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Contents: Volume 2 - Twentieth Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 22, 2017


 

The

29th

Sunday

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

6. -- (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Sun.29 A

One part in particular in this Sunday's Gospel reading caught my attention. It is "Knowing their malice, Jesus said,..." Jesus always has something important to say, but my focus stopped before I read it. My first thought was why do people act with malice?

What is ironic is that I was trying to answer a question about that type of good/evil with my grand daughter (almost 9) as I drove her home from school today. She is reading a non-fiction account about the US Presidents who have been shot throughout the years. We were discussing if it was ever OK for someone to shoot a really bad guy. Talk about a heavy conversation in traffic... and with a youngster who is a very deep thinker... and whom we shield from the details of the daily news.

She is smart beyond her years but also has some challenges so I have been updating my own skills lately by reading current thinking on such topics as child development, brain functioning, and executive functioning skills. (You can see where she gets her penchant for "interesting" personal reading topics!) Blending science, reality, and spirituality is not an easy task, but it is what we all have to do as we mature into adults and authentic people of faith.

I believe that people are made in God's image and are inherently "good". (She would remind me, "very good"!!) What happens to us is we exercise our free will.... and we go astray. Going so far astray as to have "malice" is the result of a complicated mixture of things, however. The hierarchy of life goes haywire and the person unfortunately becomes the most important thing in his/her mind over anything and everything else.

That is what happened to the Pharisees, their disciples and the Herodians. Their pompousness and their beliefs interfered with being authentic. Would they take Jesus's instruction? Would they give glory to God and respect God-given authority? Would they listen to a view "other" than their own? Jesus's crucifixion tells us that many of them said "no".

Will we? Do we believe and act as if we believe what God said through Isaiah: "I am the LORD, there is no other." Do we honor God as God or make other things into gods? Do we give "to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Do we set up our own way of doing things and show disdain, if not malice, towards anything that is contrary?

Our answers are things that point our lives in a particular direction. It is that easy to choose good or evil. It is that hard to recognize when a mis-step really leads us down a slippery slope to who knows what! To arrive at malice takes practice.

Jesus instructed his haters, these hypocrites, anyway. Jesus continues to offer us instruction and second chances also. If we realize Who God is and who we are not, our chances of being more open minded increase. Being authentic leads to good; being hypocritical and malicious leads the other way, both one step at a time.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 22, 2017

If you are on Facebook, or read the comments in some news sites, you have probably experienced the kinds of people who roam around looking for "trouble". They like to write things to upset or trap people, to inflate their own status by making others look foolish. Somewhat like the Herodians and Pharisees in today's Gospel story.

Jesus makes short shift of them.

"Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"

They produce the Roman coin which they possess – lawful or not.

"Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God"

But what belongs to God?

Paul seems to have found God's "currency" in the believers in Thessalonia.

""We always thank God for you and pray for you constantly. We never forget your loving deeds as we talk to our God and Father about you, and your strong faith and steady looking forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ."

(The Living Bible)

"Strong faith". "Loving deeds". "Enduring hope". All our life.

When we say someone is "faithful" we usually mean that person is trustworthy, "dependable", "devoted". We give God the "currency" of our faith.

That fidelity can only lead to loving deeds, because "God is Love", and those who live in the Divine Spirit live in love. We grow in love for others and for all of Creation.

And we endure, firm in our commitment and sturdy on the path.

Or as Paul would write in another letter: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

"Then they handed him the Roman coin.

He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"

They replied, "Caesar's."

At that he said to them,

"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

and to God what belongs to God."

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordered Time - October 22 2017

Isaiah 45:1 & 4-6; Responsorial Psalm 96; 1st Thessalonians 1:1-5; Gospel Acclamation Philippians 2:15-16; Matthew 22:15-21

The reading from Isaiah tells us God used a Pagan Emperor to release the Jews from slavery in Babylon. Isaiah says God anointed Cyrus the Great of Persia. Cyrus the Great was a Persian Emperor whose military achievements made Persia successor to the empires of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. A couple centuries later Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire. The Greeks then controlled the Middle East and parts as far south and east as India. The chosen people were often overrun, conquered, subjugated, and enslaved by whichever empire was in prominence. It was like living in a shooting gallery. The Jews loved their freedom and when they lived by faith they knew their God was present to them. Yahweh was real, no mere fabrication of craftsmen. The faith that found resonance in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob developed in the culture and rituals of the Hebrew people. It grew in intensity and depth with every communal experience. It found inspiration in its history and from the wisdom of the prophets. With release from slavery in Egypt, the relationship between the Hebrews and Yahweh became a covenant. And the Law of Moses became its contract with God. For nearly a thousand years this people suffered wars and defeat and periods of bountiful peace followed by harsh captivity and servitude. In every loss there followed an awakening leading to a greater depth of faith in the active presence of the Living God. Every defeat was the beginning of rebirth for their unique faith in One God, Yahweh, "I am who is with you".

The Isaiah story visualizes God calling Cyrus to be his anointed. This pagan emperor is named. Typically the Hebrew Scriptures don’t honor gentile conquerors by naming them. Neither Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Assurbanipal of Assyria, nor Pharaoh of Egypt is named in their writings. They are not part of God’s living presence. But Cyrus is named the anointed one.

Cyrus signed a decree releasing the Jews from slavery and returning them to their homeland. He insists they are to rebuild the temple. He provides artisans, funds, and materials for its reconstruction. He returns the Temple’s gold and silver vessels looted by the Babylonians. Cyrus’ motives were more practical than religious. He knew a people living their culture and religious customs were less likely to rebel and drain his treasury by a need to fund an occupying forces. A modern parallel to this plan of Cyrus would be the Marshal Plan the United States initiated after the Second World War. It revived Europe after the horrible devastation of its cities and the loss of hundreds of thousands of combatants and non-combatants. It rebuilt infrastructure, cities, factories and farms. While it was certainly the Christian thing to do, it was more a foil to Communism and way of growing the economy of the United States. It was a wise move and resulted in peace and a vital economic life in Europe for more than seventy two years. Could we say the authors of that plan were anointed by God? Could we identify George Marshall, Harry Truman and the Senate and House of Representatives as God’s anointed? Perhaps we’d understand God’s intervention more evident if we realized the executive branch leaders were Democrats while the majorities in the Senate and the House were Republican. Those who crafted the Plan in a bi-partisan way would laugh to think themselves anointed by God. But the Plan’s effect on millions was hope for the entire world. Is this evidence of the presence of the Living God? Is perhaps even bi-partisanship an instrument of God?

The gospel of Matthew is a conflict story. It pits the brilliant Pharisees against Jesus. Jesus’ popularity at this time was high. Jesus never played up to the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Sadducees, nor the chief priests and the Sanhedrin. His constant message had been to the people. He never solicited support of either civil government or religious leadership. Perhaps they felt slighted? Perhaps they were jealous they failed to draw his crowds? It is likely they felt threatened by Jesus’ message of unifying communal respect and his love and dignifying caring. Every individual from the most exalted to the least scrub maid or stable hand had an equal place in the community of Jesus. All were healed of physical ailments: every person who approached him, beggar or centurion, was welcomed and healed of illness; each were made whole.

The work and message of Jesus confronts self-centered political and religious influence of that time and ours as well. He had to be destroyed and his message with him.

Power, control of others whether political or religious, is acquired by dividing groups against each other. That’s what the Pharisees did. That’s what the Sadducees did. That’s what the Scribes did. That’s what the chief priests and the Sanhedrin did. That is what the Roman governor did. Is that what we do? Do we become victims to group-think instead of personal reflective judgment? Are we politically correct in word but in our hearts carry the divisiveness of racism, sexism, classism, consumerism, materialism, nationalism and ego-centric living? These ‘isms divide us, separate us, separate us into winners and losers. Are we players in this story?

The Pharisees relied on the hatred of the people for the Roman occupiers as they planned to separate Jesus from his disciples and from his followers. These Pharisees, however, carry in their purses the coin of the Roman Emperor. The coin was not permitted to pay the Temple tax. That coin was stamped with the image of the Emperor. Carrying that coin and relying on it was idolatry, as it seemed to make Caesar a god. Jesus’ answer is clever and deflates the Pharisees’ arrogance. Is there a deeper message here? Are we in this story? Are we Pharisees, working to game civil or religious systems? Are we the Emperor, demanding tribute from the unfortunate? Are we the crowd, looking for entertainment, enjoying the arrogant Pharisees getting their come-uppance? Where is the lesson for us?

In John’s gospel Jesus prays for his disciples. He prays that they may not be of the world. But he insists they will live in the world. We are included in the disciples he prays for. Jesus is with us through our community, through the Word proclaimed to us, through the sharing of the Bread and Wine. We live in the world but are not of the world.

We render to God what is God’s when we work for unity among us. What is of God always unifies, insists on respect for the dignity and worth of the material universe and especially every person. Creation comes from God and God sees it is good. When we render to Caesar what is Caesar’s we acknowledge that what Caesar desires – power, wealth, control, and influence – are not our gods. Our God is the God of the heart. We live in the world; we must earn our daily bread. We bond together in support of each other and discover the security only love, care, and respect for others give us. When wealth and power are the gods we worship we render to Caesar what is God’s.

It the first half of life, persons struggle to discover ourselves. In that time the things of this world are gods, plotting our courses of action, our thoughts and intentions, our energy and ambition. As we mature – if we mature – into middle age, what we’ve achieved begins to lose its bright, shiny, attractive appeal. We laugh about mid-life crises. However, in that period of our life we begin understanding what Jesus is talking about. What unifies, builds community, is of God. What tears us apart, is divisive, and brings conflict is of the world and serves Caesar as a god.

Putting this into the context of our assembly, of when we come together as the Body of Christ to worship. At Mass, we have the offertory rite. We tend to think of it as the priest getting things ready for the Eucharistic sacrifice. It seems to be something that needs to be done and over with, lacking in liturgy, a setting of the table. It is that, but more. Most parishes have offertory processions in which laity carry hosts and wine to the altar. Some parishes wait till the collection has been completed and bring that financial offering to the altar as well. In large buildings the procession is expedited before the collection is complete and the collection is spirited off to a secure place and not brought to the altar.

Is there more depth in meaning of the offertory ritual: can the people in the pews more completely participate in this effort? In contemporary society money is a symbol of the achievements of our work. It symbolizes the hours we spend working. But when we think about its meaning for participants at Mass, most, clergy and laity, speak of the collection as the way we support the Church. The funds pay for the buildings, for clergy and religious, for care of the poor, and for educational efforts of the parish. In vibrant parishes the collection also provides funds for sister churches in third world countries. Thinking of the collection in this manner reduces it to a payment of dues to belong.

What we give is an offering of our work. This includes our efforts working in the world as well as efforts maintaining a home, caring for children and aged, conversations with neighbors, shopping, and even entertainment. This offering is about us and who we are and what we work at. Because it is money, it’s easy to lose the connection between the offerings and the bread and wine which the presider offers as the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands. We lose sight of the material the presider asks the Spirit to consecrate for us. The bread and wine are representations of what we need to maintain and energize human life. We eat our daily bread by the sweat of our brows. The bread represents our work, our efforts, our relationships. Even for those who have nothing to spare to put into the collection basket, they too must, in their hearts and minds offer up the events and work of their daily living so it too may be put together with the offerings of all others to be consecrated.

In our time when the person is crushed and molded into an individual, a statistical economic unit for production or consumption, we need to life up our efforts and bring them to God. If we fail to do that our lives become impersonal and valued only by the money our work provides to a social-economic entity. If we allow that to occur, we are making Caesar our god. We must remember that each person in our assembly is valued. Makes no difference if a person is homeless or resides on the largest house on the highest hill. It makes no difference if the person is a manager or a line worker, if a person is an investor or a day laborer, if a person works outside the home or works to maintain a household and provide care and comfort for family: it makes no difference. All are welcome, all are invited, all are needed to offer their work and efforts to God on the altar. As persons, we gain dignity and worth by placing our work on the altar during our offertory. The simple things in our lives are blessed, are made sacred by the power of the Spirit through the agency of the presider. In that consecration, our lives are joined with the life, work, healing, and efforts of the Messiah anointed by the Father in the Son. All our work is necessary and important and we are lifted up. The gifts are made sacred and our human life becomes more than day-to-day humdrum. They become the Body and the Blood of the Anointed one, the One who has gone before us to show us the Way. As we approach the altar in Communion procession – a procession that mirrors the processions of the Jews to the temple on the three great feasts and festivals of their religion – we approach as individuals. But return to our places as One Body. That is why it is liturgically correct and important we acknowledge our Oneness in the Body of the Anointed one, the Christ, by standing until all have returned to their place. We recognize we render to God what is God’s. We render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Only then there is hope of peace: then there is shared joy: then there is One Body from which no pain, no conflict, no war or natural disaster can ever tear us apart. Then we deny power to those who would divide us. Then we are community and made whole with our brothers and sisters. May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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OUR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES: 29th SUNDAY A

‘To avoid arguments,’ people tell us, ‘don’t ever talk about religion or politics.’ In real life, though, it’s not possible to leave them out of conversation altogether. Our gospel story today illustrates this.

It may come as a shock that the good, the great, the kind, the loving, the merciful, the compassionate, the fair-minded and forgiving Jesus, could make so many enemies. Yet bit by bit more and more people turned against him and even hated him. Today we meet two groups of them - the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Pharisees were totally opposed and hostile to the occupation of their native land by the Romans, to their cruel and brutal rule, and to having to pay tax to Tiberius Caesar, the Roman Emperor at that time.

The Herodians, on the other hand, for their own motives, together with their puppet king Herod, ‘crawled’ to, and collaborated with Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, and with his army. While both of these Jewish factions hated each other, they hated Jesus even more. In this incident we find them hanging out together, and ganging up on Jesus. It’s another instance of the truth of the saying that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.

Their plan is to trap Jesus, to catch him out and bring charges against him, and in the long run to get rid of him, once and for all. Their opening statement is both true and clever. They praise Jesus for his honesty and integrity, for always telling it like it is without fear or favour. But after the flattery of their introduction, they go in for the kill by asking him this seemingly straightforward question: ‘Teacher],’ they ask, ‘should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

It was a loaded question, something like that old trick question, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ If Jesus were to say that the tax should not be paid, he would be agreeing with the Pharisees. But then they would report him to the Roman occupiers for treason, and have him arrested. On the other hand, if he said the tax should be paid, he would be agreeing with the Herodians, but at the cost of finding himself totally alienated from, and completely offside with his own people, who believed that they had only one Lord and Ruler - their God! So either way, Jesus finds himself in a sticky ‘no-win’ situation.

He is well aware of the malice and insincerity of their question, but also of the danger of giving them a straight answer. So in a very ingenious way he answers these hypocrites with a question of his own: ‘Let me see the money you pay the tax with,’ he says, ‘whose head is on the coin, and whose name is in the inscription around its edge?´ ‘Caesar’s,’ they answer. This gives Jesus the perfect chance to return to them the responsibility for answering their own question. ‘Very well,’ he goes on, ‘give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ He is saying In other words, ‘don’t look to me to settle your alleged taxation issue. It’s up to you to work out and decide for yourselves, what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.’

The answer Jesus gave should not be taken to mean that we have no responsibilities to our local, state and federal governments. In fact, in a democracy like ours, they represent us. To deny having any responsibility to our ruling powers is to take the line of anarchists. On the other hand, no civil power has the right to require the complete submission of the persons they govern. They do not have absolute authority over their people. They are accountable to their people, and they are also accountable to God. In their dealings with their citizens they must therefore respect the requirements of truth, fairness, integrity, justice and decency. Where they fail to do so, there must be consequences.

In the name of truth, justice and charity, we are entitled to criticize and protest the actions or non-actions of our governments, whenever they violate human dignity, our own or that of others. When people really love their country and its people, they sometimes have to show strong opposition. The protests around Australia against the cruel, callous and inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers reflect this need, concern and commitment. In South Africa’s apartheid system many good people found they had to disobey the immoral laws of the state. In the USA, both black and white people found they had to oppose and disobey the unjust laws of segregation operating in some of the southern states. As St Thomas More, a famous dissident and martyr expressed the conflict: ‘I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first of all.’

We are all citizens of two kingdoms: citizens of the political territory where we live and citizens of the kingdom of God. As Jesus says, they both require our loyalty. We all depend to a large extent on our civil governments. Very few if any of us can supply our own water, electricity and telecommunications. We look to our civil governments for education, hospitals and roads, and for welfare services for the unemployed, the handicapped and the elderly, etc., etc. It’s obvious that these services will continue and improve only through the cooperation and support of the community at large.

For the most part we give this support through paying taxes. Taxes are not, as they are sometimes misrepresented, necessary evils. They are our contributions to making available the community services and benefits we may tend to take for granted. In a just tax system, we help to spread more evenly the wealth of the community, so that every member of the community has access to what is needed for a life of integrity, human dignity and contentment. It’s a matter, as the Three Musketeers put it, of being ‘all for one and one for all’.

There’s just so much wisdom, then, in that famous reply which Jesus gave his questioners: ‘... give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’ So, let’s take it to heart! Let’s do it!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year A: 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God."

Let me apologize in advance if this seems like a slightly self-indulgent homily, directed more internally towards Jesuits than to the Catholic faithful as a whole. But I ask you to bear with me just this once. Because this Gospel always makes me think of my greatest Jesuit hero, Father Andrew Morrison, of the Society of Jesus, British Province, Guyana Region.

- a very great and holy man, a national hero, an internationally renowned hero of the Faith and a man of whom, almost certainly, you will have never heard.

Well, let me have just five minutes of your time to tell you about him, exactly the way I first heard his story.

When I first went to Guyana in South America, I met a man called Freddie Kissoon in the queue at the Post Office and we got talking. I told him that I was a Catholic priest; he told me he was a Marxist and an atheist. It didn’t immediately seem like it was going to be a long conversation.

But then he found out I was a Jesuit. And then suddenly he wanted to know everything about me – where I was from, what I was doing now, how long I expected to be here. I answered as best I could and wondered at the sudden change in his attitude. Then it became clear. He asked:

Do you know Fr Andy Morrison?

I answered ‘yes’. And the strength of his handshake nearly took my arm off. "Without him," he said, "this country would never have become a democracy. I don’t know if I will ever believe in God, but I will always believe in the Jesuits!"

Well, you don’t hear that every day! But I had to explain to him that because I had only just arrived in the country, I hadn’t the faintest idea of what he was talking about. And so he started to tell one piece of the unwritten history of my own religious order: the story of Andy Morrison. After a disastrous career as a teacher in Jesuit schools, they made him editor of the ‘Catholic Standard’ – the diocesan newsletter – which, like diocesan newsletters all over the world, including our own dearly beloved Westminster Record, primarily concerned itself with internal church matters – the doings of the Bishop, the events in the Parishes, perhaps rather daringly with matters of current affairs of particular concern to the Catholic Faithful, such as the conduct of local schools. A good work certainly and worthy of a Jesuit’s service, but hardly earth-shattering.

But, in those times of dictatorship and repression in Guyana, and under Andy’s editorship, that little weekly 8-page diocesan newsletter became the only free press in the whole country. It was the only place where people could go to find out what was really happening in their country.

The government, naturally, did their best to suppress it. When gangs of bandits were paid to smash the presses, the Legion of Mary worked day and night to fix them for printing day. When the importation of newsprint was banned, so many fishing boats risked their livelihoods to bring in extra supplies that they had to take over the cathedral’s choir loft for storage. When the government stopped newspaper vendors from selling it, Andy went out himself to distribute it in Stabroek square – Georgetown’s equivalent of Piccadilly Circus.

But when Bernard Darke, his best friend and the photographer on the Catholic Standard, was murdered in mistake for himself and shortly afterwards a bomb blew up the house his community lived in, Andy confronted the choice of his life – to stop doing his work would be to abandon the mission of Truth he had been given by God and his superiors; but to continue it almost certainly meant death very soon. Like priests in difficulties are supposed to do, he went to the Bishop. The Bishop had an idea. The Bishop’s hobby was magic – conjuring tricks. He taught Andy a few, so that, wherever he went, his magic tricks would draw a crowd that would deter his would-be murderers. It worked. And so for years, every printing day, Andy would go to Stabroek Square, distribute his newspaper and do his magic tricks for the delight of the crowd and his own protection against the men who wanted to kill him.

As was said of Jesus, "When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet."

Many years later, after the restoration of democracy, Andy Morrison was hailed as a hero. He received international awards for heroic journalism and Guyana’s highest national honour – the ‘Arrow of Achievement’ – think of it as a knighthood. He even achieved that much rarer honour – the universal love and respect of his Jesuit brothers.

But let me tell you what really impressed me about him.

I have met a few celebrities. And when you meet them, most celebrities only ever want to talk about themselves and the things that made them celebrities. But when I met him, he was 82; he had retired 2 years before from the Catholic Standard and had been sent to be Parish Priest of Linden – a tough hard mining town in the depths of depression caused by the closure of the mine and the unemployment of the majority of the population. And it was also populated largely by supporters of the previous regime he had been so instrumental in toppling. Not what you might think of as an easy retirement parish. But he was enthused – he spoke with characteristic passion about what he hoped he could lead the Parish in achieving – liturgies that would lift the souls of a depressed people; pastoral action that would reach out to the sick, the poor and the dying; mobilization for social justice that would address the iniquitous local politics of the town and... well, I won’t go on as long as he did. There was not one word about his own past, his own previous achievements. In fact, there was only one sentence about himself – only one use of the word ‘I’. It was his last sentence when he said: "It’s the best job I’ve ever been given."

And I thought to myself, if I make it to 82, retire from a successful life’s work that has changed the history of my country noticeably for the better and am asked to be available for a new and very difficult mission, I hope I too will be able to utter those words, because they are the finest example I have ever heard of what is supposed to be the central characteristic of a good Jesuit – availability for Mission – the willingness to be sent wherever you are needed and to find God in whatever work you are sent to do. Because I believe that is what it is to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

Let us pray for the repose of the Soul of Fr Andy Morrison, of the Society of Jesus.

And let us stand and profess our Faith in our own place in God’s service.

By the way, if anyone wishes to read Freddie Kissoon’s obituary for Andy, it is available on this link: http://www.landofsixpeoples.com/news401/nc401287.htm

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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