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Monthly Archives: August 2015

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8;  James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 MARK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

1-1The gift of the law, which we hear God giving to Israel in today’s First Reading, is fulfilled in Jesus’ gospel, which shows us the law’s true meaning and purpose

The law, fulfilled in the gospel, is meant to form our hearts, to make us pure, able to live in the Lord’s presence. The law was given that we might live and enter into the inheritance promised to us — the kingdom of God, eternal life.

Israel, by its observance of the law, was meant to be an example to surrounding nations. As James tells us in today’s Epistle, the gospel was given to us that we might have new birth by the Word of truth. By living the Word we’ve received, we’re to be examples of God’s wisdom to those around us, the “first fruits” of a new humanity.

This means we must be “doers” of the Word, not merely hearers of it.

Many people in our increasingly secular society would gladly endorse the religious approach of the Pharisees and scribes in this Sunday’s Gospel. (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) Those Pharisees and scribes had made the careful observance of tradition and ritual the heart of their religion.

They were concerned with ritual washings and purification, in addition to being focused on the strict observance of the law of the Sabbath and the avoidance of all forbidden food.

The religion of the Pharisees and scribes was bound up with rules, rituals, and tradition.

Certainly those in our day who have little regard for religion have no problem with people of faith keeping such rituals and traditions provided they remain private, esoteric matters confined to their homes and worship places.

However, that approach was condemned by Jesus. For Jesus religion was not a matter of scrupulously keeping ritual law but rather a matter of living in a right relationship with God, with others, and with the created world.
We certainly see that in this Sunday’s Gospel. There Jesus is asked, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” Jesus replies by accusing his questioners of misplaced priorities, of paying more attention to their rituals than to the commandments of God centred on morality and correct human behaviour. ” It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied … You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.”

Jesus’ concern was not adherence to external religious ritual. Jesus knew that what made a person unclean was not failing to wash one’s hands or eating the wrong food, but rather failing to live an upright life.

As he said, ” For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”

Saint James in Sunday’s Second Reading (James 1:17-16, 21-22, 27) makes that same point. ” Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.”

We live in a society that has no problem with people of faith, provided that, like the Pharisees and scribes they make their religion only a matter of rites and rituals.

But when people of faith advocate for what is just and right, when their values contradict the laissez-faire morality of our culture, when they dare to condemn certain actions as evil and defiling of human nature, then people of faith become an unwelcome threat.

We see an example of that in the reaction of some people to the statements of Pope Francis. When he speaks in general terms of doing good and avoiding evil, no one complains. But when Pope Francis gives concrete examples of the evil to be avoided, such as uncontrolled capitalism or excessive profits, and the good that should be done, such as welcoming the immigrant or confronting climate change, then there is no longer universal applause.

A Christianity that is nothing more that ritual and ceremony may be accepted by society, but it is not the religion of Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to challenge us to turn from sin and to live as children of God. He came to open our eyes to a new way of seeing life. He came to teach us values that contradict our culture. Jesus did not come to make sure we properly washed our hands!

“Listen to me,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel. Today, we’re called to examine our relationship to God’s law.

Is the practice of our religion a pure listening to Jesus, a humble welcoming of the Word planted in us and able to save our souls? Or are we only paying lip-service?

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Posted by on August 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-7This Sunday’s Mass readings conclude a four-week meditation on the Eucharist.

The 12 apostles in today’s Gospel are asked to make a choice — either to believe and accept the new covenant He offers in His body and blood, or return to their former ways of life.

Their choice is prefigured by the decision Joshua asks the 12 tribes to make in today’s First Reading.

Joshua gathers them at Shechem — where God first appeared to their father Abraham, promising to make his descendants a great nation in a new land (see Genesis 12:1-9). And he issues a blunt challenge — either renew their covenant with God or serve the alien gods of the surrounding nations.
We too are being asked today to decide whom we will serve. For four weeks we have been presented in the liturgy with the mystery of the Eucharist — a daily miracle far greater than those performed by God in bringing the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:60-69), when Jesus finishes speaking about himself as the “living bread that came down from heaven,” many people react with disbelief and disapproval. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

While we would have expected those who were critical of Jesus to respond in that way, we would have assumed that his followers, who had just seen Jesus feed thousands with a few loaves and fish, would have accepted his teaching.

Instead we are told that many of the disciples of Jesus reacted negatively. Instead of applauding their teacher, they were murmuring about his message. “Who can accept it?”

As a result of the words that Jesus spoke “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Jesus was abandoned by a good number of his disciples. That may have been a surprise to his apostles, yet apparently not to Jesus. He knew that his message would be rejected by many. As John tells us in his Gospel, “Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe.”

Today many disciples of Jesus also walk away from him. They no longer gather with their fellow Christians to hear his word proclaimed and preached. They consider his voice just one voice among many vying for attention. They see the Eucharist as something far less than his very Body and Blood and not worth their attendance at Mass. They allow their moral standards to be set by a changing society with fluid definitions of right and wrong. They forget that the Cross of Jesus calls us to sacrifice for others and to put the will of God before our own.

Many Christians are walking away from Jesus since they find his teachings increasingly hard to accept and to live out in a society that keeps sinking deeper into sin, self-centeredness, consumerism, and immorality. A society that Pope Francis describes as having a “throwaway culture” where all things are considered disposable even the unborn, the poor, the powerless, the elderly, and the sick.

The more our society becomes post-Christian, the more it becomes secular, materialistic, narcissistic, and addicted to sensual pleasure, the more the teachings of Jesus and of his Church seem out of step and suited for another age.

As this happens, some people who claim to be Christians do the unexpected. Like many of the disciples of Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel, they walk away. They no longer accompany Jesus. They decide to embrace the values of the society around them and reject those of Jesus Christ.

In the face of such faithlessness, may we never forget what Peter told Jesus when he was asked if he would also leave, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Today’s Readings   Proverbs 9:1-6   Ephesians5:15-20    John 6:51-58

1-7We live in a society where nothing holds our attention for very long.

A news story breaks and suddenly it is being covered live by every news station. But like fireworks that brighten the sky for a moment that story soon goes dark and something else seizes our interest.

A politician says something deemed “politically incorrect” and the social media explodes with comments and reaction. But in a few days what was the hot topic barely registers in the digital world.

Apple announces the introduction of its latest electronic device and eager customers vie to be the first to buy this newest, must-have item. But like all things, what is new today is old tomorrow, and then tomorrow’s device commandeers our interest.

A new self-help book is published and the media hails its author as the guru with life’s answers. But as the book fades from the best seller list, a new spiritual guide is anointed, proclaiming a superior way to success and happiness.

Nothing holds our attention for very long. We look for the new and the novel. Then when we find it, we quickly become bored and run after something or someone else. In fact, much of our economy is based on the fact we never seem to be satisfied or content with what we have.

That dissatisfaction and restlessness that keeps us running from one thing to another will remain until we appreciate a simple fact. We came from God and we were created to go back to God. As the great preacher Fr Trevor Huddleston said “In the beginning God and in the end God.” It is only in a relationship with God that we find true meaning, genuine fulfilment, and lasting peace – what John’s Gospel describes as eternal life.

Jesus Christ is the surest path to such a relationship with God. In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:51-58), Jesus makes that point by speaking of himself as the food and drink that we need if we are to have true life. As he says, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”
It is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship that Jesus dramatically describes as our sharing his very flesh and blood that we come into a relationship with God. As Jesus puts it, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

Again today in the liturgy, we are called to renew our faith in the Eucharist, to forsake the foolishness of believing only what we can see with our eyes.

Our response to the One who gives his flesh and blood for our life and that of the world is not only intellectual assent. Jesus gives his “flesh and blood,” an expression that connotes the whole person. So we entrust our whole selves to him, body, mind, and spirit, expressed in our physical partaking of the Eucharistic body and blood.

This is our story, and it tells of a love so great, that we struggle to comprehend and accept it. We cry, “How can this be?” and then we argue among ourselves about the meaning of the miracle. Yet, in spite of our weakness, we are invited again and again to the table, to journey with pilgrim feet toward the one who gives us what he is– The living Bread of the living God.

When it comes to who were are as the church, the old saying—however trite– is true: We are what we eat. God can put up with our grumbling, our murmuring and our quarrelling. But God cannot give up on our refusal to recognize who we are: Sons and daughters of God. Members of the Body of Christ. A holy People living in communion with God and one other.

Sunday by Sunday we gather around the altar, not as one insignificant community in Sydney, but rather as part of an immense innumerable kingdom that has moved beyond basic human survival instincts. We affirm: And so with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we cry out and without end we acclaim…

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The Feast of the Assumption

1-7Introduction: The Feast of the Assumption is the most important feast of our Lady. It is the feast of her total liberation from death and decay, the consequences of original sin. It is also the remembrance of the day when the Church gave official recognition to the centuries-old belief of Christians about the assumption of their heavenly mother. In the Orthodox church, the “koimesis”, or “dormitio” (“falling asleep”), of the Virgin began to be commemorated on August 15 in the 6th century. The observance gradually spread to the West, where it became known as the feast of the Assumption. By the 13th century, the belief was accepted by most Catholic theologians, and it was a popular subject with Renaissance and baroque painters. It was on November 1, 1950, that through the Apostolic Constitution “Munificentimus Deus,” Pope Pius XII officially declared the Assumption as a dogma of Catholic faith. On this important feast day, we have to answer two questions: 1) What is meant by “assumption?” 2) Why do we believe in Mary’s assumption into heaven despite the fact that there is no reference to it in the Bible? “Assumption” means that after her death, Mary was taken into heaven, both body and soul, as a reward for her sacrificial cooperation in the divine plan of salvation.
Scripture and tradition on Mary’s death and assumption. Although there is no direct reference to Mary’s death and assumption in the New Testament, three cases of assumption are mentioned in the Old Testament, namely, that of Enoch (Genesis 5: 24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1), and Moses (Deuteronomy 34: 5-6). All these references support the possibility of Mary’s assumption. The possibility of bodily assumption is also indirectly suggested by Matthew 27: 52-53 and I Cor. 15: 23-24. In his official declaration of the dogma, the pope also sites the scriptural verses Ps 131:8, Cant 3:6, Rev 12, Is 61:13 and Cant 8:5. The fact of Mary’s death is generally accepted by the Church Fathers and theologians and is expressly affirmed in the liturgy of the Church. Origen (died in 253 AD), St. Jerome (died in 419 AD) and St. Augustine ( died in 430 AD), among others, argue that Mary’s death was not a punishment for sin, but only the result of her being a descendant of Adam and Eve.

Pope Pius XII based his declaration of the Assumption on both tradition and theology. The uninterrupted tradition in the Eastern Churches starting from the first century, the apocryphal first century book ‘Transitus Mariae’ and the writings of the early Fathers of the church, such as St. Gregory and St John Damascene, supported and promoted the popular belief in the assumption of Mary.

In his decree on the dogma of the Assumption, Pope Pius xii gives four theological reasons to support this traditional belief.
#1: The degeneration or decay of body after death is the result of original sin. However, since, through a special intervention of God, Mary was born without original sin, it is not proper that God would permit her body to degenerate in the tomb.
#2: Since Mary was given the fullness of grace, heaven is the proper place for this sinless mother of Jesus.
#3: Mary was our co-redemptrix, or fellow redeemer, with Christ. Hence her rightful place is with Christ our redeemer in heavenly glory.
#4: In the Old Testament we read that the prophet Elijah was taken into heaven in a fiery chariot. Thus, it appears natural and possible that the mother of Jesus would also be taken into heaven.

The messages: #1: Mary’s assumption gives us the assurance and hope of our own resurrection and assumption into heaven on the day of our Last Judgment. .
#2: Since Mary’s assumption was a reward for her saintly life, this feast reminds us that we too must be pure and holy in body and soul, since our bodies will be glorified on the day of our resurrection. St. Paul tells us that our bodies are the temples of God because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. He also reminds us that our bodies are also members (parts) of the Body of Christ.

#3: This feast also gives us the message of total liberation. Jesus tells us in John 8/34 that every one who sins is a slave of sin and St. Paul reminds us (Gal. 5/1) that since Christ has set us free, we should be slaves of sin no more. Thus, the Assumption encourages us to liberate ourselves from the bondage of evil: from impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts and habits, and from the bonds of jealousy, envy and hatred.

#4: Finally, it is always an inspiring thought in our moments of temptation and despair to remember that we have a powerful heavenly mother, constantly interceding for us before her son, Jesus, in heaven.

Therefore, on this feast day of our heavenly mother, let us offer ourselves on the altar and pray for her special care and loving
protection in helping us lead a purer and holier life.

1-6

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

FEAST OF ST. LAURENCE, DEACON AND MARTYR

1-9  St. Laurence was a deacon in the early church and was entrusted with administration of the church goods and care of the poor. When facing certain death at the hands of the Roman Emperor, Valerian, he was wise enough to preserve the property of the Church by distributing amongst the poor. His courageous albeit defiant act of presenting the poor as the true treasures sealed his fate. Lawrence’s solid faith was so clearly evident throughout his torture and final death.

The Gospel reading from John presents an ideal image of Laurence. Just before today’s reading begins we are told by John that some ‘Greeks’ had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They were non-Jews who had probably converted to the Jewish faith. They had heard people talking about Jesus and what he was saying and doing. It is at this point that our reading begins. Jesus answers their request in what seems a very strange and enigmatic manner. He says three things: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”

In fact, this is a very clear answer to the ‘Greeks’. They asked to ‘see’ Jesus but just to lay one’s eyes on him was not to see him. To see Jesus fully or properly requires that one have an insight and understanding of the inner mind of Christ. So Jesus cannot be ‘seen’ or understood unless one grasps the purpose and meaning of his death and resurrection. In order for it to be fruitful, a grain of wheat has to fall into the ground and effectively be disintegrated so that it will be transformed into a new plant which in time will reproduce itself many times over.

This is exactly what Jesus will do. He will surrender his life through his suffering and death on the cross only to rise again in new life. And that is what we celebrate in the Eucharist when we take the bread, the fruit of wheat grains, and say the words: “This [bread] is my Body which will be handed over for you.” And we then share this Bread as a sign of our total identification with the Vision and the Way of Jesus. And that is why Jesus says that not only must he die but all who wish to follow his Way will also have to be ready to surrender their lives, will have to be grains of wheat losing themselves to bring more life to others. All who serve Jesus must go his Way, because where Jesus is, his servant is there too.

All of this, of course, applies to Laurence who gave his life so generously for the sake of the Gospel. His death was an inspiration to large numbers of people who were inspired by his example. Laurence, like the grain of wheat, fell to the ground and died but out of his death life came for many. Far from being wiped out, the persecuted Church only flourished and continued to flourish and it continues to thrive in easier but still challenging conditions.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME SUNDAY, AUGUST 9

1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4:30 ̶ 5:2 JOHN 6:41-51

KEY VERSE: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (v 51).

1-16Sometimes we feel like Elijah in today’s First Reading. We want to lie down and die, keenly aware of our failures, that we seem to be getting no better at doing what God wants of us.

We can be tempted to despair, as the prophet was on his forty-day journey in the desert. We can be tempted to “murmur” against God, as the Israelites did during their forty years in the desert.

Yet if we believe, if we seek Him in our distress, He will deliver us from our fears, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

If you listen to talk radio stations especially on the weekends, they are filled with programs focused on health and nutrition. These programs feature doctors, nutritionists, and other health care professionals speaking about the benefits of certain vitamins, supplements, and nutritional products that they are endorsing and offering for sale.

There are products that will improve memory, lessen body fat, restore youthful vigour and vitality, reduce cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, slow the aging process, enhance heart health, eliminate joint pain, promote more restful sleep, relieve digestive disorders, and more. By the end of such programs, listeners are led to believe that the product offered is just what they need.

Suppose that there was a product that promised more than all those supplements currently on the market. Suppose there was an advertised product that guaranteed that those who took it would live forever. That outrageous claim would be met with scepticism, disbelief, and an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:41-51) Jesus offers a “product” that makes just such a claim. Jesus offers “the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” Is it any wonder that “Jews murmured” when they heard this claim of Jesus? A claim made even more incredible when Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
We have heard those words of Jesus so often that we may not appreciate the unbelievable statement that Jesus is making – eat this bread, live forever!

The bread that Jesus offers us is a relationship with him. A relationship nourished by Word and Eucharist. Such a relationship cannot be broken by death.

Just as the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father was not ended by his death on the cross, so our relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, is not ended by our death. It continues; it does not die. It lives on!

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” That claim makes unbelievers murmur – and believers rejoice! At the altar in every Eucharist, the angel of the Lord, the Lord himself (see Exodus 3:1-2), touches us. He commands us to take and eat His flesh given for the life of the world (see Matthew 26:26).

Our spiritual journey, just as any journey requires nourishment, thus God has made that nourishment available to each and every one of us through His Word and the Holy Eucharist. We must be willing to accept his gifts for the journey that lies ahead,– to get up and continue on the journey we began in baptism, to the mountain of God, the kingdom of heaven.

He will give us the bread of life, the strength and grace we need — as He fed our spiritual ancestors in the wilderness and Elijah in the desert.

So let us stop grieving the Spirit of God, as Paul says in today’s Epistle, in another reference to Israel in the desert (see Isaiah 63:10).

Let us say to God as Elijah did, “Take my life.” Not in the sense of wanting to die. But in giving ourselves as a sacrificial offering — loving Him as He has loved us, on the cross and in the Eucharist.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 97; 2 Peter 1:16-19 MARK 9:2-10

Jesus_Transfiguration10  Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is metamorphosis or transformation. The readings invite us to transform our lives by renewing it on a daily basis,
Exegesis: The primary purpose of Jesus’ transfiguration was to consult his heavenly Father and ascertain His plan for Our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection. The secondary aim was to make his chosen disciples aware of his divine glory so that they might discard their worldly ambitions about a conquering political Messiah and not to get discouraged at his suffering and humiliating death
The scene of heavenly glory: While praying, Jesus was transformed into a shining figure, full of heavenly glory. This reminds us of Moses and Elijah who had also experienced the Lord in all His glory. Moses had met the Lord in the burning bush at Mount Horeb (Exodus 3:1-4). After his encounter with God, Moses’ face shone so brightly that the people were so frightened, and Moses had to wear a veil over his face (Exodus 34:29-35). Elijah traveled for forty days to Mt. Horeb on the strength of the food brought by an angel (1 Kings 19:8). At Mt. Horeb, Elijah sought refuge in a cave as the glory of the Lord passed over him (1 Kings 19:9-18). Finally, Elijah was taken directly to heaven in a chariot of fire without seeing death (2 Kings 2:11 -15).

These representatives of the Law and the Prophets foreshadowed Jesus who is the culmination of the Law and the Prophets. Both prophets were initially rejected by the people but vindicated by God. The Jews believed that Elijah did not die because he was carried to heaven in a whirl wind (II Kings 2:11). When Moses died God himself buried him in a secret place in the valley of Moab (Deut 34: 5-6). So the implication is that, although God spared Elijah from the normal process of death and honored Moses by burying him, He did not spare His Son from suffering and death.

God the Father’s voice from the cloud: The book of Exodus describes how God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai from the cloud. God often made appearances in a cloud (Exodus 24:15-17; 13:21 -22; 34:5; 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11). The Jews generally believed that the phenomenon of the cloud would be repeated when the Messiah arrived. God the Father, Moses and Elijah approve the plan regarding Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. God’s words from the cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him,” are the same words used by God at Jesus’ baptism (3:17). They summarize the meaning of the Transfiguration: on this mountain, God reveals Jesus as His son — His beloved — the one in whom He is well pleased and to whom we must listen.
Life messages: (1) The transfiguration in the Holy Mass as a source of our strength. In each Holy Mass the bread and wine the priests offer, get transfigured into the body and blood of Jesus. In other words, our Divine Lord is transfigured before our eyes taking the form of bread and wine. Hence, just as the transfiguration strengthened the apostles in their time of trial, each Mass should be the source of heavenly strength against our own temptations, and a source of renewal of our lives every day. In addition, communion with Jesus should be a source of daily transfiguration of both our minds and hearts. We must also be transformed into Christ by becoming more humble and selfless, sharing our love, compassion and forgiveness with others.
(2) Each sacrament that we receive transforms us. Baptism, for example, transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit and warriors for Him. By the sacrament of reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. The Holy Eucharist enables us to share the life of God in this world.

(3) A message of hope and encouragement. In moments of doubts and during feelings of despair, the expectation and assurance of our transfiguration in heavenly glory helps us to reach out to God and listen to His consoling words: “This is my beloved son / daughter in whom I am well pleased.”

(4) We need these ‘mountain top experiences in our own lives. We can share such experiences as those of Peter, James and John when we spend some extra time in prayer every day. The meditative reading of the Bible daily enables us to hear God speaking to us and directing our lives as the three apostles experienced on the mountain of transfiguration. We have other moments when we see and feel the glory of God surrounding us. Every Sunday we are called to come forward like Peter, James and John to be in the presence of Christ. Perhaps God is inviting us in order to help us see the identity of Christ more clearly. Perhaps God is calling us to help us experience the miracle of the cross and the resurrection more deeply. Whatever be the result, there is one thing of which we can be assured. God always calls us to join in the journey.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Uncategorized