed to laypersons, is at the very heart of the Second Vatican Council's message. This is repeated constantly by the Holy Father and the bishops. For example, after the Great Jubilee Year, the Pope said that the most important objective of Church renewal is "holiness". Holiness, in simple terms, is being united to God. Are we heeding God's invitation to holiness seriously?  

Word Today, Feb. 24, 2002 (SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT)

    Readings: Gn 12:1-4a/ 2 Tm 1:8b-10/ Mt 17:1-9  

The gospel reading of today is about the Transfiguration of Christ. On that occasion, he appeared before the three chosen apostles in his glory, talking to two prominent figures of the Old Testament--Moses and Elias. This took place on a mountain, Thabor by name. Shortly afterwards, Jesus would appear again on a mountain, this time not covered in glory but in insult and injury. This mountain is Calvary, the place of execution for criminals.  

At first sight, there seems to be no relationship between the two mountains. The first one was the place of glorification, the second was the place of humiliation. Yet the gospel narratives show that there is an intimate connection between the two. At Mt. Thabor, although Jesus was shown in glory, the topic of His conversation with Moses and Elias was His forthcoming passion. In fact, very soon after that, Jesus began to speak with the apostles about his passion, so that they could be forewarned. On the other hand, in Mt. Calvary, although Jesus was apparently brought low and humiliated, we know that He was then wrapping up the final victory over the devil. Very soon afterwards would come the glory of the Resurrection. This shows us that in the Christian life, there is a mysterious connection between suffering and glory, between pain and joy.  

The Christian message is a message of joy. But it is not a naive message of earthly utopia. Christ had said that if we wanted to follow Him, we must be ready to take up the cross of each day. There is no such thing as a Christianity without the cross. The link between Mt. Thabor and Mt. Calvary shows us that mortification is very intimately connected with joy.  

Word Today, Feb. 25, 2002 (Monday 2nd Week of Lent)

    Readings: Dn 9:4b-10/ Lk 6:36-38  

Jesus said, "Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap." This is an invitation to be generous in giving ourselves to God and in the service of others. 

Someone once made the observation that we can never outdo God in generosity. When we are generous in our charity, we shall receive much more in return. This does not mean that we should give precisely in order to have a reward. But God is so good that when we give of ourselves unstintingly, we will certainly receive a much greater reward in heaven. We often will also receive a greater reward even on earth. 

Word Today, Feb. 26, 2002 (Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Lent)

    Readings: Is 1:10, 16-20/ Mt 23:1-12  

"Do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they preach." This is what Jesus advised his followers, in the light of the hypocrisy of those considered as leaders. We too should see to it that we not only teach what is correct, but that we set the example of uprightness. 

The importance of leadership by example is especially relevant in the family setting. Parents are often puzzled as to how they should discipline or correct their children. There are many educational theories and there may be many different solutions because of the diverse circumstances. But one thing is sure - example goes farther than words. If we want someone to improve in something, we should start by trying to improve ourselves on that same point.  

Word Today, Feb. 27, 2002 (Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Lent)

    Readings: Jer 18:18-20/ Mt 20:17-28  

"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Thus, the Lord checked the misplaced ambition among the apostles. 

We can apply these words to the field where ambition often rules - professional work. Some people work in order to assert themselves and eventually be top-dog in their dog-eat-dog world. But Christians must work out of a genuine spirit of service. If we have the "ambition" to serve, we shall end up doing our work as well as the very best, and more importantly, we shall get closer to God through the fulfillment of our professional duties.  

Word Today, Feb. 28, 2002 (Thursday of the 2nd Week of Lent)

    Readings : Jer 17:5-10/ Lk 16:19-31  

The first reading says, "I, the Lord, search the heart,…to give each man what his conduct and his actions deserve." How important our intentions are! The life of St. Therese of Lisieux is an illustration of this. She reached great heights of holiness not because of the worth of her external actions but because of the great love of God that penetrated those actions. 

We too can make our actions very valuable by making sure that we have an upright and pure intention. Deep in our hearts, we should do whatever we have to do with the intention of giving all the glory to God. 

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