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Word Today, Jan. 1 (The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God solemnity)

    Readings: Nm 6:22-27/ Gal 4:4-7/ Lk 2:16-21  

While what is foremost in our minds may be the celebration of the new year, the religious significance of the day is the celebration of the motherhood of Mary. Today is a holy day of obligation in the Philippines. 

Mary's motherhood is a "divine" one, such that we can truly call her "mother of God." This may come as a surprise to some non-Catholic Christians, but there is a perfectly acceptable explanation. By calling Mary mother of God, as we do in the Hail Mary prayer, we are simply saying that Jesus, her son, is truly God. If we say that Mary is NOT the mother of God, then it would be tantamount to saying (since she is obviously the mother of Jesus) that Jesus is not God. Hence that title of Mary serves as a defense of one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith, the divinity of Christ. 

Word Today, Jan. 2, 2001 (Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church memorial)

    Readings: 1 Jn 2:22-28/ Jn 1:19-28  

We are now preparing for the Epiphany, or "Manifestation" of Christ. He has come to us in his infancy, the God-made-man, hiding behind his human nature. But in the Epiphany, this man will be manifested to us as God. In the gospel reading of today, when Christ is already a full grown adult, John the Baptist "manifests" Christ's divinity to us by saying that He "has been set above me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose." 

The best disposition, in order to accept the manifestation of Christ's divine nature in our life, is to be humble. Like John the Baptist, we must recognize our nothingness and our need for God. Then we will see God's hand in all the human events that we may experience. 

Word Today, Jan. 3, 2001 (Weekday of Christmas season)

    Readings: 1 Jn 2:29--3:6/ Jn 1:29-34   

John the Baptist identified Jesus Christ as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." This is a reference to the sacrificial Paschal lamb of the Old Testament. The unblemished and innocent lamb was offered up as a sacrifice for the salvation of the people. That is what Christ has done for us. 

Just before we receive Holy Communion, the priest presents the Holy Eucharist to us, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." When we hear those words, let us make an act of faith in the real presence of Christ, who has just been offered as a sacrifice for our sins, at the Holy Mass. 

Word Today, Jan. 4, 2001 (Weekday of Christmas season)

    Readings: 1 Jn 3:7-10/ Jn 1:35-42

In the gospel today, John the Baptist pointed out Jesus Christ to his own followers, among whom were the future apostles John and Andrew. They followed Christ and stayed with him for the rest of the day. They ended up committed to Christ. 

In apostolic work, our task is to introduce Christ to other people. We must facilitate their spending time with Christ. We must teach people to pray, to deal with Christ as a friend. 

Word Today, Jan. 5, 2001 (Weekday of Christmas season)

    Readings: 1 Jn 3:11-21/ Jn 1:43-51  

The gospel today shows how, from the first two persons who followed Christ because of the introduction of John the Baptist, there was a whole train of other people who would end up committing themselves to the Lord. They brought their friends, one by one. Andrew brought Peter. Philip brought Nathanael. 

We should bring our friends to Christ. True friends share good things with each other. Isn't meeting Christ the best thing that could happen to anyone? If so, should he not also introduce his friends to Christ?  

Word Today, Jan. 6, 2001 (THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD solemnity)

    Readings: Is 60:1-6/ Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6/ Mt 2:1-12  

We celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord today. "Epiphany" means "manifestation". In Jesus Christ, still as a little babe, God's glory and mercy were manifested to all men. The gospel today talks about the three wise men from the East (they are sometimes depicted as kings in popular representations). They were not Hebrews - hence they represent all mankind, the different races of the one human family. They represent all of us. 

God revealed Christ to them by making use of a miraculous star. The star, for many people, is the ideal of service and mission that God has shown them. By following that mission, sometimes embodied in a divine calling, Christ will be manifested to them and they will attain great joy, just like the three wise men. 

Word Today, Jan. 8 (Tuesday after Epiphany)

    Readings: 1 Jn 4:7-10/ Mk 6:34-44  

"Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love." St. John, who wrote these words, had spent his life deepening his knowledge of the words he had heard directly from Christ's lips. And this is his conclusion: "let us love one another since love comes from God."  

But the love that John talks about is not just sentimental love. He is talking of the love that comes from deep within us, the love that gives rather than seeks itself. The model of love, and therefore the model of how we ought to love one another, is God's love. It is "God's love for us when he sent his Son to be a sacrifice that takes our sins away." True love of neighbor is one that is willing to sacrifice for the good of the other.  

Word Today, Jan. 9, 2001 (Wednesday after Epiphany)

    Readings: 1 Jn 4:11-18/ Mk 6:45-52  

Today we can continue our reflections on the first reading taken from the letter of St. John. Here John says that "anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love."  

A practical application of this phrase is the classical distinction between imperfect and perfect contrition. We should be sorry for our sins. But if our sorrow is due to our fear of eternal damnation, then our love is not perfect. There is an element of genuine love, but it is mixed up with self-love. On the other hand, perfect contrition is to be sorry for our sins because they "offend God who is all good and deserving of all our love." Here there is no self-love. We love God for his own sake. We are sorry for our sins because of our filial love for God. Let us often recite the act of contrition prayer in order to foster perfect love of God.  

Word Today, Jan. 10, 2001 (Thursday after Epiphany)

    Readings: 1 Jn 4:19--5:4/ Lk 4:14-22a  

How do we know if we really love God? Is it just a matter of gut feel? In the letter of John, we have the clear answer: "this is what loving God is -- keeping his commandments." It would be a great inconsistency to claim to love God while breaking God's expressed wishes.  

There is no opposition between love and obedience. When there is love, obedience is a joy and pleasure. Vice-versa: if someone does not obey, that person does not really love in spite of all his promises and protestations.  

Word Today, Jan. 11, 2001 (Friday after Epiphany)

    Readings: 1 Jn 5:5-13/ Lk 5:12-16  

Leprosy during the time of Jesus was an incurable disease. And because it was contagious and brought about external deformities, lepers were also ostracized. A person who contracted leprosy was really in a sorry state. Hence, when in today's gospel a leper came to Jesus with the indirect petition, "If you want to, you can cure me," it is not surprising that Jesus would answer, "Of course I want to! Be cured!" 

Leprosy is a disease of the body, but even more serious are the diseases of the spirit. There are people who recognize that they are spiritually sick. Perhaps they have fallen into a sinful situation difficult to extricate themselves from. They may have contracted a bad moral habit (also called "vice"). They should not fall into despair. They should recognize their moral liability, but they should not hesitate to turn to Christ and ask for spiritual healing. With the grace of God, we can overcome the sinful situations in which we may find ourselves. 

Word Today, Jan. 12, 2001 ( Saturday after Epiphany)

    Readings: 1 Jn 5:14-21/ Jn 3:22-30  

The first reading, taken from John's first letter, can provide us with a much-needed clarification regarding sin. He says, "(T)here is a sin that is death...Every kind of wrongdoing is sin, but not all sin is deadly." (1 Jn 5: 16-17) The Pope has pointed out some of the bad consequences of sin. "In the first place, if it is grave, it involves deprivation of communion with God and, in consequence, exclusion from a share in eternal life." (Bull of Indict. of Jubilee Year, No. 10) 

The word "mortal" means precisely something referring to death. Hence a grave sin is a mortal sin and deprives us of sanctifying grace, which is the life of God in us. In this respect, there are only two categories of sin, venial or mortal. There is no third category, a sort of "halfway" sin that is grave but not mortal. Such an aberration would, in practice, result in people committing grave sins and then receiving the body of the Lord in communion without having true repentance in confession. It would be a license for sacrilege. 

Word Today, Jan. 13, 2001 (Baptism of the Lord)

    Readings: Is 42:1-4, 6-7/ Acts 10:34-38/ Mt 3:13-17  

With the celebration of the Lord's baptism in the Jordan, we officially end the liturgical season of Christmas as we begin the period called "Ordinary Time". "Baptism" means washing, and John the Baptist made it a symbolic rite of moral purification. Why was Jesus baptized if he had no need of moral purification?  

Some ancient writers say that by being baptized, Jesus gave water the ability of being used for the eventual sacrament of baptism. In a way, we can say that Christ had to be baptized not for him to be purified, but for him to purify the water. Contact with Christ purifies. Let us keep in touch with him through prayer and the sacraments. 

Word Today, Jan. 15, 2001 (Tuesday of the 1st Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 1:9-20/ Mk 1:21b-28  

The gospel today says that the teaching of Jesus "made a deep impression" on his listeners "because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority." The comment of the people was "Here is a teaching that is new... and with authority behind it." 

The teachings of Christianity are not matters to be discussed and debated endlessly because they primarily come from the initiative of God who revealed his saving truth to us. We long for certainty in order to know what God is communicating to us. That is why there is a need for a religious teaching authority, and that is the task of the Church's magisterium. Without magisterium, we would have endless discussions and each one could end up with a "cafeteria" Christianity, of arbitrarily accepting or rejecting what suits our individual caprice at the expense of God's revelation.  

Word Today, Jan. 16, 2001 (Wednesday of the 1st Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 3:1-10, 19-20/ Mk 1:29-39   

The gospel today mentions a detail in the behavior of Jesus that must have left a deep impression on the apostles. St. Mark narrates: "And rising up long before daybreak, he went out and departed into a desert place, and there he prayed." After this, Jesus invited the apostles to go with Him around the different villages and towns to continue his work. 

It is an important lesson for all those who want to work for the Church. All our activities must be preceded by a deep life of prayer. Such life of prayer requires moments of solitude. If necessary, we must get up "before daybreak", before the hustle and bustle of the day overtakes us. Jesus who was God himself found the need to look for such solitude in prayer. All the more must we need it. 

Word Today, Jan. 17, 2001 ( Thursday of the 1st Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 4:1-11/ Mk 1:40-45  

In the gospel today, Mark narrates the incident of the cure of a leper. After curing him, Jesus told the leper to go to the high priest for final verification, just as the Law of Moses had required. 

Although Jesus was God and his works were not strictly subject to the requirements of the Jewish law, he nevertheless respected the existing authority. We should strive to respect and follow the just requirements of all legitimate authority, because God is a God of order and not of anarchy. In very extreme cases, legitimate authority may lose its right to be followed because the laws and practices it espouses may be unjust. But this is not to be taken lightly. It requires guidance and a sincere effort to look for non-violent and peaceful means. 

Word Today, Jan. 18, 2001 (Friday of the 1st Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 8:4-7, 10-22a/ Mk 2:1-12  

It must have been an impressive sight -- a paralyzed man being brought down by rope from the roof of the house so that he could be close to Jesus. On this occasion Jesus performed two miracles. First, he forgave the sins of the man and then he made him walk. The greater miracle, as far as substance is concerned, was the forgiveness of sins. But the more spectacular one, which was like a proof of the authenticity of the first one, was the restoration of the man's limbs. 

After his resurrection, as narrated in the last chapter of the gospel of St. John, Jesus passed on his power to forgive sins to the apostles and to their successors in the priesthood. Without neglecting man's physical needs, the first concern of Jesus is our spiritual state. Knowing our need for forgiveness, the Lord instituted the sacrament of confession. 

Word Today, Jan. 19, 2001 (Saturday of the 1st Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1a/ Mk 2:13-17  

The gospel today is about the call of Levi, also known as Matthew, to become a follower of Jesus. By profession, he was a tax collector, working for the colonizer. As such, he had a bad reputation among the Hebrews. Yet Jesus did not consider this reputation, instead he declared that he "did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners." 

We cannot judge the state of Levi at the moment of his call. But we do know that there is no honest human profession that cannot be offered up to God. Levi, the tax collector, must have been a good keeper of records. Later on, he would be the first to make a compilation of the acts and teachings of Jesus Christ in what we now know as the gospel according to Matthew. God uses his instruments according to their capacities and dispositions. 

Word Today, Jan. 20, 2001 (Feast of the Santo Niņo, Third Sunday of January)

    Readings: Is 9: 1-6 / Eph 1: 3-6. 15-18 / Mt 18: 1-5. 10 

Today is the Feast of the Santo Niņo, a celebration proper to the Philippines. There is a very widespread devotion to Christ in the aspect of his childhood all throughout this child-loving country. It is no wonder that the Philippines is very strongly pro-life. 

The Feast of the Santo Niņo also reminds us of the importance of spiritual childhood. This is a constant teaching of the Church, which St. Therese of the Child Jesus providentially has come to remind us of in this age of technological advancement. Before God, in spite of what we may seem to accomplish, we are but little children. Yet God is not a despotic ruler but a father full of kindness and love for us. We should not hesitate to turn to him. But to do this, we must "become like little children." 

Word Today, Jan. 21, 2001 (Monday of the 2nd Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 15:16-23/ Mk 2:18-22  

In the dialogue between Jesus and some people acquainted with John the Baptist, as narrated in today's gospel reading, we can see how down-to-earth Jesus Christ was. He must have learned from Mary or from Joseph about the "art" of sewing a patch on a torn garment or of storing wine in the appropriate container. 

We must be imbued by the presence of Christ, God-made-man, in our midst. He is present now in his humanity in every tabernacle and adoration altar. Let us not forget that he is there, not indifferent to human affairs but very concerned for what is happening to each one of us. Let us talk to him about our needs and worries, no matter how small or trivial they may seem. They are important to Jesus because he loves us. 

Word Today, Jan. 22, 2002 (Tuesday of the 2nd Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 16:1-13/ Mk 2:23-28  

"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." Setting one day apart so that man can rest from work and worship God can truly be said to be a law for the sake of man. Through the third commandment of God, man's duty to worship God as well as to recover his strength to serve God during the rest of the week, is greatly facilitated. 

Some time ago, the Pope reminded the Church about the need to observe the "Day of the Lord," especially in a world which is increasingly getting secularized, in which the sense of the divine is disappearing. Let us make sure to keep this day holy by engaging in the highest act of worship for a Christian (participation at Mass) and avoiding any kind of activity that would not be in keeping with the spirit of this day. 

Word Today, Jan. 23, 2002 (Wednesday of the 2nd Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 17:32-33, 37, 40-51/ Mk 3:1-6  

The gospel today shows how Christ was saddened by the bad dispositions of the Pharisees and Herodians. They were on the lookout for loopholes in the Lord's words and actions, but this did not prevent Jesus from doing good, just to avoid what is now called "pharisaical scandal." 

As a people, we are often marked by excessive "human respect," often afraid of what people will say about us, even at the expense of principles. Many men act tough, yet they are so easily intimidated into doing evil by the coaxing of friends over a bottle of beer. We should try to develop the toughness of spirit and the consistency of Jesus Christ, who was not thwarted from doing good by the thought of what other people might say. 

Word Today, Jan. 24, 2002 (Thursday of the 2nd Week)

    Readings: 1 Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7/ Mk 3:7-12  

The gospel today tells us that many people followed Jesus Christ. They came from many places - Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Tyre, Sidon, and many other places "beyond the Jordan." Among other things, they were attracted by the Lord's healing powers. 

The Lord's power of healing continues today in many different forms. The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is one of the most important ways that God's healing comes to us. There are also non-sacramental ways that healing comes - whenever they are genuine, they are manifestations of the power of prayer and of faith. But these external and bodily healing are always secondary to the more important healing, the healing of the soul. Quite often, these miracles of God lead people to grow in faith and confidence in God. 

Word Today, Jan. 25, 20021 (The Conversion of Saint Paul, apostle )

    Readings: Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22/ Mk 16:15-18   

Today we remember one of the most far-reaching incidents in redemption history -- the turnaround of a man who would be responsible for the evangelization of a great part of the Christian world. Saul, who persecuted Christians, was miraculously converted to faith in Christ through a miracle of grace. From a persecutor, he became the great apostle of the gentiles. He is responsible for bringing much of the non-Hebrew world to knowledge of Christ. Because of this, it is also appropriate that we culminate the week of prayer for Christian unity on St. Paul's conversion day. 

Much progress has been made since the beginning of the ecumenical movement. Different Christian communities have gotten together, talked frankly and openly, and some groups have made joint statements on common religious issues. One significant development has been the joint statement of Lutheran and Catholic representatives regarding the basis of justification. Other statements are in the making. Let us all pray for the progress of these works. 

Word Today, Jan. 26, 2002 (Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops )

    Readings: 2 Tm 1:1-8 or Ti 1:1-5 / Mk 3:20-21  

Today we commemorate Sts. Titus and Timothy. St. Paul addressed some of his letters, which are now part of the New Testament collection, to these two persons. They were followers of St. Paul in his missionary journeys. He later left them in charge of some Christian communities. Timothy became bishop of Ephesus while Titus became bishop of Crete. In his letter to Timothy Paul talked about "the gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you." 

The "laying on of hands" was the way that the sacramental power of priesthood was passed on. It is an essential part of the rite of ordination. Bishops are the successors of the apostles not only in their being in charge of the community but also because of the passing on of the powers that are linked to the priesthood. Let us pray for our bishops that they "fan into a flame" the gift of the fulness of priesthood that they have received. 

Word Today, Jan. 27, 2002 (THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME )

    Readings: Is 8:23--9:3/ 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17/ Mt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17  

The longer version of today's gospel reading contains the calling of the first disciples (Mt 4:18-22). It all started with their answer to Christ's invitation, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mt 4:19)

Today we can concentrate on this response. When Christ called Simon and Andrew, we are told that they "left the nets at once ." When Christ called James and John, they "immediately left their nets." In both cases, the response to Christ's call was prompt and immediate. They did not dilly-dally. They did not hesitate. They didn't ask for more time to think things over. 

Nowadays, we are used to calculation and hesitation before making any major decision. In some cases, it is a good thing to be prudent and not to rush to hasty decisions. But when God calls, we have to apply a different criterion from human prudence. Why? 

In human decisions, we rightfully have to weigh all the different factors, and measure them out with one another. But when God intervenes, that act of God far outweighs any other consideration. God, after all, has the right to ask us for everything. And, when he asks, our trust in God should remove any doubts or hesitation on our part. To delay a manifest invitation of God (say, to repentance and conversion, or to embrace a divine vocation) would be to expose ourselves to the ever-present temptation of selfishness. In the intervening delay, our tendency to calculate, to "watch out for my skin," could blind our faith in God.  

Word Today, Jan. 28, 2002 (Monday of the 3rd Week, Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church )

    Readings: 2 Sm 5:1-7, 10/ Mk 3:22-30  

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, considered one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all times. He has the title "Angelic Doctor", referring to both his superior intellectual powers and his holiness of life. These two qualities stand out in his works referring to the Holy Eucharist. To St. Thomas we owe most of the Eucharistic hymns that are sung during the adoration and benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. 

Since the Eucharist is the center of the Christian life, we could do well in recalling a phrase from St. Thomas' famous hymn, Adoro Te Devote. We must believe in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament because "Nothing is more certain, since Christ has told me so; for what the Truth has uttered, I believe and know."  

Word Today, Jan. 29, 2002 (Tuesday of the 3rd Week)

    Readings: 2 Sm 6:12b-15, 17-19/ Mk 3:31-35  

Two points of clarification are in order in today's gospel. In the first place, the persons referred to as the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus are his relatives. They are not other children that Mary or Joseph had. It was common practice in the setting at that time, as also happens in other cultures, to refer to kinsmen as "brethren". For example, Lot, who was Abraham's nephew, is referred to as his brother in the book of Genesis. 

The second point of clarification is that when Christ refers to "anyone who does the will of God" as his "brother and sister and mother", this is not to disparage the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, she was the one who best fulfilled the will of God, starting with her wholehearted "Let it be done to me," when the angel announced God's plan for her. 

Word Today, Jan. 30, 2002 (Wednesday of the 3rd Week)

    Readings: 2 Sm 7:4-17/ Mk 4:1-20  

How receptive are we to God's word? The parable today gives us some examples. Are we those who do not listen at all, whom the devil prevents from receiving the Word? Or are we superficial listeners, like those who are initially enthusiastic, but do not really pursue all its consequences? Or are we like those who are "choked" by too many worldly concerns? 

Let us try to be like those who receive the Word of God, accepting it wholeheartedly, then trying to live by it. For that, we must be attentive to God's word, we must let it take deep root in us by not being frivolous persons, and finally, we must avoid the snares and distractions of worldliness and materialism. 

Word Today, Jan. 31, 2002 (Thursday of the 3rd Week)

    Readings: 2 Sm 7:18-19, 24-29/ Mk 4:21-25   

In today's gospel Jesus Christ observed that we do not light a lamp in order to hide it, but in order to let its light shine forth. We can apply this to our situation as Christians. In another passage, Jesus referred to his followers as "light of the world". Indeed, we can say that a Christian is like a light bulb that has been turned on by Christ. We must cast our light around us. 

We do this, in the first place, through becoming "witnesses". We can witness by our example. But we should go beyond that. We also witness through the spoken word, enlightening the minds of our family members, friends and colleagues, with the gospel of Christ. Finally, we must be ready for the greatest demand of witnessing. We must be ready to give our lives for the sake of Christ through martyrdom. 

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