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January 31, 2018

St. John Bosco

Mk 6:1-6

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Missing God’s Message

The people of Jesus’ home town were astonished to find that the carpenter was doing extraordinary things. Their astonishment did not lead to faith or awe, but to offense and outrage that Jesus would dare claim to be something other than what they expected of him.

How many times have we missed a message from God because we rejected the package it came in? I think of times that someone I considered uneducated or nonspiritual revealed to me a truth about the world or God that I had struggled for years to grasp. Rather than thank God for the gift of his presence in that person, I rejected the message because of the deliverer.

God is not bound by human expectations. When have you failed to see God in unexpected places? How can you become more aware of God’s presence in everyone you meet?

—Rachel Forton is the Marketing & Retreat Coordinator for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Teach me to seek You,
and reveal Yourself to me as I seek;
For unless You instruct me
I cannot seek You,
and unless You reveal Yourself
I cannot find You.
Let me seek You in desiring You;
let me desire You in seeking You.
Let me find You in loving You;
let me love You in finding You.

—St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury

 


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January 30, 2018

Mk 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”

Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age).

At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Persistent hope

Jesus tells the woman with the hemorrhage in today’s Gospel very clearly that it is her faith that has saved her. No doubt! But personally, this can launch me into a train of thought that is not helpful: Is my faith in Jesus’ healing power not strong enough? Is that why my back pain persists? Is taking medication a sign of weak faith? Do I simply need to be more radical in my faith for my life’s problems to go away?

I’ve found it more helpful to focus on the woman’s powerful example of hope. After 12 years of seeing doctors and spending all of her money on this issue, she somehow still believed she could be cured, God willing. She took the actions needed to get better, and yet didn’t become cynical or hopeless when the cure didn’t come.

In what areas of my life have I lost hope?  

—Br. Mark Mackey, SJ, is a Jesuit Brother of the Midwest Province in First Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Lord,

Please lead us towards hope.
When we wander towards thorns and dark valleys,
Gently tip us back towards the sunlight.
When our journey requires passing through shadows,
Remind us of their temporary nature.
When we question the trail,
And try to find our own way,
Remind us you see all,
You know all,
And you love us.

Amen.

Br. Mark Mackey, SJ


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January 29, 2018

2 Sam 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13

A messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom.” Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, “Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword.” But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went.

When King David came to Bahurim, a man of the family of the house of Saul came out whose name was Shimei son of Gera; he came out cursing. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; now all the people and all the warriors were on his right and on his left. Shimei shouted while he cursed, “Out! Out! Murderer! Scoundrel! The Lord has avenged on all of you the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, disaster has overtaken you; for you are a man of blood.”

Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on my distress, and the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today.”

So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, throwing stones and flinging dust at him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

God in the struggles

In today’s first reading, one of David’s enemies is screaming at the mighty warrior king.  The aggrieved man–Shimei–seems almost inconsequential as David’s assistant requests to immediately kill him.  Given the standards of the ancient world, David should have surely ordered Shimei tortured and killed.  Instead David shows mercy, and even seeks God’s presence in the struggle.  Not only does David resist the temptation toward “just” retribution, but he also realizes that it is during times of trial that we can really become aware of God’s presence in our lives.

It is easy to wish away such difficult times of struggle in our lives, if we pause to become aware of God’s presence, we find solace, and even strength.  Like David, we are invited to forgive, to let go of our need to protect our egos, and then to become aware of how God is working in our lives, most often through other people.

—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.

Prayer

Lord, grant us the strength we need in those times when we need it, the freedom to forgive when forgiveness is needed, and the awareness of your presence in our lives at all time.  Amen

—The Jesuit Prayer team 


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January 28, 2018

Mk 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Authority from above

An “authority” can mean someone who studies a subject more than most people. In this sense, Stephen Hawking is an authority in astrophysics. The rest of us, who do not know much about astrophysics, have to take it on faith that he knows what he is talking about. And if we do not like an authority or his message, we are free to ignore him, or to contest his authority status.

“Authority” can also mean a person who receives power from above to perform a mission or to command. The captain of a Navy vessel is an authority because Congress gave her that role. It does not matter whether the sailors like her personally, and they cannot decide on their own whether to obey her. They are obliged to obey her simply by virtue of who she is.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ power over demons proved that his new teaching was not justified by his own personal study of the Scriptures, or by the fact that most people loved him. It was justified by his authority from above.

—Fr. Barton Geger, SJ, is a research scholar at the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies and Assistant Professor of the Practice at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.

Prayer

St. Ignatius asks us to reflect that, if we are willing to love and obey a noble human leader, and to make sacrifices for him, then how much more should we love and obey Jesus, our perfect leader and our eternal king?

—Fr. Barton Geger, SJ

 

 

 

 

 


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January 27, 2018

Mk 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Seeking a connection

A close look at today’s Gospel shows disciples who seem to be of two minds.  After Jesus has calmed the storm, they are awestruck and surprised that he had the power over the sea.  If they didn’t expect him to be able to calm the storm, what, then, were they hoping he would do?  As he sleeps through the storm, they wake him and say “do you not care that we are perishing?”  They wanted him to be awake and with them, even if they didn’t know that he could fix the problem.

How true is this in our own lives?  The desire to have someone stay with us in scary, sad, or uncertain times is nearly universal. We seek a connection to someone so that we don’t feel alone.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus was a companion to those who needed him.

Is someone in your life going through something and could use a bit of companionship?  How can you reach out to that person to make it known that you are there?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

  He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

  he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

  for his name’s sake.

 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

  I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

  your rod and your staff—

  they comfort me.

 

You prepare a table before me

  in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

  my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

  all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

  my whole life long.

—Psalm 23

 


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January 26, 2018

Sts. Timothy and Titus

2 Tim 1:1-8

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Treasure of faith

Like Grandmother’s fine china or Uncle Owen’s coin collection, our faith, too, is inherited and then personally owned. Like those other treasures, which can either be shelved or utilized and admired, our faith is passed on to us through death, that is, our first death and rising to new life in Baptism. And faith is a gift far more valuable than porcelain or gold.

This faith, we believe and profess, is something that belongs to each of us and to all of us who call ourselves Christian, all the way back to the early Church, to the bishops Saints Timothy and Titus, and as we read today, through their own mothers and grandmothers.

Prayerfully contemplating my own joyful day of Baptism, I ask myself: Who are the people in my life who, doing the best job they could with what they had, passed along to me the treasure of my faith?

—Fr. Vincent Giacabazi, SJ, teaches and chairs the theology department at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, MO. He also serves as the formation coordinator for the Alum Service Corps.

Prayer

Good and gracious Father,

Give me openness and wonder
to take the God’s-eye view of salvation history,
my own and that of all humankind.

Help me to see that the Faith I profess with my actions and words
is a gift I inherited and have made my own.
Send your Spirit into my heart
that I might be filled with gratitude.
Renew within me my Faith.
And enkindle in me a passionate Love born of new Hope.
I make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

—Fr. Vincent Giacabazi, SJ

 


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January 25, 2018

Acts 9:1-22

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying,and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”

Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Being an instrument of Jesus

Two men in today’s reading heard the voice of God challenging them to think differently. Paul is asked to do a complete 180 and go from a persecutor of Christians to one of the greatest evangelists. Ananias has to forget everything he has heard about Saul and be Jesus’ messenger to facilitate his conversion.

Am I an instrument of Jesus? Why can’t I accept and embrace this role? So many times I refuse to ‘listen’; my fear, my anxiety separates me from God. Going it alone, taking responsibility for everything keeps me from being open to Jesus. Holy Spirit, fill me!

—Tim Freeman is a Major Gifts Officer at John Carroll University and is on the board of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

Darkness

Darkness comes
when I overbook –
get lost in compulsive
activity –
grow overtired
weary
frustrated with
my own limitations –
when I
become too important –
take responsibility
for everything
in the universe –
too serious
humorless
overburdened
anxious –
then
I lose God
and Jesus
in a
self-encapsulated
world
where I am
totally responsible
but lacking
in the resources
to handle it all –
and
I am alone…

—Ted Tracy, SJ

 

 


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January 24, 2018

St. Francis de Sales

Mk 4:1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.

He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Becoming the rich soil

I used to think today’s Gospel had to do with listening. If I listened hard enough to the Gospel, it would sink in and I would bear fruit a hundredfold.

Jesus tells us what is needed to be rich soil – not to let “worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word.” The word is not just Scripture, but Jesus himself. Jesus is the Word that gets tossed to the side by our anxieties, possessions, and cravings.

To become rich soil, we must find out what is out of balance in our hearts and minds. The First Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises tells us to hold everything lightly, to have or do things only insofar as they help us find and glorify God. What in your life has taken up too much time or thought, and choked out the Word?

—Rachel Forton is the Marketing & Retreat Coordinator for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

God who loves us creates us and wants to share life with us forever.
Our love response takes shape in our praise and honor and service of the God of our life…
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all created gifts
insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some responsibility.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty,
success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
a more loving response to our life forever with God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.

—First Principle and Foundation, as translated by David L. Fleming, SJ, in Draw Me into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises-A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading

 


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January 23, 2018

2 Sm 6:12B-15, 17-19

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord.When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts,and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

How can I keep from singing?

While on my 30 day Spiritual Exercises retreat as a novice, there was a recurring theme song whose refrain would surface in my head: “How can I keep from singing?” It seems when I really felt God’s closeness and had moments of Christ-centered clarity, joyful singing was one of the most appropriate responses. To be honest, there was one moment when I went back behind some trees on a hike and had a joyful dance session. That’s my problem, though. Even when the joy of the Gospel breaks into my life, I find it counterbalanced by my own self-consciousness. I’m afraid of what people looking on may think about me. I pray I can have the abandon King David showed in front of all of Israel. After all, “if Love is Lord of heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?”

—Br. Mark Mackey, SJ, is a Jesuit Brother of the Midwest Province in First Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

How Can I Keep from Singing?, originally published in 1869 by Robert Lowry

 


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January 22, 2018

Mk 3:22-30

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Jesus’ authority

Today’s Gospel is a complicated scene, but essentially Jesus is affirming his own healing power as derived from the Father.  Many people doubted Jesus and his ministry.  Even some of his followers would have been skeptical.  Because their egos were threatened by Jesus and his message, the intellectual, political, and economic elite–the scribes–sought to discredit him.  Jesus’ message didn’t jive with their rigid interpretation of religion, nor was his message of mercy compatible with the operational norms of their culture.  

If you follow the text, you will see that this passage is inserted between writings which convey Jesus’ mercy and his authority.  You are invited to consider, “Do I trust Jesus’ ‘authority’?”  Such a question often elicits doubt, which is quite natural.  We might pray for a greater awareness of the work of Christ in our daily lives.  This grace inevitably arrives.  Perhaps this is the “authority” about which Mark writes.

—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, come into my heart, and in your power draw it to you.

—St. Catherine of Siena


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January 31, 2018

St. John Bosco

Mk 6:1-6

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Missing God’s Message

The people of Jesus’ home town were astonished to find that the carpenter was doing extraordinary things. Their astonishment did not lead to faith or awe, but to offense and outrage that Jesus would dare claim to be something other than what they expected of him.

How many times have we missed a message from God because we rejected the package it came in? I think of times that someone I considered uneducated or nonspiritual revealed to me a truth about the world or God that I had struggled for years to grasp. Rather than thank God for the gift of his presence in that person, I rejected the message because of the deliverer.

God is not bound by human expectations. When have you failed to see God in unexpected places? How can you become more aware of God’s presence in everyone you meet?

—Rachel Forton is the Marketing & Retreat Coordinator for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Teach me to seek You,
and reveal Yourself to me as I seek;
For unless You instruct me
I cannot seek You,
and unless You reveal Yourself
I cannot find You.
Let me seek You in desiring You;
let me desire You in seeking You.
Let me find You in loving You;
let me love You in finding You.

—St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury

 


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January 30, 2018

Mk 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”

Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age).

At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Persistent hope

Jesus tells the woman with the hemorrhage in today’s Gospel very clearly that it is her faith that has saved her. No doubt! But personally, this can launch me into a train of thought that is not helpful: Is my faith in Jesus’ healing power not strong enough? Is that why my back pain persists? Is taking medication a sign of weak faith? Do I simply need to be more radical in my faith for my life’s problems to go away?

I’ve found it more helpful to focus on the woman’s powerful example of hope. After 12 years of seeing doctors and spending all of her money on this issue, she somehow still believed she could be cured, God willing. She took the actions needed to get better, and yet didn’t become cynical or hopeless when the cure didn’t come.

In what areas of my life have I lost hope?  

—Br. Mark Mackey, SJ, is a Jesuit Brother of the Midwest Province in First Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Lord,

Please lead us towards hope.
When we wander towards thorns and dark valleys,
Gently tip us back towards the sunlight.
When our journey requires passing through shadows,
Remind us of their temporary nature.
When we question the trail,
And try to find our own way,
Remind us you see all,
You know all,
And you love us.

Amen.

Br. Mark Mackey, SJ


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January 29, 2018

2 Sam 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13

A messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom.” Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, “Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword.” But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went.

When King David came to Bahurim, a man of the family of the house of Saul came out whose name was Shimei son of Gera; he came out cursing. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; now all the people and all the warriors were on his right and on his left. Shimei shouted while he cursed, “Out! Out! Murderer! Scoundrel! The Lord has avenged on all of you the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, disaster has overtaken you; for you are a man of blood.”

Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on my distress, and the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today.”

So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, throwing stones and flinging dust at him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

God in the struggles

In today’s first reading, one of David’s enemies is screaming at the mighty warrior king.  The aggrieved man–Shimei–seems almost inconsequential as David’s assistant requests to immediately kill him.  Given the standards of the ancient world, David should have surely ordered Shimei tortured and killed.  Instead David shows mercy, and even seeks God’s presence in the struggle.  Not only does David resist the temptation toward “just” retribution, but he also realizes that it is during times of trial that we can really become aware of God’s presence in our lives.

It is easy to wish away such difficult times of struggle in our lives, if we pause to become aware of God’s presence, we find solace, and even strength.  Like David, we are invited to forgive, to let go of our need to protect our egos, and then to become aware of how God is working in our lives, most often through other people.

—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.

Prayer

Lord, grant us the strength we need in those times when we need it, the freedom to forgive when forgiveness is needed, and the awareness of your presence in our lives at all time.  Amen

—The Jesuit Prayer team 


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January 28, 2018

Mk 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Authority from above

An “authority” can mean someone who studies a subject more than most people. In this sense, Stephen Hawking is an authority in astrophysics. The rest of us, who do not know much about astrophysics, have to take it on faith that he knows what he is talking about. And if we do not like an authority or his message, we are free to ignore him, or to contest his authority status.

“Authority” can also mean a person who receives power from above to perform a mission or to command. The captain of a Navy vessel is an authority because Congress gave her that role. It does not matter whether the sailors like her personally, and they cannot decide on their own whether to obey her. They are obliged to obey her simply by virtue of who she is.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ power over demons proved that his new teaching was not justified by his own personal study of the Scriptures, or by the fact that most people loved him. It was justified by his authority from above.

—Fr. Barton Geger, SJ, is a research scholar at the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies and Assistant Professor of the Practice at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.

Prayer

St. Ignatius asks us to reflect that, if we are willing to love and obey a noble human leader, and to make sacrifices for him, then how much more should we love and obey Jesus, our perfect leader and our eternal king?

—Fr. Barton Geger, SJ

 

 

 

 

 


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January 27, 2018

Mk 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Seeking a connection

A close look at today’s Gospel shows disciples who seem to be of two minds.  After Jesus has calmed the storm, they are awestruck and surprised that he had the power over the sea.  If they didn’t expect him to be able to calm the storm, what, then, were they hoping he would do?  As he sleeps through the storm, they wake him and say “do you not care that we are perishing?”  They wanted him to be awake and with them, even if they didn’t know that he could fix the problem.

How true is this in our own lives?  The desire to have someone stay with us in scary, sad, or uncertain times is nearly universal. We seek a connection to someone so that we don’t feel alone.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus was a companion to those who needed him.

Is someone in your life going through something and could use a bit of companionship?  How can you reach out to that person to make it known that you are there?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

  He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

  he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

  for his name’s sake.

 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

  I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

  your rod and your staff—

  they comfort me.

 

You prepare a table before me

  in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

  my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

  all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

  my whole life long.

—Psalm 23

 


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January 26, 2018

Sts. Timothy and Titus

2 Tim 1:1-8

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Treasure of faith

Like Grandmother’s fine china or Uncle Owen’s coin collection, our faith, too, is inherited and then personally owned. Like those other treasures, which can either be shelved or utilized and admired, our faith is passed on to us through death, that is, our first death and rising to new life in Baptism. And faith is a gift far more valuable than porcelain or gold.

This faith, we believe and profess, is something that belongs to each of us and to all of us who call ourselves Christian, all the way back to the early Church, to the bishops Saints Timothy and Titus, and as we read today, through their own mothers and grandmothers.

Prayerfully contemplating my own joyful day of Baptism, I ask myself: Who are the people in my life who, doing the best job they could with what they had, passed along to me the treasure of my faith?

—Fr. Vincent Giacabazi, SJ, teaches and chairs the theology department at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, MO. He also serves as the formation coordinator for the Alum Service Corps.

Prayer

Good and gracious Father,

Give me openness and wonder
to take the God’s-eye view of salvation history,
my own and that of all humankind.

Help me to see that the Faith I profess with my actions and words
is a gift I inherited and have made my own.
Send your Spirit into my heart
that I might be filled with gratitude.
Renew within me my Faith.
And enkindle in me a passionate Love born of new Hope.
I make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

—Fr. Vincent Giacabazi, SJ

 


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January 25, 2018

Acts 9:1-22

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying,and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”

Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Being an instrument of Jesus

Two men in today’s reading heard the voice of God challenging them to think differently. Paul is asked to do a complete 180 and go from a persecutor of Christians to one of the greatest evangelists. Ananias has to forget everything he has heard about Saul and be Jesus’ messenger to facilitate his conversion.

Am I an instrument of Jesus? Why can’t I accept and embrace this role? So many times I refuse to ‘listen’; my fear, my anxiety separates me from God. Going it alone, taking responsibility for everything keeps me from being open to Jesus. Holy Spirit, fill me!

—Tim Freeman is a Major Gifts Officer at John Carroll University and is on the board of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

Darkness

Darkness comes
when I overbook –
get lost in compulsive
activity –
grow overtired
weary
frustrated with
my own limitations –
when I
become too important –
take responsibility
for everything
in the universe –
too serious
humorless
overburdened
anxious –
then
I lose God
and Jesus
in a
self-encapsulated
world
where I am
totally responsible
but lacking
in the resources
to handle it all –
and
I am alone…

—Ted Tracy, SJ

 

 


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January 24, 2018

St. Francis de Sales

Mk 4:1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.

He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Becoming the rich soil

I used to think today’s Gospel had to do with listening. If I listened hard enough to the Gospel, it would sink in and I would bear fruit a hundredfold.

Jesus tells us what is needed to be rich soil – not to let “worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word.” The word is not just Scripture, but Jesus himself. Jesus is the Word that gets tossed to the side by our anxieties, possessions, and cravings.

To become rich soil, we must find out what is out of balance in our hearts and minds. The First Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises tells us to hold everything lightly, to have or do things only insofar as they help us find and glorify God. What in your life has taken up too much time or thought, and choked out the Word?

—Rachel Forton is the Marketing & Retreat Coordinator for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

God who loves us creates us and wants to share life with us forever.
Our love response takes shape in our praise and honor and service of the God of our life…
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all created gifts
insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some responsibility.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty,
success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
a more loving response to our life forever with God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.

—First Principle and Foundation, as translated by David L. Fleming, SJ, in Draw Me into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises-A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading

 


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January 23, 2018

2 Sm 6:12B-15, 17-19

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord.When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts,and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

How can I keep from singing?

While on my 30 day Spiritual Exercises retreat as a novice, there was a recurring theme song whose refrain would surface in my head: “How can I keep from singing?” It seems when I really felt God’s closeness and had moments of Christ-centered clarity, joyful singing was one of the most appropriate responses. To be honest, there was one moment when I went back behind some trees on a hike and had a joyful dance session. That’s my problem, though. Even when the joy of the Gospel breaks into my life, I find it counterbalanced by my own self-consciousness. I’m afraid of what people looking on may think about me. I pray I can have the abandon King David showed in front of all of Israel. After all, “if Love is Lord of heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?”

—Br. Mark Mackey, SJ, is a Jesuit Brother of the Midwest Province in First Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

How Can I Keep from Singing?, originally published in 1869 by Robert Lowry

 


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January 22, 2018

Mk 3:22-30

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Jesus’ authority

Today’s Gospel is a complicated scene, but essentially Jesus is affirming his own healing power as derived from the Father.  Many people doubted Jesus and his ministry.  Even some of his followers would have been skeptical.  Because their egos were threatened by Jesus and his message, the intellectual, political, and economic elite–the scribes–sought to discredit him.  Jesus’ message didn’t jive with their rigid interpretation of religion, nor was his message of mercy compatible with the operational norms of their culture.  

If you follow the text, you will see that this passage is inserted between writings which convey Jesus’ mercy and his authority.  You are invited to consider, “Do I trust Jesus’ ‘authority’?”  Such a question often elicits doubt, which is quite natural.  We might pray for a greater awareness of the work of Christ in our daily lives.  This grace inevitably arrives.  Perhaps this is the “authority” about which Mark writes.

—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, come into my heart, and in your power draw it to you.

—St. Catherine of Siena


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