Selected Sunday Scriptures- #156

It has been quite a while since I’ve post. A lack of imagination, drive and general business led me to let this blog whither. I would rather not keep it that way, at least not too much, and so here is another scripture post.

The first passage is from the book of Samuel:

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abi′el, son of Zeror, son of Beco′rath, son of Aphi′ah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth; and he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.

(1 Samuel 8:9-9:2

I have been thinking lately about how what people want is not necessarily what is best for them. And so while scanning scripture I came across this. It is interesting that the handsomeness of Saul merited multiple mentions, not just once. Plus the mention of his height as well. It got me thinking about how Saul must have looked very much like what Israel imagined a king would be. Tall, handsome, probably covered in muscles. He would have been a very imposing and masculine presence. And yet of course God sees what us humans do not. Or perhaps, what us humans do not want to see. And this of course is part of the message here, as is explained not much later when we are first introduced to David.

When they came, he looked on Eli′ab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abin′adab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

(1 Samuel 16:6-13)

Now it is interesting because David too was handsome. And yet that was not the reason why he was chosen. He wasn’t chosen because he looked the part of a king, but because as faulty as he was, David would always return to God when the time came. David always repented, unlike many of his descendants, even the ones who started out good. Of course, David was also very young at the time as well, and so probably wasn’t anywhere near the masculine presence of Saul. We see here how we must be careful about judging by appearance. Ultimately it is character and heart which matters. One might have both and be unattractive, or have them and be attractive as well.

The Israelites unfortunately never really lost this trait. Even to the time of Jesus, they did not understand. So it was well that Isaiah prophesied thus:

Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

(Isaiah 53:1-3)

 

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #155

I have been feeling somewhat forlorn lately, and while reading through scripture I couldn’t help but get drawn in the by the story of Joseph. He is someone I can empathize with, given his life was filled for a long time with suffering. First we have his being sold into slavery:

12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers, and with the flock; and bring me word again.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a man found him wandering in the fields; and the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said, “tell me, I pray you, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him afar off, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild beast has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; cast him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand, to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24 and they took him and cast him into a pit. The pit was empty, there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ish′maelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ish′maelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers heeded him. 28 Then Mid′ianite traders passed by; and they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ish′maelites for twenty shekels of silver; and they took Joseph to Egypt.

(Genesis 37:12-28)

Then we have his temptation, and the price he paid for rejecting sin:

Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Pot′i-phar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ish′maelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian, and his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and having him he had no concern for anything but the food which he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Lo, having me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand; he is not greater in this house than I am; nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 10 And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie with her or to be with her. 11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and got out of the house. 13 And when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; 15 and when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment with me, and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; 18 but as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment with me, and fled out of the house.”

19 When his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison; and whatever was done there, he was the doer of it; 23 the keeper of the prison paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.

(Genesis 39)

Then, when Joseph might have finally gotten out of prison, he was denied- at first.

20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants, and lifted up the head of the chief butler and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief butler to his butlership, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; 22 but he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

(Genesis 40:20-23)

Joseph had to endure two more years in captivity before he was finally freed from his unjust imprisonment. Given this, I suppose when I look at my life, I don’t really have all that much to complain about. Or at least, it doesn’t add up to what he endured. Valuable perspective.

 

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #154

I have been in a somber mood lately, and this passage from the Book of Wisdom inspired some deep but troubling thoughts:

12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
13 He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child[a] of the Lord.
14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
15 the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
16 We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
17 Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
18 for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
19 Let us test him with insult and torture,
that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

(Wisdom 2:12-20)

I wonder if there is a corollary in life between how righteous someone is, and how much he or she will suffer in life. I mean, there is always suffering in life. Sometimes good people suffer a lot, and sometimes bad people suffer a lot. But at the same time I think that those who are really good people seem to suffer more. Looking through the people I know in my life, and others I have read accounts of, I just see that as a thing. Suffering and righteousness are just connected. I am also reminded of this passage from the Gospel of John:

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.[c] 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant[d] is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.

(John 15:18-27)

The world will always hate those who belong to God. It makes sense to me that the closer one is to God, the more the world would hate you. Perhaps my readers will feel like chiming in and offering their thoughts. Perhaps there are some other passages from scripture which would further illuminate the matter.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #153

Today I wanted to cover the same passage from two different perspectives- that of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Here is Matthew’s perspective:

As he entered Caper′na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even[c] in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

(Matthew 8:5-13)

Then we have Luke’s version:

After he had ended all his sayings in the hearing of the people he entered Caper′na-um. Now a centurion had a slave who was dear[a] to him, who was sick and at the point of death. When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.

(Luke 7:1-10)

There are two significant differences between them, which I will mention below in bold.

Matthew: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,  while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”

Matthew includes an admonition by Jesus against the Jews, informing them that many Gentiles will make it to the Kingdom and many Jews will not. This fits in with the character of Matthew’s gospel, which was clearly written with a Jewish audience in mind. It would make sense to use a passage which contains a righteous Gentile to give this message. I would not at all be surprised if Jesus said this at another time, but Matthew thought that this was the best passage to put that particular saying of Jesus. Or maybe he did say it here, and Luke omitted it because his primarily Gentile audience wouldn’t need it.

Luke: When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave.  And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him,  for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.”

Here we have other individuals, Jews in fact, speaking on behalf of the centurion (who was probably a Gentile or maybe a monotheist “God-fearer”). What I find interesting is that these Jews speak highly of this non-Jew. They give him high praise indeed, which I cannot say I can recall seeing elsewhere regarding a Gentile in the gospels (readers feel free to correct me in the comments below). I think there are a couple of meanings to be drawn here. The first is the role of the Jews as the early messengers of the gospel. They helped bring Jesus towards the Centurion. The second is that intercessors can have a powerful effect, and should be used when one wants to petition God. Here the Centurion didn’t come himself, but used others to reach out to Jesus. This ties in with Church teaching regards the saints, that they too can help intercede with God on our behalf. Jesus of course knew the centurion’s need, just as He always knows our needs. But it never hurts to have others speak on our behalf. Especially if those individuals are highly favored in God’s eyes.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #152

Today I want to explore a connection between several selections from the New Testament. The first is from the First Letter of Saint John:

13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.

18 We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.

(1 John 5:13-19)

Then we have First Timothy:

18 This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among them Hymenae′us and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

(1 Timothy 1:18-20)

Then we have this from First Corinthians:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men;  10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality[g] or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

(1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

The common link I see here is that when a Believer gives themselves over entirely to sin and commits a grave/deadly sin, then our attitude and actions towards them should change. We no longer are obliged to pray for them as before, and they should be removed from the Church- for their own good. We live in the Age of Grace, and they should spend some time outside the protection of the Church so they can begin to understand what they have lost. This paves the way for them to repent in genuine sorrow and once again join the Body of Christ.

As always, any readers are free to chime in with their own thoughts.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #151

Since today is Father’s Day, I think that some scripture concerning fathers would be appropriate. And yes, I am still alive. Just terribly busy from work, and also unmotivated as well. Trying to turn that around. Anyways, lets start with Sirach:

 

Listen to me your father, O children;
    act accordingly, that you may be kept in safety.
For the Lord honors a father above his children,
    and he confirms a mother’s right over her children.
Those who honor their father atone for sins,
    and those who respect their mother are like those who lay up treasure.
Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children,
    and when they pray they will be heard.
Those who respect their father will have long life,
    and those who honor[a] their mother obey the Lord;
    they will serve their parents as their masters.[b]
Honor your father by word and deed,
    that his blessing may come upon you.
For a father’s blessing strengthens the houses of the children,
    but a mother’s curse uproots their foundations.
10 Do not glorify yourself by dishonoring your father,
    for your father’s dishonor is no glory to you.
11 The glory of one’s father is one’s own glory,
    and it is a disgrace for children not to respect their mother.

12 My child, help your father in his old age,
and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
13 even if his mind fails, be patient with him;
because you have all your faculties do not despise him.
14 For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
and will be credited to you against your sins;
15 in the day of your distress it will be remembered in your favor;
like frost in fair weather, your sins will melt away.
16 Whoever forsakes a father is like a blasphemer,
and whoever angers a mother is cursed by the Lord.

(Sirach 3:1-16)

Then we move these words of St. Paul, wherein he explains he is a spiritual father to the Church in Corinth:

14 I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I sent[c] you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power. 21 What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

(1 Corinthians 4:14-21)

Lastly, we have this passage from the Gospel of John, wherein Jesus talks about the role of father and son, and then more specifically His relationship with His Father:

19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father[e] does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

(John 5:19-24)

I hope my readers had a good Father’s Day.

 

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He Is Risen!

Christ is Risen from the dead! By dying he trampled death, and to those in the tombs he granted life!

St. John Chrysostom’s Homily on Pascha (Easter), or the Hieratikon, is always a great read on this most holy of days:

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; if any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of Our Saviour has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

   To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

These words by King David also are fitting on a day such as this:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,
    the world and those who dwell therein;
for he has founded it upon the seas,
    and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false,
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
    and vindication from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory!

(Psalm 24)

 

A wonderful and blessed Easter and Paschal season to all my readers.

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