Monthly Archives: November, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent, cycle B

Let us pray with St. Irenaeus…

It is not you that shapes God,

it is God who shapes you.

If then you are the work of God,

await the hand of the artist

who does all things in due season.

Offer God your heart,

soft and tractable,

and keep the form in which the artist has fashioned you.

Let your clay be moist,

lest you grow hard

and lose the imprint of God’s fingers.  AMEN

1st Reading:  Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

From commentator Roger Karban:  Today’s Third-Isaiah reading only makes sense when we understand that our biblical writers believed people thought with their hearts, not their minds. So when the prophet accuses his people of “hardening their hearts to Yahweh,” he’s actually charging them with closing their minds to Yahweh. Since they don’t expect anything from God, they don’t even think about God. Though Third-Isaiah knows Yahweh is on the verge of helping those recently released from the Babylonian Exile, God can only do what people permit God to do. Anticipation of God’s actions plays a big role in experiencing God’s actions.  Isn’t that part of what Advent is…waiting in joyful expectation of what God is going to do in our lives?

This reading may make us feel we’ve got to try harder, do more.  But the reading ends with a different message.  We are to be clay.  We are to allow God to work on us.  So it is more a message of surrender.  Allowing.  Letting God in.  Gerald May describes the difference between willfulness and willingness.  Willfulness is the setting of oneself apart from the fundamental essence of life in an attempt to master, direct, control, or otherwise manipulate existence.  Willingness implies a surrendering of one’s self-separateness, an entering-into, an immersion in the deepest processes of life itself.  Willingness is saying yes to the mystery of being alive in each moment.  Willfulness is saying no, or perhaps more commonly, “Yes, but…”.  Both reflect the attitude we have toward the wonder of life itself  (Will and Spirit, p. 6).  How might an attitude of willingness be helpful as we walk toward Christmas?

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 1:3-9

From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series:  There are 3 things that stand out in this passage of thanksgiving:

  1. A promise which came true.  Paul preached Christianity to the Corinthians and said Christ could do certain things for them.  He proudly claims that all has come true.
  2. A gift has been given.  Paul uses a favorite word of his, charisma, which means a gift freely given to someone.  It comes through salvation and through whatever special skills we may need in life to be the most of who we are.
  3. There is an ultimate end.   If we are clothed in Christ, we have nothing to fear.

How might how “willingness” help us live our lives as Paul sees the Corinthians doing?  Might it help us live in gratitude like Paul?

Gospel Reading:  Mark 13:33-37

From commentator Roger Karban again:  Mark’s Jesus directs his call for watchfulness to a community still expecting an imminent Parousia. Yet the command to be alert goes far beyond just looking for Jesus’ Second Coming. The story he tells demonstrates how constantly being on guard is an essential part of our faith. As servants of the risen Jesus, we never know when the “master” is going to break into our lives.  If we’re not continually attentive, we’ll miss what, as Jesus’ servants, we’ve been uniquely trained to experience.  How do we do this?

When someone we care for travels abroad, we wait with HOPE for their return.  So there is an eagerness in our watching.  We are looking for good to happen.  “Like the seed long since sown in springtime, God’s inward arrival comes through unobtrusively and slowly, but with terrific force, and becomes manifest in all the seeming banality of our lives,”  (M. Birmingham, W&W Worksbook, cycle B, p. 53).  We often have apocalyptic readings during Advent because Christ came to us as a child, and he came to us in his resurrection.  He keeps coming and coming every day into our lives.  Do we see it?  Do we wait in hope for it?

Waiting is active.  Most of us consider waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands.  The bus is late?  We cannot do anything about it, so we have to sit there and just wait.  It is not difficult to understand the irritation people feel when somebody says, “Just wait.”  Words like that push us into passivity.  But there is none of this passivity in Scripture.  If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun, it changes the way we wait.  Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it, (Henri Nouwen’s “Waiting for God” Advent Prayer Booklet, p. 2).

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Harold, Jeffe and Mario

Fr. Bob’s homily on 11/19/17…

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Every year I teach each grade in the school a bible story.  I choose the Parable of the Talents for the fifth grade so we can talk about leadership.  We always give the servants names and it makes it more fun.  So this year it was Harold who had five talents and made another five.  Jeffe (I don’t know why but they spelled it for me) had two talents and made another two.  And then there was poor Mario, who buried his talent.

And for as long as I have been doing this, they always complain that Mario did nothing wrong.  And I would argue with them but I finally realized that this many years of fifth graders cannot be wrong.  I bet many of you feel the same way.  I conceded.  Mario did nothing wrong.  And that brought me back to trying…

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

A reading from the Book of Proverbs (31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31)
From Mary Birmingham: The Book of Proverbs begins with a personification of wisdom, Lady Wisdom. She promises wealth, prosperity, happiness, and a long life to those who follow her council. The end of this book [from which this reading is taken] depicts a woman who has faithfully followed Lady Wisdom’s counsel. The image of the woman is drawn with broad, artistic strokes. This lady ministers in her home to the needs of those who come seeking; she is not an extraordinary or exceptional woman, yet she performs with skill, tenacity, and commitment. She helps all around her, her family and the poor. In her service she finds peace and happiness. She is the ideal for all ‘wise ones.’ (Word & Worship Yr A, 572)

When Dorothy Day died on Nov. 29, 1980, her funeral was attended by all sorts of people – everyone from a cardinal (Terence Cooke) to beggars, from executives to addicts, the sane and the demented: all paid their respects. This woman might be considered a good example of the wise woman, even though she had ‘only’ been a poor single mother herself. But she never let her own inadequacies keep her from doing all she could to welcome and help those around her. She once said: “Do not be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ . . . In the church, one never needs money to start a good work. People are what are important. If you have people who are willing to work, that is the thing. God is not out done in generosity. (Celebration, Nov. 2005)

From Healing the Purpose of Your Life by the Linns:
This worthy wife sounds like she is living out her calling, or as this book describes, her “sealed orders”. It is as if before we were born each of us talked over with God our special purpose in this world. Our sealed orders are something that we agreed to in the context of a loving dialogue with the God who created us. They are not a task we are to complete, but rather our special way of being. They are our essence. Our sealed orders, our unique way of giving and receiving life and love, are the foremost criteria of discernment for decision making. They make for a meaningful life. Consider spending time with the Lord to discover your sealed orders:
1. Take a moment to grow quiet and breathe in the love of God.
2. Think of a person you know who lives a life that seems rich in meaning and purpose, and imagine yourself in the presence of that person. Breathe in the quality of a clear sense of direction that you feel with this person.
3. Now recall moments in your own life when you have felt a clear sense of direction. In your imagination, relive one of these moments. Breathe in again that clear sense of direction. As you do so, how might you begin to describe your sealed orders?

A reading from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (5: 1-6)
The beginning of this passage reminds me of the Simon and Garfunkel song, “Slip sliding away, slip sliding away, you know the nearer your destination the more you slip sliding away.” The problem is, disasters do strike without notice and when we’re not prepared. That’s life. But Paul is talking about the end times again because he thought they were right around the corner.

Imagine your own fear if you were to envision that great day as one of panic, rout and confusion. In addition to these images, the Day of the Lord was also associated with cosmic upheaval and universal judgment. Aware of this fear, Paul continually tried to remind his readers that they were children of light and of day, whose faith in Jesus would strengthen and sustain them through every trial and against all adversity. We are already children of light and day:

Harry Emerson Fosdick, (1878-1969), a pastor and professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York once compared fear and faith, “Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable — and, most of all, fear puts hopelessness at the heart of life, while faith rejoices in its God.”

From Healing the Purpose of Your Life by the Linns:
We often reach our final decisions much more easily by focusing on our sealed orders rather than on our fears. When we allow love to touch what we like least about ourselves and the underlying hurts and fears, we have a greater awareness of and capacity to carry out our sealed orders. Know and allow yourself to be a child of the light!

From a blog entry on our parish blog: Stay awake. Stay awake to God. All God wants is to be close to us. God reaches out to us many times throughout the day, whether we notice or not. We are never absent from God, unless we turn away from God ourselves. Stay awake to the hope, love and surprises God has in store. This can only be good. Pay attention to the blessedness in life. It’s there. And it’s life-giving. Stay alive to it. There is beauty in the lost moments. Even concentrating too much on the chatter in our heads closes us off to the reality of God revealing Godself in the day. Stay alive to the possibility that God might show up. Whether we like it or not, God just may know better than we do. Life is not supposed to be a game we have already figured out on our own; it’s just meant to be played. Stay alive to the idea that God is ever present. It’s why Jesus came to live with us. He died so we could stay alive to what God has in store for us: life in abundance!

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (25: 14-30):
The very rich man in this story sounds like an honorable person at the outset. It is only at the conclusion that we learn that he is dishonorable. The 3rd slave even describes him as such, and the rich man agrees with him! The first 2 slaves not only served their master but imitated him. Why not? If you can’t beat the system, join it. The 3rd slave did what most rabbis would later commend as the safest and most honorable course of action for a free man, but maybe not for a slave. In 1st century Mediterranean culture, people believed that all goods already exist and are already distributed. There is no more where this came from, and the only way to get more is to defraud another. Anyone who suddenly acquired something “more” was automatically judged to be a thief. (Pilch, the Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, p. 164) So then why is the parable saying the 3rd slave is wrong?

• It may have been to capture the attention of Jesus’ audience.
• The message is we are not to be complacent but increase what Jesus has given us.
• William Barclay makes this point about the gospel’s ending advice: “If someone has a talent and exercises it, he is progressively able to do more with it. But, if one has a talent and fails to exercise it, he will lose it – slowly, but surely. (The Gospel of Matthew, 324)
• From Celebrations, November, 2002 and 2005: Fearfulness only breeds fear and crippling inaction. If we dare to risk ourselves in loving God and others, then Jesus assures us that we will find a God who is eager to share his powerful presence and gifts. Along with this parable, we need to reflect on the kind of God that Jesus shows us — a God who welcomes sinners and who rejoices when the lost are found.

Fr. Richard Fragomeni once said that faith is a risk; it is a bet we make with our whole lives…

C.S. Lewis once suggested that the ‘one’ talent many Christians fail to ‘invest’ or fear to risk losing is love. In a series of 10 lectures on this subject (later published as The Four Loves) he explains:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one — not even to an animal or pet. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket or the coffin of your selfishness. But, in that casket– safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, unredeemable. The only place outside heaven where you can be safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.

In this parable Jesus tells us that there can be no religion without adventure, and that God can find no use for the shut mind (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series for Matthew, Vol. 2, p. 323). Doesn’t this remind you of Pope Francis? In a recent homily, he said, “I am attached to my things, my ideas – does this mean I am closed? Or, am I open to the God of surprises? Am I a person who stands still, or a person on a journey?”

Let us resolve to become one-talent wonders, willing to risk ‘being fully alive’ so as to invest our love in God’s service. Let us not dig a hole to bury our love. Let us prefer service to safety, and risk to retreat. (Isn’t that what Jesus did?) We can love as Jesus did, fully, freely, and forever – at least, we can try!

From Healing the Purpose of Your Life by the Linns:
The power to be our real self and to accomplish something in life comes not so much from knowing who we are and what it is we want to do, but rather from feeling loved enough to be and do it. We must open ourselves to this love and grow in our capacity to take it in. As we do so, our capacity to carry out our special way of loving, which is our sealed orders, also grows.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

A Reading from The Book of Wisdom (6: 12-16)
From Celebrations, November, 2002: The anonymous author of this book was probably a Greek-speaking Jew, maybe a teacher, who lived in Alexandria in Egypt in the 1st century BC. This was a great center for learning, and this person was obviously well-trained in Greek philosophy, rhetoric, culture and science. In Alexandria, there was a large Jewish community. It seems he wanted to counsel and instruct his fellow Jews so that they might hold fast to their faith traditions and their sacred heritage. He also wanted to encourage the evolving theological thought that included an awareness of life’s ongoing journey, which does not end with death, but continues into eternity,

From Eduard Schweizer: In Hebrew terminology, ‘wise’ means ‘seeing’ or ‘with eyes open.’ Being wise is not about one’s IQ: it is about having eyes and awareness that is open — alert — to what is and what is to come. We do not simply live for now — we must be open to what is yet to come (467).

Rob Bell has a podcast where he talks about simple vs. prudent. Simple is keeping things black and white and ignoring what doesn’t fit with a “blinders” way of thinking. Prudence is knowing there is a complexity to life, and that wisdom is seeking the way through that complexity. You can hear the whole thing in his Robcast Episode 123: Wisdom Part 7 – The Simple and Subtle.

From Mary Birmingham:
The feminine image of wisdom is commonly used in Hebrew Scriptures. “The words sophia in Greek and hokmah in Hebrew are feminine nouns that mean wisdom.” The Greeks understood wisdom to be “a human endeavor — something to be conquered by sheer human will and mastery. The Hebrew understanding describes wisdom as a readily attainable gift from God, just waiting to be embraced by the receiver. The attributes of Lady Wisdom are also attributes of the living, loving, pursuing God.”
‘Lady Wisdom is to be sought after, while we keep in mind that she is readily found by those who love and seek her . . . Wisdom does not just look for the seeker, she ‘hastens to make herself known’. She desires to be ‘perceived.’ She is eager to find a place in the human heart. Ultimately, wisdom is none other than God the Pursuer, who eagerly searches for the hungering human spirit. It is deep within the recesses of those spirits that Lady Wisdom takes up her residence” (565).

A Reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (4:13-18)
From Celebrations, November 2002: Paul’s imagery here is his attempt “to describe the indescribable and to make known the unknowable. In such an endeavor, human words are but feeble tools.” They are not to be taken as literal — but as the poetry that they are — using the common ways of his culture to talk about such things. The apocalyptic props of trumpets and clouds and archangels are to be “visions of hope” — not a literal description of the end times.

The idea of the Second Coming had brought another problem to the people of Thessalonica. They were expecting it very soon; they fully expected to be themselves alive when it came but they were worried about those Christians who had died. They could not be sure that those who had already died would share the glory of that day which was so soon to come. Paul’s answer is that there will be one glory for those who have died and those who survive. The man who has lived and died in Christ is still in Christ even in death and will rise in him. Between Christ and the man who lives him there is a relationship which nothing can break, a relationship which overpasses death (see Romans 8:38-39). From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 202-203.

“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” ~ Vaclay Havel

A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (25: 1-13)
From Celebrations, November 2002: “This parable is clear and simple. The time for choosing Jesus is now; therefore, the time for preparedness is now; the time for ‘packing’ whatever faith, grace, repentance, conversion of heart, good works, and loving responsiveness to God . . . is now. This parable is “not about mercy but about being decisive and prepared. God’s gift is offered, but we must take hold of it, do something with it. Even the message of unconditional love does not override our free choice to ignore God’s intentions for us. Real foolishness is possible . . .” This is not a parable about caring and sharing. It’s a parable about responsibility; about doing our job of being a Christian . . . no one else can do our job for us.

What does the ‘oil” represent?
William Barclay says that “the oil signifies 1) a relationship with God; a person cannot borrow such a relationship, he/she must cultivate it himself/herself;
2) character, a person cannot borrow character . . . 3) Others simply say that the oil represents the wisdom and preparedness necessary for recognizing and welcoming the coming Christ . . .” We must be ready “to love the ways and will of God,” (The Gospel of Matthew, Vol II, 320, and Celebration, Nov. 2005)

From Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew:
This parable is found only in Matthew’s gospel although there are ‘hints’ of it in Luke 13:25. It certainly reflects the community’s struggle over Jesus’ delay in not returning in ‘glory’. Matthew does not want the delay to be the cause of the people not truly living their faith in the here and now. “When Jesus calls on his disciples to keep watch, he is calling on them to take the reality of God so seriously that they can come to terms with its sudden appearance at any moment in their own lives . . . (467).”

Some points made by Pheme Perkins in Hearing the Parables of Jesus (104-110):
• It may be tempting to separate ourselves into the wise and the foolish. Note that the wise don’t resolve the situation or make a big effort to fix it. The foolish are simply caught in their habitual type of behavior.
• The foolish servants do not have any idea of what their real situation is. They persist in showing their attempts to bail themselves out at the last minute. Those attempts fail because it really is the last minute. (And see how Jesus uses humor to portray the wrong way to go about things as opposed to “wailing and gnashing of teeth”.)
• The foolish are excluded due to their own decisions and actions. They fall back on their old patterns. They might have done better to wait outside until morning rather than call attention to themselves by their banging on the door. Reflect on this situation: What if they didn’t go get the oil and waited without lit lamps? Would they have gone to the feast despite their “darkness”? Perhaps Jesus is calling us to be ready for relationship, not necessarily for perfection.
• We all know good, responsible employees who seem to waste vast amounts of emotional energy lamenting the behavior of others who are not performing their job as they should. The parable does not suggest that we should always bail such people out. It suggests that maybe we should suggest ways to them of shouldering their own responsibility.
But remember the 1st reading — wisdom and God seek us out…

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Malachi (1:14; 2:2, 8-10)

Malachi is a pseudonym meaning “My Messenger.”  The author probably wished to conceal his (or her) identity because his attacks on the priests and ruling classes were very sharp.  Malachi arrived on the scene after the excitement of the return from exile had worn off.  Morals were suffering.  People were reneging on their tithes, intermarrying (and losing their cultural and religious identity), and oppressing the widow, the orphans and the foreigner  (US Catholic, K Guentert, p. 22).

Prophets know all about passion!  Malachi feels so strongly about his faith and about impartiality for all people that his language is piercing.  How do you show your passion in your faith?

St. Benedict said to, “Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.”  And Malachi says something similar when he compares listening to laying it to heart.  It hints to the idea that listening to someone should involve our whole self in attention.  Some questions to test your ability to listen:  Do you try to ignore the distractions about you?  Do you smile, nod your head, and otherwise encourage the other to speak?  Do you listen even though you anticipate what s/he is going to say?  Do you withhold judgment of the person?  (Think about how listening is part of being a good leader when we move on to the Gospel.)

A reading from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (2:7-9, 13)

We see Paul here as an ideal authority figure and leader. We often do not think of Paul as humble, yet, an honest look at how he lived his life seems to give us a real-life example of what Jesus meant by being a humble servant. From this letter we see that Paul certainly had ‘turned his life’ over to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable – to risk everything. He ministered by entering into a personal relationship with those he wanted to share this good news. He knew the people by name. He worked alongside them, not wanting to be a burden in any way. He shared their joys and sorrows; their problems were his problems. Then, from within this close friendship, he preached, taught, corrected, and guided them. He challenged them to live as he did, in union with Jesus. He would encourage and praise those he brought to Christ. He believed in their goodness and in the power of God’s grace to transform them. In the middle of the two ‘critical’ readings, the church gives us Paul as a real-life example as to how we are all called to live ‘the priesthood of Jesus Christ’ that began with our baptism. (Celebration, October, 2005)

Paul is talking about being transformed by the Good News of God:  hearing it, believing it and then living it.  In Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium”, he said, “Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst  of difficulties.  Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus…we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel,” (#167).  How profound if we truly lived that way!

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (23:1-12)

Jesus speaks of good leadership.  To lead like Jesus, one must be servant, steward and shepherd.  “Jesus leaders” build community and fellowship.  They foster contentment and generosity in themselves and in others.  They build trust and increase the flow of trust all around them.  They are inspired to increase their capacity and to make greater contributions to the common good.  And they inspire others to do the same.  Service, contribution, and purpose become the hallmarks of both their individual and collective lives.  It is a new way to live.  It is always a struggle.  And the struggle is lifelong, (O. Phelps, Leading Like Jesus, p. 63).

What does it mean to you to be humble? The word was used in the spiritual sense to mean lowly like a servant. It was not a quality thought highly of by most Greeks. They saw it as ‘self-belittling,’ and thus it was abhorrent.  But the Jewish tradition of which Jesus certainly approved took a different look at it. To be humble was to put oneself in a ‘right relationship’ with God who is the one who deserves our ‘bowing’ and our service. God would and could often use the ‘lowly’ to accomplish good. What became important – and we see this especially portrayed in Jesus – is that the one who is humble lives and acts obediently under God’s purpose. (The word, obedient, means to listen with one’s whole heart and mind.) God humbles us to put us in a right relationship with God and others – but then when we ‘repent’ or live this way of humble service, God raises us up. God exalts the humble.  (Theo. Dictionary of the New Testament, 1152-1154).

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Cycle A:

Most scholars today believe that the harshness of this attack against the scribes and Pharisees is probably best attributed to the Matthean church.  Matthew’s lengthy indictment was most likely based on a short statement made by Jesus during his ministry.  Luke’s gospel has the same section, but only four woes (Luke 11: 37-52).  The style of this text is very common in ancient Greek philosophical and Jewish literature.  Dialogue and arguments between opposing sides of an issue were customarily caustic and insulting.  Matthew was certainly not promoting anti-Jewish sentiments.  The language is prophetic in its anger and intensity.  It is meant to challenge all of us for we, too, are capable of hypocrisy (560-561).

A poem by Mary Rita Schilke Korzan

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You hung my first painting on the refrigerator
And I wanted to paint another.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You fed a stray cat
And I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You baked a birthday cake just for me
And I knew that little things were special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You said a prayer
And I believed there was a God that I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You kissed me good-night
And I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
I saw tears come from your eyes
And I learned that sometimes things hurt –
But that it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You smiled
And it made me want to look that pretty too.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You cared
And I wanted to be everything I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking – I looked…
And wanted to say thanks
For all those things you did
When you thought I wasn’t looking.

 

Spiritual and Religious: 5 reasons why

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

My job would be a lot easier if every rotten, lying, mean and angry person did not believe in God or did not profess a particular religion and if every good, kind, compassionate and happy person did belong to God and followed a religion.  Then all I would have to do is just say, “Look around!”

But we know that is not true.  We all know so many people who do not profess a common belief that are kind, caring and loving, especially to their neighbor and to the poor.  And to be honest, we all know that there are a couple of bad apples in our bushel basket.  I bring this up because in the Gospel Jesus says that the first and greatest commandment is that we, “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with…

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