Readings: Rv 7:2-4, 9-14/ 1 Jn 3:1-3/ Mt 5:1-12a
The Church dedicates the next two days to our deceased brothers and sisters. Today, November 1, we remember all those who are already in heaven. Tomorrow, we remember all the faithful departed, especially those who are still undergoing purification in the state of purgatory.
In the Philippines we have the custom of visiting the cemeteries or other final resting places of our loved ones. This is a beautiful custom that arises from the doctrine of the "communion of the saints". We believe that in God, through Christ, we are still united to all those who have left this earthly life. We do well in remembering them, either praying for their eternal rest or even asking them to intercede to God on our behalf.
Just a brief reminder found in the liturgical books: On the first eight days of November, the faithful may gain a plenary indulgence by visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead. On Nov. 1 and 2 and on the Sunday before or after November 2, one plenary indulgence can be gained by visiting a church or oratory and by praying the Our Father and the Creed, and a prayer for the intention of the Pope. We will talk more about indulgences tomorrow.
Word Today, Nov. 2, 2002 (Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls) )
Readings: Dn 12:1-3 / Rom 6:3-9 or 6:3-4, 8-9 / Jn 6:37-40
We talked yesterday about the plenary indulgences that we could gain this November. A church indulgence is the removal of the temporal punishment due to our sins. Even if our sins have been forgiven in confession and through other penitential practices (for venial sins), we must still be purified from their effects. It is like a sickness. We may be cured of it, but it still leaves ravages in our body, requiring healing and purification (detoxification).
The temporal punishment, that will leave us "purified" to be able to enter heaven, may be done on earth while we are alive; it may also take place after death through purgatory. A plenary (full) indulgence removes all temporal punishment and prepares the soul to enter heaven immediately. A partial indulgence removes only some of it.
Let us try to gain many indulgences. We can only gain one plenary indulgence for a given day. By the mystery of the communion of saints, we who are still living may apply these indulgences to the dead still undergoing purification.
Word Today, Nov. 3, 2002 ( THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Mal 1:14b--2:2b, 8-10/ 1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13/ Mt 23:1-12
The gospel today contains this phrase from Christ: "You must call no one father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven." Some people interpret this phrase too literally, taking it out of context. They conclude that the Church does wrong in referring to the ordained ministers as "Father" and to the successor of Peter as "Holy Father".
There is nothing wrong with using the word "father" to designate other types of fatherhood. St. Paul says, "all fatherhood comes from God," (Eph 3, 15) implying that God shares his fatherhood with others. St. Paul himself refers to his relationship of spiritual paternity with all those he had converted. Obviously there is nothing wrong with applying the term "father" to the man who engendered us on earth.
Hence to refer to the ordained ministers of the Church who are dedicated to our spiritual welfare as "father" is very appropriate. In fact it is also one reason why it is appropriate that these ministers practice celibacy - so that they can truly dedicate themselves to their spiritual fatherhood.
Word Today, Nov. 4, 2002 (Monday of the 31st Week)
Readings: Phil 2:1-4/ Lk 14:12-14
"When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and you shall be blessed because they have nothing to repay you with; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
One message of this advice of Jesus is that we should not do things thinking only of the profit we shall gain for it in this life. We must think of the reward in the next life, "at the resurrection of the just." We can apply this especially when it comes to doing favors for other people. Do we feel slighted or offended if the person we have helped does not show gratitude? That is but natural. But we should go beyond this reaction by rectifying our intention. When we do not get appreciation on earth, we should be happy because we shall receive a greater reward for that favor in the next life.
Word Today, Nov. 5, 2002 (Tuesday of the 31st Week)
Readings: Phil 2:5-11/ Lk 14:15-24
"Go out into the highways and hedges, and make them come in, so that my house may be filled." These words of Christ applied, in the first place, to the rejection of the Hebrews of his time in favor of the Gentiles. But we can also apply this to our present situation.
God wants all men to be saved. We must go out in search of these people. No matter how far a person may seem from God, we should never give up. Our role is like the servants of the parable - to go out into the highways and hedges. We must not wait for people to come to God; we must go in search of them.
Word Today, Nov. 6, 2002 (Wednesday of the 31st Week)
Readings: Phil 2:12-18/ Lk 14:25-33
"He who does not carry his cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple." There can be no Christianity without the cross.
While the Christian life is a life of joy, it is not a life of "fun." Frivolity, the attitude of "having a nice time" at all costs, is incompatible with the following of Christ. The Christian ideals of service to God and to our neighbors require effort, endurance and self-denial. For example, the works of mercy that are part and parcel of Christian action, often require self-forgetfulness to serve our neighbors.
Word Today, Nov. 7, 2002 (Thursday of the 31st Week)
Readings: Phil 3:3-8a/ Lk 15:1-10
The two examples used by Christ to describe his attitude towards sinners is at the heart of the Christian mystery. As a good shepherd rejoices over a single lost sheep, and as a housewife rejoices over the lost coin, so God rejoices over the repentance of a single sinner. In a mysterious way, we see how God reaches out to each one of us, never giving up on our conversion.
We can apply this to ourselves in the first place. In our struggle to be holy, we should never give up, even if our weaknesses become evident in our failures. Instead, we should think of the joy we give God if we repent now. We can also apply this to others. Never give up on the conversion of your friends and relatives. History is replete with tales of sinners who have come to be great saints.
Word Today, Nov 8, 2002 (Friday of the 31st Week )
Readings: Phil 3:17--4:1/ Lk 16:1-8
At the end of the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus Christ observes that "the children of this world, in relation to their own generation, are more prudent than the children of the light."
How often we can see the truth of this assertion! For example, those who are trying to introduce immoral customs avail of very clever human stratagems in order to achieve their goal. Quite often, those who oppose them lack the human preparation to do so effectively.
It need not be that way. Christians should form themselves to be competent and knowledgeable in the different fields of human endeavor. That way, the "children of the light" can be more resourceful in making the Christian message penetrate society.
Word Today, Nov. 9, 2002 (The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome feast )
Readings: Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12/ 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17 / Jn 2:13-22 or any readings taken from the Common of the Dedication of a Church
Today is the anniversary of the dedication of the church of St. John Lateran. In the Philippines there is a school named after this church. The school, run by the Dominicans, is called Letran College or San Juan de Letran. What is this church and what is its significance? The church of St. John Lateran is the church of the Pope as bishop of Rome. As such, it is considered like the "mother" of all churches. We know of course that we, the Christian people, are the Church. But today, we can consider the value of the church as a building.
Because the church is the house of God and our place of prayer, we must maintain the church in a dignified way. In the first place, we should keep it clean and in good repair. We should not hesitate to use good and dignified materials for the church. To help in the construction of churches is one of the best uses we can make of our material resources. By helping in church construction, we will end up helping many people get closer to God. We will also contribute very directly to God's worship.
Word Today, Nov. 10, 2002 (THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME )
Readings: Wis 6:12-16/ 1 Thes 4:13-18 or 4:13-14/ Mt 25:1-13
Our consideration of the last things is bolstered by the gospel of today, the parable of the ten virgins awaiting the return of the bridegroom. The bridegroom is Christ, who arrives at an unknown time. The virgins represent all mankind. Some will be ready with their good works. Others will have been negligent. The parable then can be applied to the coming of the Lord for each one of us, which is the moment of death.
Are we prepared? To be prepared for death means not only providing for those we will leave behind. It means above all providing for ourselves as we go ahead. The book The Imitation of Christ advises us as follows: "Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience. Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death?"
Word Today, Nov. 11, 2002 (Monday of the 32nd Week)
Readings: Ti 1:1-9/ Lk 17:1-6
Jesus Christ has very strong words of reproach for those who "should lead astray a single one of these little ones." In a very colorful imagery, Christ says of those who cause others to sin (this is the meaning of "scandal"), that a heavy stone should be tied around their necks and then be thrown into the sea.
If we think that murder is very bad because it is to kill another human being, then we can understand how bad it is to cause scandal. Scandal implies to take away the spiritual life of another person. It is like spiritual murder. For example, some persons dress very provocatively out of sheer vanity. Little do they realize that such behavior could be causing great harm to other people.
Readings: Ti 2:1-8, 11-14/ Lk 17:7-10
"When you have done everything that was commanded you, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.'" What a wonderful program and attitude Jesus proposes to us in this gospel. We should strive to do our duties and then, instead of feeling smug about ourselves for having done it, we should not give ourselves too much importance.
How often people behave differently! Many do not have a sense of duty, but only do things because of the contingency of the moment. Many more, after having done what they were duty-bound to do, seek praise and adulation from other people. It is a wonderful way of growing in humility to simply do what we have to do, and go on to the next job without being complacent about it.
Word Today, Nov. 13, 2002 (Wednesday of the 32nd Week)
Readings: Ti 3:1-7/ Lk 17:11-19
How often we behave like the nine lepers whom Jesus Christ cured in today's gospel reading. We are so overjoyed by the boon we have received, we forget to give thanks to the giver. Jesus Christ appreciated the lone ex-leper who returned to thank his benefactor.
We owe God everything -- our life, our possessions, whatever skills or talents we may have. God is our father and he wants us to be happy. The imperative for us to give thanks to God does not arise from any kind of need on the part of God. It is rather a need coming from us. We must recognize the source of all the good things we have so that we can orient them properly. Whatever good we have received from God is not for our enjoyment alone. They are there for a purpose -- to serve God and others.
Word Today, Nov. 14, 2002 (Thursday of the 32nd Week)
Readings: Phlm 7-20/ Lk 17:20-25
"When is the kingdom of God coming?... The kingdom of God comes unawares." While not exactly referring to this, we can accommodate today's gospel reading to clarify some things that we are presently witnessing. As the year comes to an end, especially in these first years of the third Christian millennium, there is a tendency for so-called "millennarist" tendencies to arise. All kinds of catastrophic predictions appear, attributed to prophets or saints.
We should be wary of such predictions. The Pope has said, "As the third millennium of the Redemption draws near, God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity and we can already see its first signs." Purification is indeed a necessary part of this new era, but it need not come as catastrophic chastisements. As Christians, we should have a basic optimism -- Christ is risen, Christ has conquered, although we still have to cooperate with God in the work of Redemption.
Word Today, Nov 15, 2002 (Friday of the 32nd Week )
Readings: 2 Jn 4-9/ Lk 17:26-37
In the gospel today, Jesus referred to the Old Testament incident in which the wife of Lot turned into a pillar of salt as they were fleeing from the destruction of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah where the family of Lot had been residing.
In a symbolic way, we can apply this incident to our own life's journey. Once we have seen what God wants of us, we should not look back and yearn for our former way of life. This is especially applicable to those who have a vocation to serve the Church, such as priests, religious and other dedicated persons. Do not look back to those things that you have already given up. Give them up wholeheartedly and with confidence in God. Look ahead, not behind.
Word Today, Nov. 16, 2002 (Saturday of the 32nd Week )
Readings: 3 Jn 5-8/ Lk 18:1-8
"He told them a parable, that they must always pray and not lose heart." This was the object of the parable of the insistent widow who ceaselessly "nagged" the unjust judge to give her justice. In Pilipino, we refer to a very persistent person as being "makulit". The term tends to be derogatory.
But when it comes to our dealings with God, to be "makulit" is not something bad. There are so many examples in the Scripture where God allows himself to be moved by the persistence of a person's prayer. The more persistent we are in prayer, the more our faith is evident. And it is faith that God looks for in our prayer. Let us pray with faith (and therefore with perseverance) and our prayers will surely be answered.
Word Today, Nov. 17, 2002 (THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31/ 1 Thes 5:1-6/ Mt 25:14-30 or 25:14-15, 19-21
"You have been faithful in small things; come and join in your master's happiness." There is a profound lesson behind these words. How many of us will ever end up doing great things? If we were to wait for great opportunities to serve the Lord, it would never come. God is waiting for us in the small things.
Yet these small things can be really great. "Do everything for love. It that way there will be no little things: everything will be big. Perseverance in the little things for love is heroism." (The Way)
Word Today, Nov. 18, 2002 (Monday of the 33rd Week)
Readings: Rv 1:1-4; 2:1-5a/ Lk 18:35-43
"Lord, that I may see." This was the request of the blind man at Jericho. We can apply this, allegorically, to ourselves.
Faith is a kind of supernatural "light" that enables us to see things from the point of view of God and of the revealed truths. Thus, we can ask God to give us this light by praying "Lord, that I may see." Lord, let me see your providence in all things that happen to me. Lord let me see your hand in the joys and sorrows that cross the path of my life. If we have this vision of faith, everything in our life will have a deep meaning.