Readings: Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23/ Lk 9:51-56
St. Therese of the Child Jesus died on September 30, 1897. However, we celebrate her memory today, October 1. The Church declared St. Therese of Lisieux (she came from that place in France) a doctor of the Church. This means that she is considered to be an outstanding "teacher" of faith.
She did not write extensively. She is best known for a small little work, her autobiography, which is entitled "The Story of a Soul". She is a teacher, not for the quantity of her teachings, but for their quality and depth. What did she teach? She taught our modern, self-reliant age the importance of the "way of childhood." If we want to go to God, she reminded us that we must become like little children - simple, humble, trusting. Above all, we must be loving towards God our father.
Word Today, Oct. 2, 2002 (Wednesday of the 26th Week, The Guardian Angels)
Readings: Jb 9:1-12, 14-16 (457)/ Mt 18:1-5, 10*
The existence of a guardian angel for each one of us is part of the ordinary teaching of the Church. The word "angel" appears in the Sacred Scripture at least 300 times. When Peter was miraculously released from prison and he knocked at the door of Mark's house (See Acts 12: 13), the occupants of the house could not believe it was Peter himself. They told the excited Roda, "It must be his angel," who was knocking.
It is indeed fitting that God, who is a loving father, should want to protect us by providing us with a powerful guide and companion. Let us be more aware of our guardian angel's presence. We can do so by addressing him or her (the angels have no gender since they are pure spirits) as we would a good and helpful friend who is always by our side.
Word Today, Oct. 3, 2002 (Thursday of the 26th Week)
Readings: Jb 19:21-27/ Lk 10:1-12
The gospel today contains a lesson that could very well be the continuation of the other day's reading, when James and John reacted badly to the towns that did not receive them well. Here, Jesus tells them how to react: "If they do not receive you, go out to its streets and say, 'Even the dust from your town that cleaves to us we shake off against you; yet know this, that the kingdom of God is at hand."
We should not wish evil upon anyone, not even those who may not receive the Gospel well. However, we should not be hindered from preaching the good news and reiterating to those same persons that the kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand. If they do not receive it well, they will be responsible for the consequences of their lack of correspondence. Perhaps that will give them food for thought and help them in their future conversion.
Word Today, Oct. 4, 2002 ( Friday of the 26th Week, St. Francis of Assisi)
Readings: Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5/ Lk 10:13-16
St. Francis, the founder of the great Franciscan religious family, shocked the world of his time by his radical profession of the virtue of poverty.
While not all Christians are called to the vow of poverty in the Franciscan manner, we are all called to practice the virtue of poverty. To be "poor" is to be interiorly detached from all things - both spiritual and material. Such interior detachment will, in turn, bring about the freedom of spirit that makes it possible to love God and neighbor. And paradoxically, with detachment comes a sense of mastery and ownership over everything. Francis referred to the things surrounding him as if they were "his". He called them all, even the animals and the planets, his brothers and sisters.
Word Today, Oct. 5, 2002 (Saturday of the 26th Week)
Readings: Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17/ Lk 10:17-24
"Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you; rejoice rather in this, that your names are written in heaven." This admonition of Jesus can apply very well to persons who are serving God in some kind of apostolic work.
In serving God and the Church, we can very easily rejoice at the fruits of our labors, and that is quite understandable. But sometimes such fruits are not evident. When we do apostolate, we should rather rejoice in the fact that we are doing God's will. That is its own reward.
Word Today, Oct. 6, 2002 (TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Is 5:1-7/ Phil 4:6-9/ Mt 21:33-43
St. Paul's advice to the Philippians could very well help us in this age of pessimism and cynicism. "Whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable, whatever of good repute, if there be any virtue, if anything worthy of praise, think upon these things." (Phil 4:8)
As Christians, we must have a fundamental optimism without falling into naivete. There are many evils surrounding us. But there are also many more good and noble realities. The good will always outweigh the evil because God is our father and He does not lose battles. He allows evil only that more good may arise from it.
Word Today, Oct. 7, 2002 (Monday of the 27th week, Our Lady of the Rosary )
Readings: Gal 1:6-12/ Lk 10:25-37
Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. "Rosary" literally means a garland of roses. In the rosary, each rose, each bead, represents a vocal prayer - the Hail Mary, Our Father, the Glory Be or the Creed. But the heart of the rosary is the reflection and prayerful consideration of the "mysteries" of the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
Some find the rosary repetitious and boring. But repetition should not necessarily lead to boredom. Just as the refrain of a song is repeated thus highlighting the mood or some aspect of the song, so the repetition of vocal prayers can serve as a backdrop for our contemplation of the mysteries. The rosary is pleasing to God because, through the contemplation of the mysteries, we are led "To Jesus through Mary."
Word Today, Oct. 8, 2002 (Tuesday of the 27th Week)
Readings: Gal 1:13-24/ Lk 10:38-42
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; and yet only one things is needful. Mary has chosen the best part." (Lk 10: 41-42)
People in the service of God, or who are engaged in apostolic or evangelical works, would do well to heed the Lord's advice. The only thing truly necessary is union with God. This does not mean that we should neglect our duties and other concerns. But it means that no matter how pressing a work is, we must always prioritize our prayer life. Otherwise that pressing work will become bereft of true meaning.
Word Today, Oct. 9, 2002 (Wednesday of the 27th Week)
Readings: Gal 2:1-2, 7-14/ Lk 11:1-4
"Lord teach us to pray." (Lk 11:1) When the Pope was asked in the book Crossing the Threshold of Hope about how he prayed, he said, "The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray."
While prayer can be described quite simply as having a conversation with God, and as such it should be the most natural thing in the world, we also see in the Pope's phrase that the initiative must come from God. God wants to talk to us, even more than we want to talk to Him. God is constantly calling us, knocking at the door of our heart. All we need to do is be attentive and recognize, in the things that happen daily to us, that God is addressing us.
Word Today, Oct. 10, 2002 (Thursday of the 27th Week)
Readings: Gal 3:1-5/ Lk 11:5-13
The gospel today contains Christ's assurance that our prayers will always be answered. But the last phrase provides a good explanation for the times that, in our view, our prayers may appear to have been worthless. "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Good Spirit to those who ask him!"
We must ask God for good things. And God, who loves us madly, will always give us what is good. So if unwittingly we asked for something that would be bad for us, it may appear that God has not heard us. But in fact, he has somehow responded to us better than our own selves.
Word Today, Oct. 11, 2002 (Friday of the 27th Week)
Readings: Gal 3:7-14/ Lk 11:15-26
"Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses." While Christ said this to show that he was not casting out devils by the power of the devil, as his enemies accused him of, the same idea can be applied to the Church. Hence Christ ardently prayed for the unity of the whole Church - "That all may be one."
The movement for unity within the Church is called "ecumenism". The objective is the unity of all Christians. One of the greatest desires of the Holy Father is that all those Christian communities that have separated from the main trunk of the Church eventually be united, respecting their traditions and sensibilities. But we should also work for the unity within the Catholic Church. We should avoid useless divisions and factions by respecting the individual charisms of the different groups and individuals within the Church, so long as they are in full communion with the source and sign of unity, which is the Holy Father. It is senseless to make derogatory remarks about any recognized institution of Holy Mother Church.
Word Today, Oct. 12, 2002 (Saturday of the 27th Week)
Readings: Gal 3:22-29/ Lk 11:27-28
A voice was suddenly heard rising above the crowd, "Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked." She must have been a mother herself. But Jesus drew something more from that exclamation. He said, "Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it."
We should not interpret Jesus' words as if he were not in favor of the praise to his mother. Rather, he is pointing out where the merit of Mary primarily lies. Mary is very special not only because she physically conceived, gave birth to and nurtured Jesus. More than that, she was the person most attentive to the word of God and the most faithful in keeping it. We see this in all the gospels. She pondered on God's words and she gave that fateful "Fiat" (Let it be) that brought us the Redeemer.
Word Today, Oct. 13, 2002 (TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Is 25:6-10a/ Phil 4:12-14, 19-20/ Mt 22:1-14 or 22:1-10
How wonderful it would be if we could say with St. Paul, "I know how to live humbly and I know how to live in abundance, to be filled and to be hungry, to have abundance and to suffer want." (Phil 4: 12) Riches and material comforts are not bad. But we should be able to do away with them because they are not the most important things to go for. Unfortunately, many people, like Scarlet O'Hara of the classic Gone With the Wind, think that the worst disaster that could ever happen to them is to suffer want.
"I can do all things in him who strengthens me." (Phil 4: 14) The source of strength to bear with deprivations is God. When we feel the pull of materialism and consumerism, let us turn to Christ. He reminded us, "Not by bread alone does man live but by every word that comes from God."
Word Today, Oct. 14, 2002 (Monday of the 28th week)
Readings: Gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31--5:1/ Lk 11:29-32
In the gospel today, Jesus referred to the prophet Jonas. We could call Jonas the "reluctant prophet" because although he knew that God had a mission for him, he tried his best to escape his responsibility. The "sign" of Jonas means the resurrection of Christ. Just as Jonas was in the belly of the big fish for three days, so Jesus would be in the bowels of the earth and rise on the third day.
God has a plan for each one of us. When we discover it, then we must fulfill the mission that God has entrusted to us. We do not have to look for special signs. God usually shows us his plan for us through ordinary means - through our daily duties, through the requirements of charity or justice of the people around us, through the silent inspirations the Holy Spirit may insinuate in our hearts. If, like Jonas, we are reluctant to fulfill it, let us at least be like Jonas in rectifying his attitude and ending up fulfilling God's mission.
Word Today, Oct. 15, 2002 (Tuesday of the 28th Week, Saint Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church )
Readings: Gal 5:1-6/ Lk 11:37-41
Christ reproved the Pharisees in these words: "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but within you are full of robbery and wickedness. Foolish ones!" Christian morality gives importance not only to the external observances but, above all, to the internal dispositions and inner attitudes.
This gospel can be an occasion for us to examine our own inner attitudes and dispositions. It is not enough to do what is right. We must do it for the right intention. That intention, in the age-old Christian tradition, is the glory of God and the sincere service to our fellowmen.
Word Today, Oct. 16, 2002 (Wednesday of the 28th Week)
Readings: Gal 5:18-25/ Lk 11:42-46
We can understand better the strength of Jesus' words against the Pharisees in the light of our custom to "beautify" the graves of our loved ones especially on the days that we visit them. Because of their hypocrisy, the Pharisees were compared to "unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it," or, in the version of St. Matthew, they are like "white-washed sepulchres which outwardly appear beautiful to men but within are full of dead men's bones and filthiness."
Hypocrisy is such an ugly defect. And the problem with it is that hypocrisy is very hard to remedy. The hypocrite refuses to admit his defect to other men. He may even fool himself. Thus he forfeits the possibility of correction from himself or from others. Instead, he becomes stubborn and self-complacent.
Word Today, Oct. 17, 2002 (Thursday of the 28th Week)
Readings: Eph 1:1-10/ Lk 11:47-54
"Woe to you lawyers! Because you have taken away the key of knowledge; you have not entered yourselves and those who were entering you have hindered." Obviously Jesus is not condemning the legal profession. He was rather denouncing those who professed to be assiduous followers of the Mosaic Law during his time, for their hypocrisy. They taught the law, but did not practice it themselves.
The Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, all about the role of the laity in the Church and in the world, speaks about the need for lay persons to have a "unity of life." This means that they must not have a double standard in their behavior. They must be consistent with their life as a Christian and their life in the world - as a professional, a politician, a housewife or any other situation in the world. Unity of life is necessary if the leaven of Christianity is to influence temporal structures.
Word Today, Oct. 18, 2002 (Saint Luke, evangelist )
Readings: 2 Tm 4:10-17b/ Lk 10:1-9
Today is the feast of St. Luke, the author of one of the gospels as well as of the Acts of the Apostles. Both works are preceded by his explanation that he had somehow "researched" what he had written, based on eyewitnesses and reliable written accounts.
We have here an example of the adage, "God helps those who help themselves." We know that, being part of the Sacred Scriptures, the works of St. Luke are inspired, and therefore their principal author is God himself. At the same time, St. Luke is a real author and his personal characteristics, in this case reliability and accuracy of details, are present in those works. God acts through our efforts. We must pray and act at the same time. We must act diligently and know that while we seem to be putting in everything, it is actually God who puts the effectiveness and goodness in our actions.
Word Today, Oct. 19, 2002 (Saturday of the 28th Week)
Readings: Eph 1:15-23/ Lk 12:8-12
"He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." This phrase found in today's gospel has puzzled many people. In another passage Jesus speaks of the unforgivable "sin against the Holy Spirit."
These words should not lead anyone to discouragement. In ordinary life, we can say that for practical purposes all sins can be forgiven. God wants to forgive our sins - that is why he redeemed us. We should not be afraid to go to confession thinking that we have unforgivable sins. Some authors say that the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is unforgivable, could be the sin of final impenitence (how can one be forgiven if he/she is obstinate to the very end?); or the sin of attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the devil. In the latter case, it would be unforgivable because we go against the very source of the grace of repentance and conversion. But in no case should we fall into despair due to our personal miseries.
Word Today, Oct. 20, 2002 (TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Is 45:1, 4-6/ 1 Thes 1:1-5b/ Mt 22:15-21
"Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." This is the standard quotation for explaining the relationship between Church and State. There are two orders both serving the common good of men. They have their proper sphere of action.
We should avoid both clericalism and secularism. Clericalism would tend to make the Church interfere unduly into temporal affairs. Secularism would tend to completely remove the Church from them. The Church should not interfere in purely secular or temporal affairs since that is not her role. But she should be involved (not interfere) in such affairs in so far as these affairs have a moral dimension and thus can affect her mission. Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council has reiterated that this aspect of the Church's role is exercised mainly by the lay faithful. The clergy may occasionally have to enter into the picture, but its main task is in being prophetic (teaching) and in forming the laity to exercise their role under their own responsibility.
Word Today, Oct. 21, 2002 (Monday of the 29th week)
Readings: Eph 2:1-10/ Lk 12:13-21
Today's gospel contains a beautiful parable. A man had become so successful and rich that he was so absorbed in providing for his security, but he did not realize that he was going to die that very same day.
We must all be aware of the reality of death. Many people plan for their life. How few plan for their death. A Christian "plans for death" not only by taking out a memorial plan. Above all, he must "lay up treasures in heaven" in this life. These treasures are the good works that we do for God and for our neighbor. These are the true riches. So if we are blessed with material riches, we must use it for doing works of faith and charity.
Word Today, Oct. 22, 2002 (Tuesday of the 29th Week)
Readings: Eph 2:12-22/ Lk 12:35-38
Be prepared for the return of the master from the wedding feast. Wedding feasts in the time and place of Christ were long drawn affairs that had no definite time of ending. Hence the people who remained at home had to be ready for the unannounced return of the master. "Happy those servants if he finds them ready."
We can apply this to ourselves. We have to be ready for the coming of Christ into our lives. In the first place, we must be sure that we are in a situation of friendship with God -- this is the "state of grace." If we have offended God and neighbor, we must seek reconciliation in the sacrament of forgiveness. Then we should be ready for the inspirations that the Spirit may whisper in our hearts, so that we can respond to them generously.
Word Today, Oct. 23, 2002 (Wednesday of the 29th Week)
Readings: Eph 3:2-12/ Lk 12:39-48
"But of everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will demand the more."
When we realize our good qualities or good situation, we should not get complacent about them. Rather, with a Christian vision of life, we must realize that these good things have been given to us for a purpose, not just for our personal profit. We must use our talents and possessions for helping others. When we face God in judgment, we will have to render an accounting of God's gifts.
Word Today, Oct. 24, 2002 (Thursday of the 29th Week)
Readings: Eph 3:14-21/ Lk 12:49-53
"I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?" We can loosely apply these words of Christ to the love of God. Love has often been compared to a burning flame. That is why in the apparitions of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary, He showed her His heart burning with love.
As Christians, we must be filled with a holy zeal to spread God's love. Imagine the world burning in flames, consumed by the love of Christ! All of us, through our words and apostolic action, are called to be the spark that will ignite God's love in the heart of everyone we meet.
Word Today, Oct. 25, 2002 (Friday of the 29th Week)
Readings: Eph 4:1-6/ Lk 12:54-59
"How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?" That is how Jesus accuses those persons who were rejecting his preaching in spite of seeing the signs and wonders he was working. They could interpret the signs of the weather, but they could not interpret the "signs of the times".
Some persons have loosely interpreted the term "signs of the times" as if the teaching of the Church had to adjust to fashionable trends. But the gospel shows precisely that what we should do is to recognize that the time of Christ has come. We are already in the third millennium of the Christian era and there is still much to be done. This is the moment for all Christians to make a renewed effort in evangelization so that the saving teaching and power of Christ may find wider acceptance in our times.
Word Today, Oct. 26, 2002 (Saturday of the 29th Week)
Readings: Eph 4:7-16/ Lk 13:1-9
The parable of the barren fig tree applies in the first place to the people of Israel in Jesus' time. They received special treatment from God, but they rejected Christ.
But we can accommodate its meaning to ourselves. Just like the tree, we have been "cultivated" and cared for by God. We have received the grace of Baptism, we have received the Body of Christ in Holy Communion, perhaps we have received an exquisite Christian formation, the Holy Spirit comes to our life with his impulses for good. How have we corresponded? Have we yielded fruits of holiness and works of justice and charity? Apostolate is not something optional. It is an obligation for every Christian. We must do apostolate and bear fruit.
Word Today, Oct. 27, 2002 (THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Ex 22:20-26/ 1 Thes 1:5c-10/ Mt 22:34-40
The gospel today has Jesus saying very firmly that the greatest commandment is "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." He also adds that the second is that you must love your neighbor as yourself. If this is indeed the greatest and the first commandment, then we must strive very seriously to love God above all things.
Unfortunately many people are satisfied with merely "not offending God" or, even worse, just avoiding mortal sin and being quite complacent with venial sin. Many people treat God as a "means for an end" or as a "supplier" of their needs. They fail to realize that God is our greatest need and he is not a means but the end itself - our last end. Let us recall this commandment often in order to make it our basic life orientation. So many things will make sense if we do so.
Word Today, Oct. 28, 2002 (Saints Simon and Jude, apostles )
Readings: Eph 2:19-22/ Lk 6:12-16
Today is the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles. Jude is the author of one of the epistles in the New Testament. Simon and Jude preached the gospel in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia. Like many other apostles they were martyred in defense of the faith.
In the Philippines there is a devotion to St. Jude as intercessor for so-called "impossible cases". Nothing (except absurdities and contradictions, like making a square circle) is impossible with God. But there are very difficult situations men find themselves in. Difficulties make men realize that they have to turn to a higher power. However, we should not see God only as a "problem-solver". In fact, God is our last end, the object of our love. But when we realize our helplessness, it helps us see that God loves and cares for us so that we can love him in return.
Word Today, Oct. 29, 2002 (Tuesday of the 30th Week)
Readings: Eph 5:21-33 or 5:25-33/ Lk 13:18-21
In today's gospel, Jesus Christ compared the kingdom of God to yeast. Only a small amount of it is mixed with flour, but it leavens all of the dough.
Many Church documents have emphasized that Christians are like leaven. Wherever they may be, they should be a positive influence in their environment. This is especially true for Christians who are involved in different social and political institutions. They must strive to bring the saving teachings of Christ to their field of competence. They should not be intimidated by being in the minority. By working tenaciously for God, they can help to raise the moral and spiritual level of their surroundings.
Word Today, Oct. 30, 2002 (Wednesday of the 30th Week)
Readings: Eph 6:1-9/ Lk 13:22-30
We might also ask ourselves, like the man in today's gospel, if many or few will be saved. Jesus Christ did not give any definite answer. But he did say, "Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed."
We can never make any definite judgment about the eternal state of a person. Even the worst sinner may repent and receive God's mercy. On the other hand, a very good man might still fall into despair and sin towards the end of life. Thus the Church keeps a prudent silence about the fate of anyone as far as hell is concerned. However, on the basis of a close study of their heroic life and death as well as "proofs" from heaven through miracles, the Church can declare if someone is in heaven. This is the process called beatification and canonization.
What matters is that we try our best to enter the kingdom of heaven by not taking the line of least resistance.
Word Today, Oct. 31, 2002 (Thursday of the 30th Week)
Readings: Eph 6:10-20/ Lk 13:31-35
Some Pharisees urged Jesus to depart from Jerusalem because, according to them, Herod was bent on killing him. We know, of course, that more than Herod (who was in fact more concerned for his comforts than for genuinely religious issues), it was the Pharisees themselves who wanted Jesus out of the way. But Jesus stood pat on his actions. ""Behold, I cast out devils and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am to end my course."
This shows us the self-control and deliberation in all of Christ's actions. He was fulfilling the will of God the Father, and he did so bravely and steadily. We too must be constant and steadfast once we
know what God's will for us is.