Readings: Jer 20:7-9/ Rom 12:1-2/ Mt 16:21-27
After conferring the primacy upon Peter, the very same Peter is subjected to a severe reprimand from Christ. He is told, "Get behind me Satan, you are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God's way but man's." What would merit such a rebuke? It was Peter's rejection of Christ's prediction of his sufferings.
Let this be a lesson for all of us and not only for Peter. There is no following of Christ without the cross. Even more, we can say that there is no real salvation, no real happiness, unless we can know the "science of the cross". We must learn to see the intimate connection between the love of God and the human experience of pain and suffering. A spiritual writer (Leclerq) once pointed out: "Don't spouses become more sure of their love once they have suffered together? Isn't friendship strengthened through common trials or for having suffered the heat of the day together?" Suffering leads to God. Without the a cross, we cannot go to Christ.
Word Today, Sept. 2, 2002 (Monday of the 22nd week)
Readings: 1 Cor 2:1-5/ Lk 4:16-30
The Messiah is identified by the prophecy. "He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favor." Later on, when the Baptist's disciples inquire about Jesus' credentials, he tells them "the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them."
The Church has always recommended the relief of the material and spiritual needs of our neighbors. Thus tradition has come to enumerate the so-called seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. We should engage in these works of service to our fellow men. Our readiness to serve them with personal sacrifice is a sign that Jesus is with us.
Word Today, Sept. 3, 2002 (Tuesday of the 22nd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 2:10b-16/ Lk 4:31-37
The gospel says that Jesus' "teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority." What does "authority" in this context mean? The "author" of a book is the one who made it. Being the maker, who else could know it better? Who else could speak with more credibility and reliability? The supreme authority is God since he is the creator, the author, of all things. But God governs us through others. As St. Paul says, "All authority comes from God." Hence we must respect and obey all legitimate authority. If not, we shall end up in chaos, not knowing what to follow.
By divine institution, the authority in the Church resides in the hierarchy. It does not come from the people but from God. On the other hand, civil authority can come in various ways. Christians should obey the civil authority as representing God in the temporal sphere. There is no conflict in the heart of the Christian between his religious loyalty and his loyalty to his country. They both allude to God in different spheres of life.
Word Today, Sept. 4, 2002 ( Wednesday of the 22nd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 3:1-9/ Lk 4:38-44
The gospel today talks about Simon Peter's mother-in-law who was cured by Jesus and who then began to wait on Jesus and his followers in Peter's house. This incident shows that Peter, the prince of the apostles, was a married person. Some people cite this to try to remove the requirement of celibacy for the priesthood in the Latin rite. Thus it would be good to make a short clarification.
While it is true that Peter was a married man, the practice of celibacy for priests and bishops in the Catholic Church hails from apostolic times. How? The primary meaning of celibacy is related to continence or abstention from the conjugal act. In the early Church, those who became priests and bishops practiced such continence, so they were either non-married persons or, if they were married, the wife agreed to this requirement of the priesthood. The modern mind may find this incongruous or even impossible. Yet an outlook with faith and a true appreciation of the Catholic priesthood will help us understand it. In fact there are many priests who joyfully practice this voluntary renunciation in a close imitation of Christ and the apostles.
Most probably then Peter was a widower. And if his wife were still alive (most unlikely because no mention is made of her while her mother is mentioned) then the lifestyle of the apostle Peter would have precluded any use of marriage. Hence we can conclude that Peter practiced celibacy.
Word Today, Sept. 5, 2002 (Thursday of the 22nd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 3:18-23/ Lk 5:1-11
"Master, the whole night through we have toiled and have caught nothing; but at your word I will lower the net." Peter could have alleged many more reasons for not doing what Christ said. Peter was the expert on fishes while Christ's expertise was more in the field of carpentry. Peter must have been very tired after having fished all night long.
The obedience of Peter was rewarded with the miraculous catch. In retrospect, it was not the fish that mattered, it was the lesson imparted. In the tasks of God, we must value obedience. Once we are sure that a command comes from the Lord (and such would be the case if it is obedience to the legitimately consituted superiors in the Church), then we should obey wholeheartedly. The fruits of our labors will depend more on obedience than on our own skills.
Word Today, Sept. 6, 2002 (Friday of the 22nd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 4:1-5/ Lk 5:33-39
In the gospel reading today Jesus Christ refers to himself as the bridegroom. This symbolism is found in other places. For example, in his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul compares Christ to the groom and the Church to the bride. He uses this as a model of mutual marital love.
While this may not be the main reason for it, this is one of the arguments that can help us understand why it is so appropriate that the priesthood in the Catholic Church be reserved to men only. Since the priest has to be another Christ, and Christ is the groom of his bride, the Church, then the priest should appropriately be a man. This will also help us understand the appropriateness of priestly celibacy. The priest is already "married" to the Church.
Word Today, Sept. 7, 2002 (Saturday of the 22nd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 4:6b-15/ Lk 6:1-5
The gospel today mentions that Christ and his disciples were walking through fields of grain and that the disciples "were plucking and eating the ears of grain, rubbing them with their hands." We will not concern ourselves with the aftermath of this event, with the false accusations of the Pharisees. Instead, we can look at what this meant for the disciples.
Have you ever gone out to a nice walk by the countryside with your friends? If
you passed through some fruit bearing trees, perhaps you were tempted to go and pluck some to munch on them. It means that you are in a light-hearted mood because of the camaraderie with your friends. This little incident shows how
the apostles had really become friends. Around Jesus, they formed a unified group. They were bound together by their friendship. Our Christian life should lead us to become better friends and companions.
Readings: Ez 33:7-9/ Rom 13:8-10/ Mt 18:15-
The gospel today talks about the practice of brotherly correction. From this reading as well as from some parts of St. Paul'' letters, we can surmise that the early Christian community had this practice. To correct an erring brother is a meritorious deed. It would be much more comfortable just to let them remain in their error. But we have a duty of charity to help others to become better. This is especially important if a person's error is harmful to his eternal salvation.
However, we must make sure that our correction is truly "brotherly". We must make sure we have the right intention - jealousy or a holier-than-thou attitude should not motivate us. We should do it without embarrassing the person ---hence it would be better done in private. We should do it in such a way that the person receiving the correction would be grateful because he can see that we are really concerned for his good.
Word Today, Sept. 9, 2002 (Monday of the 23rd week)
Readings: 1 Cor 5:1-8/ Lk 6:6-11
"The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him." The presence of ill-intentioned people looking out for faults did not prevent Jesus from doing the good deed of curing the man with a withered hand.
How often we are prevented from doing good because of the false shame we sometimes have. Even worse, out of giving too much importance to the opinion of others, there are people who end up doing bad things. Indecent jokes, bad conversations, immoral activities - all these find an ally in our fear of going against the tide of popular opinion. Let us learn to imitate Christ in his courage in spite of the bad dispositions of others.
Word Today, Sept. 10, 2002 (Tuesday of the 23rd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 6:1-11/ Lk 6:12-19
Before Christ chose the twelve apostles among his numerous followers, the gospel today tells us that he "continued all night in prayer to God." If we look at the twelve people whom Christ eventually chose, we can find no special pattern. They were not exceptional or outstanding. They were simply "chosen."
The choice of God comes first. When God wants something done, he does not need a "talent scout" to locate the right person. God chooses, then he helps the person of his choice through the appropriate graces. Hence, if you have a calling from God, you should not be afraid to carry out its requirements even if they seem beyond your capabilities. If God chose you, he will give you help when it is needed.
Word Today, Sept. 11, 2002 (Wednesday of the 23rd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 7:25-31/ Lk 6:20-26
The gospel today is about the "beatitudes and woes." The beatitudes contain a new kind of "moral code" for the Christian. It extols what people usually consider as misfortunes, in the light of the new order of grace established by Christ.
If we live by faith, we will not judge by worldly standards. Motives of sadness for others will be for us motives of joy. In the words of St. Paul, "For those who love God, everything works together for good." Poverty, persecution, trials, all these help us to get closer to God, and prepare us for our true goal in life.
Word Today, Sept. 12, 2002 (Thursday of the 23rd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 8:1b-7, 11-13/ Lk 6:27-38
What a demanding gospel! "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who calumniate you." Is it really possible to do this? Or is this just a rhetorical exaggeration?
Perhaps the best answer to this question is Christ himself. He died on the cross, brutally treated, yet he died forgiving those who killed him. He even had a "rationalization" for them: they do not know what they are doing. So the answer to our question is that this must be possible. It is possible if we look to Christ. When we find it hard to forgive those who have done us wrong, let us think of Christ on the cross and ask him for grace and strength to fulfill his demands.
Word Today, Sept. 13, 2002 (Friday of the 23rd Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22b-27/ Lk 6:39-42
Today's gospel contains some very wise, yet obvious, observations. The blind cannot lead the blind. We cannot dare to correct the defects in other people when we ourselves are full of miseries. There is a saying: "No man can give what he does not have."
These are all very good pieces of advice for those who are engaged in the apostolate. If we want to help others, we must start with ourselves. If we want to evangelize, we must first practice the demands of the gospel. This does not mean that we are in a position to help others because we are better than they are. It simply means that we are sincerely trying to improve, so that our advice to others does not smack of hypocrisy.
Word Today, Sept. 14, 2002 (The Exaltation of the Holy Cross feast)
Readings: Nm 21:4b-9/ Phil 2:6-11/ Jn 3:13-17
Today is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. This is associated with the story of how the Emperor Heraclius recovered the relics of the cross of Jesus. When he wanted to return it in triumph by carrying the cross in procession, he found himself unable to do so. A holy man then told the emperor that he had to divest himself of all his imperial trappings because the Lord was only able to carry the cross in poverty and abnegation. When the Emperor did so, he was able to carry the cross as he wanted.
We must learn to carry the cross of Christ. This means that we have to bear with all the difficulties and trials that are really part and parcel of every person's life. But in order to be able to do this, we must have the right disposition. We cannot carry the cross that suits us. Rather, we must carry the cross that God sends, with a spirit of abnegation and sacrifice.
Word Today, Sept. 15, 2002 (TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Sir 27:30--28:9/ Rom 14:7-9/ Mt 18:21-35
St. Peter thought that he was being magnanimous when he asked Jesus if we had to forgive someone who has wronged us up to seven times. Seven was considered the number of fullness. The answer of Jesus is even more radical -"I do not tell you to forgive seven times but seventy times seven." What Jesus meant by this was not 49 times, but that we must always forgive - forgive without putting any limits.
From a purely human standpoint, this is impossible. But if we consider our relationship with God, we must recognize that in fact God is forgiving us constantly. If God were to use the measure of our own forgiveness, we would end up lost. Instead, we should be the ones to use God's measure of forgiveness.
Word Today, Sept. 16, 2002 (Monday of the 24th week)
Readings: 1 Cor 11:17-26, 33/ Lk 7:1-10
The Roman Centurion deserved one of the most flattering praises to come from Jesus' mouth: "Amen I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith." So great was the faith of this man that even the liturgy has made use of his wonderful confession of faith to prepare us to receive holy communion: "Lord I am not worthy that you should come to me, say but the word and my servant shall be healed."
The centurion's faith can be seen in his answer to Christ. He applied his own military mentality, of command responsibility, to conclude that Christ merely had to give a command and the miracle would be done. To have a living faith, we must integrate our beliefs into our way of thinking. We cannot keep our faith in a compartment away from our daily concerns and occupations.
Word Today, Sept. 17, 2002 (Tuesday of the 24th Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31a/ Lk 7:11-17
Today's gospel is about the raising from the dead of the son of a widow, in the town of Naim. In olden times, the status of women was much worse than it is today. A widow was often left without too many possibilities to sustain herself. Thus the loss of her only son was a real blow for that poor widow. The motive for Jesus' miracle was that "he had compassion on her."
Jesus was very sensitive to the needs of the people around him. He did not perform that miracle in order to show off. He really wanted to relieve the plight of the poor woman. We should have confidence in God. Jesus cares for all our concerns, even our day-to-day problems. When we pray, we should bring our daily concerns to Jesus. He will always have compassion on us.
Word Today, Sept. 18, 2002 (Wednesday of the 24th Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 12:31--13:13/ Lk 7:31-35
Jesus Christ compared the attitude of his contemporaries to that of "spoiled brats" who keep on complaining just because things do not turn out exactly as they want it. "We have piped to you, and you have not danced; we have sung dirges, and you have not wept." They always found fault with Christ.
Fault-finding, negative criticism, ultimately comes from selfishness and egotism. If it is not our duty to do so, we should refrain from judging and criticizing others. Instead, we should look at the good traits of others and praise God from whom all good things come.
Word Today, Sept. 19, 2002 (Thursday of the 24th Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 15:1-11/ Lk 7:36-50
The incident of the penitent woman narrated in today's gospel has many wonderful lessons for us. We can focus on the reaction of Jesus, of how he told his host Simon that he somehow "missed" the small details of affection and courtesy from him; on the other hand, the penitent woman, because she loved much, showed him such details.
When there is love, then affection is shown in details. That is why a clear manifestation of love for Christ is the care we take of all things related to him. For example, we should take care of cleanliness and order in the house of the Lord. We should treat reverently all those things that have to do with worship. These are not just external forms -- they show our love for Christ.
Word Today, Sept. 20, 2002 (Friday of the 24th Week)
Readings: 1 Cor 15:12-20/ Lk 8:1-3
The gospel today mentions the names of some women who used to provide for the needs of Jesus and his followers. These women followed our Lord and the apostles in their apostolic forays. Without them, the apostles would have spent a lot of precious time just taking care of their day-to-day needs.
In the Church, there are also groups of women who perform a wonderful apostolate by attending to the daily needs of other church workers. There are groups of women who concentrate on the needs of the liturgy and the upkeep of churches. There are those who take care of the household of the workers of God. While seeming to perform very humble jobs, these tasks have far-reaching apostolic repercussions. Just like the women mentioned in the gospel, they make the apostolate more effective because of their hidden tasks.
Word Today, Sept. 21, 2002 (Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist)
Readings: Eph 4:1-7, 11-13/ Mt 9:9-13
Today is the feast of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist. The gospel narrates how Jesus called Matthew, and then Jesus was criticized for "fraternizing" with alleged sinners -- the friends of Matthew. Then, as now, it seems that the profession of "tax collector" was not well considered. People involved in collecting money for the Roman authorities were considered sinful.
Jesus' call to Matthew and his good relations with Matthew's colleagues show us that all honest professions can be sanctified. It is true that some professions are more difficult than others because they provide more occasions for going astray. But there are ways and means of being straight even in the most difficult jobs. What is important is to be professionally competent. Then one will not need to have recourse to illicit measures to keep on top of one's professional field.
Word Today, Sept. 22, 2002 (TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Is 55:6-9/ Phil 1:20c-24, 27a/ Mt 20:1-16a
In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard who were all given the same promised pay, we may at first feel that some injustice was done. Yet as the employer says, "Why be envious because I am generous?" Indeed, we see this way of acting in the incident of the good thief. He was able to cover for his whole life with that moment of sincere faith and contrition. Why should we be envious if God is generous with his forgiveness?
Let us focus our attention, not on the disparity of God's favors, but think rather that if God is generous with those who have come later, then he will also be generous with us. We can also resolve, from this parable, that it is never too late to start serving God. If God called one in his youth, give thanks for having had the privilege of serving him with that ardor. But if God calls us now in our advanced age, it is never too late.
Word Today, Sept. 23, 2002 (Monday of the 25th week)
Readings: Prv 3:27-34/ Lk 8:16-18
"For there is nothing hidden that will not be made manifest nor anything concealed that will not be known and come to light." We can apply these words to the particular judgment that will take place immediately after our death, as well as to the last judgment that will take place at the end of the world. We cannot hide anything, even our most secret thoughts and desires, from God. And at the last judgment, these will also be made manifest to all men, for the greater glory of God.
This consideration could help us to be more sincere with ourselves and with others. Let us live in such a way that we will not be afraid that our thoughts and actions can be seen by God and, eventually, by everyone else.
Word Today, Sept. 24, 2002 (Tuesday of the 25th Week)
Readings: Prv 21:1-6, 10-13/ Lk 8:19-21
"My mother and brethren are they who hear the word of God, and act upon it." With these words, Jesus Christ pointed out the foundation of a Christian's close relationship with God.
A Christian is a child of God. God is his father. This is because we are brothers and sisters of Jesus. We become his brothers and sisters by receiving the word of God in faith, and striving to put these words into practice. Jesus was not belittling his relationship with Mary. Rather, he was showing the true foundation of Mary's greatness. Of all persons, she was the one who best accepted and acted upon God's word.
Word Today, Sept. 25, 2002 ( Wednesday of the 25th Week)
Readings: Prv 30:5-9/ Lk 9:1-6
The apostles were sent on a mission involving visiting people ("Whatever house you enter, remain there...") and healing the sick. From the very first centuries of Christianity, the Church has always wanted to accompany those who are sick by alleviating their sufferings and helping them to give meaning to their pain.
It has been said that a civilization can be evaluated based on the way its members take care of the weaker ones of society -- the sick, the little children, the aged, etc. When there is such care, then there is genuine humanity and civilization. When such care is missing, it shows a general disregard for the person. In spite of material wealth, that society is really poor in humanity and there is no true joy.
Word Today, Sept. 26, 2002 (Thursday of the 25th Week)
Readings: Eccl 1:2-11/ Lk 9:7-9
The gospel today points out that Herod was anxious to see Jesus because he had heard of the many marvels that Jesus did. However, we know that this eagerness was not fulfilled. And when Jesus appeared before Herod during the Passion, Jesus did not even open his mouth to satisfy Herod's curiosity.
On the other hand, Jesus told his follows, "Blessed are you because you see and hear." They were not just moved by idle curiosity. They were truly seeking God, so Jesus revealed himself to them. He gave them lessons and wisdom, he showed them works of kindness. Let be like the apostles in our eagerness to know Jesus and our readiness to change our life accordingly. Let us not be like Herod who only saw Jesus as an "interesting specimen", without any desire to change his life accordingly.
Word Today, Sept. 27, 2002 (Friday of the 25th Week)
Readings: Eccl 3:1-11/ Lk 9:18-22
"The son of man must suffer many things." (Lk 9:22) The apostles must have found it very hard to accept this. Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Messiah, yet immediately the Lord said that he would be a suffering one. Even today, this aspect of the Christian life is little understood.
In his letter on suffering, the Pope said that suffering, taken in a Christian way, is not only useful, but also indispensable. "Suffering, more than any other thing, is what opens the way for the grace that transforms souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes the force of the Redemption present in the history of humanity."
Word Today, Sept. 28, 2002 (Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions, martyrs)
Readings: Eccl 11:9--12:8/ Lk 9:43b-45
Today is the feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions. As we all know, St. Lorenzo is the first canonized Filipino saint. It has taken four centuries before we had our first canonized saint. Yet the faith has truly taken deep root in our hearts and in our culture. Perhaps it is also providential that we have had to wait because we now see a deeper meaning behind St. Lorenzo's life.
It is significant that our first canonized saint was a layperson, an active parish member, and an exile of some sort because he had to go overseas in an effort to flee from injustice. Many of our countrymen are in the same situation. But above all we should identify with St. Lorenzo in his readiness to stand up to his faith even if he felt the temptation of saving his own hide at the expense of conscience.
Word Today, Sept. 29, 2002 (TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)
Readings: Ez 18:25-28/ Phil 2:1-11 or 2:1-5/ Mt 21:28-32
"Which of the two did what the father wanted?" An important lesson from today's gospel reading is that the bottom line of our relationship with God is in doing God's will.
Many people have the misconception that love is a fleeting feeling that suddenly comes and likewise suddenly disappears. One falls in love as readily as one can fall out of love. But love is much more than feelings. While feelings are an integral part of human love, it goes more deeply than that. It is based on that inner core of our personality that has a lot to do with the faculty of the will. Hence, the real proof of our love for God is whether or not we do His will.
Word Today, Sept. 30, 2002 (Monday of the 26th week)
Readings: Jb 1:6-22/ Lk 9:46-50
When Jesus Christ saw the division among his apostles because of ambition and envy, he encouraged them to imitate the simplicity and humility of a child. "For he who is the least among you, he is the greatest."
The great promoter of the life of spiritual childhood in our times is St. Therese of Lisieux. In her short life, she reached such heights of closeness to God and such wisdom of heart, that she has been recently declared
a "doctor of the Church." This means that the Church is confirming the correctness and importance of her teaching. This teaching of hers is what she called her "little way". Let us try to be like children before
God - children in simplicity and humility.