Pope’s Morning Homily: Pray for Those Suffering Great Tragedy

In moments of darkness, our lament becomes a prayer, but we must guard ourselves against overdramatizing our complaints and remember that there are people experiencing “great tragedies” who have good reason to lament, like the Christians driven from their homes for the faith, said Pope Francis Tuesday during Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Reflecting on the First Reading of the day, in which Job curses the day he was born, the Pope noted that his prayer at first appears to us like a curse. Pope Francis recalled how Job was “put to the test”, how he “lost his entire family, everything he possessed”, how he lost his health and “his body had become a plague, a disgusting plague”.

The Pope said in that moment “he had lost all patience and he says these things. They are ugly! But he was always accustomed to speak the truth and this is the truth that he feels at that moment”. Pope Francis recalled how even Jeremiah, “uses almost the same words: ‘Cursed be the day I was born!'”, and then he asked: “But is this man blaspheming? This is my question: Is this man who is so very alone, blaspheming?”.

“Is it blasphemy when Jesus complains – ‘Father, why have You forsaken me’? This is the mystery. I have often listened to people who are experiencing difficult and painful situations, who have lost a great deal or feel lonely and abandoned and they come to complain and ask these questions: Why? Why? They rebel against God. And I say, ‘Continue to pray just like this, because this is a prayer’. It was a prayer when Jesus said to his father: ‘Why have You forsaken me!'”.
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Russian expansion endangers Catholics in Ukraine, nuncio warns

The apostolic nuncio to Ukraine has urged efforts to support Catholics in the nation, warning that Russia’s expansion into the country has caused major instability and threatens a return to political persecution.

“The danger of repression of the Greek-Catholic Church exists in whatever part of Ukraine Russia might establish its predominance or continue through acts of terrorism to push forward with its aggression,” Archbishop Thomas Gullickson said Sept. 23.

“Any number of statements emanating from the Kremlin of late leave little doubt of Russian Orthodox hostility and intolerance toward Ukrainian Greek-Catholics.”

Archbishop Gullickson was addressing a meeting of Aid to the Church in Need’s international directors, who were meeting at the charity’s international headquarters in Koenigstein, Germany.

“There is no reason for excluding the possibility of another wholesale repression of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church as came about in 1946 with the complicity of the Orthodox brethren and the blessing of Moscow,” he stated.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was severely persecuted in the country while it was a part of the Soviet Union.

The nuncio updated the officials of Aid to the Church in Need on the situation of Catholics in Ukraine, especially in light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continuing armed conflicts in other border regions between Ukrainian military forces, and pro-Russian rebel groups and Russian soldiers.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

UK bishop steps down over ‘being unfaithful’ to vows

Bishop Kieran Conry of the U.K. dioceses of Arundel and Brighton has announced his resignation after revealing he has been “unfaithful” to his “promises as a Catholic priest.”

“I am sorry for the shame that I have brought on the diocese and the Church and I ask for your prayers and forgiveness,” he said in a brief statement, which has been read in all the Church’s of the dioceses over the weekend.

In the Sept. 27 announcement, the bishop wrote: “going back some years, I have been unfaithful to my promises as a Catholic priest.”

“As a result, however, I have decided to offer my resignation as bishop with immediate effect and will now take some time to consider my future.”

“I want to apologize first of all to the individuals hurt by my actions,” the statement read, “and then to all of those inside and outside the diocese who will be shocked, hurt and saddened to hear this.”

According to a report by The Daily Mail, the reasons behind Bishop Conry’s resignation involved a relationship with a woman six years prior. The U.K. publication also alleges that the prelate was involved more recently with a married woman and mother of two children. According to the report, the bishop denied this more recent affair as having anything to do his decision to step down.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Buddhist composes symphony to mark Pope’s Sri Lanka visit

In an effort for religious reconciliation, the Sri Lankan government has commissioned a symphony from a Buddhist composer to commemorate Pope Francis’ voyage to the nation which will take place in January.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo presided over a Sept. 17 performance of the Soul of Christ Symphony, composed and directed by the nation’s renowed composer Vajira Indika Karunasena, who is a Buddhist.

“The visit of the Holy Father is a landmark occasion for Sri Lanka,” Cardinal Ranjith said. “We warmly welcome Pope Francis to our country, which is rich in religious and cultural values.”

“We must use this occasion to demonstrate to the world our values.”

The symphony was commissioned by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the nation’s public radio network. The idea for the symphony was that of the SLBC’s chairman, Hudson Samarasinghe.
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Francis Gives 3 Guidelines to Focolare Movement

Pope Francis is encouraging members of the Focolare Movement to grow in the spirit of contemplation, of “going out” in evangelization, and to form men and women in a school of humanity.

The Holy Father offered these three ideas during an address he gave this morning to members of the movement participating in its general assembly.

The Pontiff praised Focolare, or “Mary’s Work,” as a gift “born in the heart of the Catholic Church from a small seed that, in the course of the years, has given life to a tree which now spreads its branches in all the expressions of the Christian family and also among members of different religions and among many who cherish justice and solidarity together with the search for truth.”

He said that the movement flowed from a gift of the Spirit, the “charism of unity that the Father wishes to give to the Church and to the world.”

After mentioning with gratitude the founder, Chiara Lubich, Francis said he wanted to propose three main ideas to the Focolare members: to contemplate, to go out, and to school.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Pope Francis calls Benedict XVI the ultimate ‘grandfather’

Retired pontiff Benedict XVI joined some 50,000 pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, Sept. 28 for a meeting between Pope Francis and elderly people from around the world.

Welcoming his predecessor, the Holy Father described Pope Benedict as the “grandfather of all grandfathers.”

“I have said many times that it gives me great pleasure that he lives here in the Vatican, because it is like having a wise grandfather at home. Thank you!”

Gathered together in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica beneath the sunny September sky, pilgrims heard from a number of people who gave witness of their own experiences, interspersed with musical interludes which included performances by Andrea Bocelli.

One of the motifs of the morning’s events centered on an icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This image, which stood beside the altar, depicted Mary and Joseph presenting the child Jesus to the elderly prophets, Simeon and Anna. This icon will also be present on the square next Sunday during the opening Mass for the Synod on the Family.

Addressing the crowds, the Pope recalled the series of testimonies which had been given over the course of the morning, taking special note of those from the people of Erbil, Iraq, who had escaped violent persecution. “To all of these together we express a special ‘thank you!’! It is very good that you have come here today: it is a gift for the Church.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Beatification of Opus Dei head sparks call for global generosity

To mark the impending beatification of Alvaro del Portillo, who led Opus Dei from 1975 to 1994, those attending the celebration are being invited to contribute to initiatives aimed at bringing aid and support to the people of Africa.

Headed by Harambee Africa International, whose aim is to promote awareness-raising activities throughout Africa, the goal is to raise funds for four separate projects, each of which owes its existence to the impetus of the soon-to-be Blessed.

Alvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. He was appointed head of Opus Dei on the death of its founder, St. Josemaria Escrivá. When the group was made a personal prelature in 1982, he was made its first prelate, and he was consecrated bishop in 1991.

Over the years he spent as head of Opus Dei, Bishop del Portillo promoted the start of activities of the prelature in 20 new countries, on every continent.

As prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop del Portillo also inspired the start of many social and educational initiatives, including the Monkole Hospital in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo); the Niger Foundation Hospital in Enugu (Nigeria); and the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise in Cebú (Philippines).

In an interview, Rossella Miranda, who works with Harambee Africa International, described a 1989 visit of the bishop to such places as Ivory Coast and Nigeria as “his great gift, his great legacy.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Prayer to Pray Today for the Synod That Begins Next Sunday – Text Provided by Pope Francis

The extraordinary synod of bishops on the family begins one week from today.

Here is the text of a prayer for the synod provided by Pope Francis during his Angelus address on the Feast of the Holy Family on 29 December last.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

“Experts in faith, experts in God, experts in the hope that comes from him” Pope Francis’ homily at today’s Mass with Grandparents and the Elderly 

Here is the text of the Holy Father’s homily at today’s Mass with Grandparents and the Elderly celebrated this morning in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.


Today we accept the Gospel we have just heard as a Gospel of encounter: the encounter between young and old, an encounter full of joy, full of faith, and full of hope.

Mary is young, very young. Elizabeth is elderly, yet God’s mercy was manifested in her and for six months now, with her husband Zechariah, she has been expecting a child.

Here too, Mary shows us the way: she set out to visit her elderly kinswoman, to stay with her, to help her, of course, but also and above all to learn from her – an elderly person – a wisdom of life.
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Bishop, canonist: Gay unions among sins barring Communion

The denial of Holy Communion to a same-sex couple who obtained a marriage license is in line with broader Church teaching on public grave sin and the Eucharist, explained a prominent canon lawyer.

The provision that supports this pastor’s action is Canon 915, which “directs ministers of holy Communion to withhold the sacrament from those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’,” Dr. Edward Peters said.

The case in question involves Fr. Samuel Spiering of St. Leo the Great parish in Lewistown, Montana, where a same-sex couple who volunteered at the parish had obtained a marriage license 15 months prior in Seattle.

Local newspapers had reported the details of the story, and CNA confirmed those details with the vicar general of the diocese.

After he arrived at the parish, Fr. Spiering met with the couple face-to-face to discuss their marriage license. When he confirmed that they had obtained the license, Fr. Spiering told them that they could not receive Holy Communion or continue to volunteer in the parish ministries.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Benedict XVI to attend meeting with elderly this weekend

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be present at an encounter with Pope Francis and the elderly on Sunday morning in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican announced Friday.

According to a Sept. 26 satement from the Holy See press office on, the encounter will precede a Mass said for grandparents and the elderly which will be said at 10:30 am.

Benedict XVI, who is 87, will depart prior to the beginning of Mass.

Some 40,000 seniors from more than 20 countries are expected to participate in the Mass. Included in this number are persons from Italy, Spain, Argentina, and the United States.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time A

Reading I: Ezekiel 18:25-28
Responsorial Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Reading II: Philippians 2:1-11
Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32

“The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”

Wrestling With God

In his memoir, Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis shares this story: As a young man, he spent a summer in a monastery during which he had a series of conversations with an old monk. One day he asked the old monk: “Father, do you still do battle with the devil?” The old monk replied: “No, I used to, when I was younger, but now I have grown old and tired and the devil has grown old and tired with me. I leave him alone and he leaves me alone.” “So your life is easy then?” remarked Kazantzakis. “Oh no,” replied the monk, “it’s much worse, now I wrestle with God!”

There’s a lot contained in that remark— “I wrestle with God.” Among other things, it suggests that the struggles in later life can be very different than what we struggle with earlier on. In the normal pattern of things, we spend the first-half of our lives struggling with sensuality, greed, and sexuality, and spend the last half of our lives struggling with anger and forgiveness— and that anger is often, however unconsciously, focused on God. In the end, our real struggle is with God.

But wrestling with God has another aspect. It invites us to a certain kind of prayer. Prayer isn’t meant to be a simple acquiescence to God’s will. It’s meant to be an acquiescence, yes, but a mature acquiescence, come to at the end of a long struggle.
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Spanish bishop: Pope says he will not change Communion rule

Amid widespread reports that Pope Francis might open the door to Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, a Spanish bishop says the Pope told him that this scenario is not possible.

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain said that during his ad limina visit to the Vatican earlier this year, the Holy Father told him that “the Pope cannot change” what Jesus Christ has instituted.

The question of Communion for the divorced and remarried has surfaced due to an address given by Germany’s Cardinal Walter Kasper to a group of cardinals earlier this year. Some have speculated that the Church will change its teachings, which do not acknowledge a second civil marriage unless the first has received an annulment, or a Church recognition that the marriage had never been valid in the first place.

In an interview with the newspaper Diario Cordoba, Bishop Fernandez said, “We asked the Pope himself, and he responded that a person married in the Church who has divorced and entered into a new civil marriage cannot approach the sacraments.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

‘Peace is possible,’ say US bishops returning from Palestine, Israel

Stressing the importance of prayer, a delegation of U.S. bishops returning from a peace-focused pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel said peace in the region is possible “because God is our hope.”

“We are compelled by the Gospel of Peace to share the fruits of our prayers and encounters with Israelis and Palestinians,” the delegation said in a Sept. 22 communique.

“Two peoples and three faiths have ancient ties to this land. Sadly, Jerusalem, the City of Peace, is a sign of contradiction. We were told more than once that the city could erupt in violence as it has on far too many occasions.”

The delegation’s bishops said they found “pain, intransigence and cynicism” in the aftermath of the recent military conflict, but also “signs of inspiration and hope.”

Eighteen U.S. bishops visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories Sept. 11-18 as a prayer pilgrimage for peace. They celebrated Mass at holy sites, with the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem, and with local Christian communities in Jiffna, Nablus and Gaza, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reports.

Among the members of the delegation were Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, the chair-elect of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“The miracle we need is the transformation of human hearts so each side is less deaf to the concerns of the other,” the bishops said. “In solidarity with our brother bishops and all people in the region, we urge alternatives to the cycle of hatred and violence. Peace is possible.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Military chaplains: God in the trenches of Ukraine

Since April, Ukraine’s eastern provinces have experienced continual military confrontation between its government, and pro-Russian separatists and Russian forces, and more than 3,200 have been killed in the conflict.

Accompanying the soldiers at the front are priests – both Catholic and Orthodox – as well as Protestant chaplains.

Vasyl Derkach, 23, recently returned to Lviv, in Ukraine’s west, to recover after his rotation in Ukraine’s military in the eastern conflict zone.

“Can you imagine, I have slept for seven days on clean sheets? I did not sleep on sheets for five months,” Vasyl said in a recent interview. “Have you ever really thanked God for sleeping in a warm bed?”

“In my team, no one believed in God. I asked my friend with whom I always stayed on the post: ‘Do you believe in God?’ He told me, ‘No, I have faith in myself.’ But when he was wounded, the first thing which he said to me in the hospital, was ‘Vasyl, I prayed! Can you believe me, I prayed?!’”

“At war there are no atheists. When they start to shoot, everyone begins to make the sign of the cross,” Vasyl says.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Pax Christi leaders alarmed that airstrikes will aid ISIS recruiting

Expanded airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Syria serve as little more than a recruiting tool for the extremist group and place more innocent people in danger, the leadership of Pax Christi International said.

The three top leaders of the Catholic peace organization also called upon the world, particularly the United Nations, to work together to seek nonviolent alternatives to stop the Islamic State’s expansion and influence in Iraq and Syria.

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, and Marie Dennis, Pax Christi International co-presidents, and Jose Henriquez, the organization’s secretary-general, suggested several steps that they believe will bring lasting peace to the violence-prone region during an interview Sept. 23 with Catholic News Service hours after a U.S.-led international coalition attacked Islamic State forces in Syria.

The Catholic peace leaders proposed alternatives to war such as wide-ranging diplomacy, including direct talks with Islamic State leaders, and economic actions aimed at limiting the group’s access to millions of dollars in oil revenues that fund weapons purchases.

“We believe that especially the expansion of bombing is more likely to create significant recruiting bonanza for some of the extremist groups, ISIS included,” Dennis said.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Fellay and Müller discuss a “gradual” move towards full reconciliation

The meeting between the Superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius X and the heads of the Ecclesia Dei Commission lasted two hours. The Secretary of the former Holy office, Luis Ladaria, was also present

Their meeting lasted two hours, from 11a.m. to 1 p.m. CET. The Superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay and Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” (the body that handles relations between the Holy See’s and the Lefebvrians), discussed “problems of a doctrinal and canonical nature” which need to be resolved in order for the Fraternity to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This was the first time Fellay held a face to face meeting with Müller since the latter was appointed head of the doctrinal Congregation. The Holy See announced the meeting, which took place at the premises of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Holy See’s press release informs that the talks were “cordial”. Müller was joined by archbishops Luis Ladaria and Augustine Di Noia, respectively secretary and adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faithand Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”. Bishop Fellay was accompanied by two assistants from the Society of St. Pius X, Rev. Niklaus Pfluger and Rev. Alain-Marc Nély.

“During the meeting,” the statement says, “various problems of a doctrinal and canonical nature were examined, and it was decided to proceed gradually and over a reasonable period of time in order to overcome difficulties and with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation.” This phrase is important as it indicates that communication channels between the Holy See and the Lefebvrians remain open. Some in the Vatican and in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called for a drastic decision to bring about a formal split between the two again. But Francis does not intend to close the door on dialogue with the Fraternity.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Cardinal Burke: Media hijacking Synod on the Family

Next month’s Synod on the Family has undergone an attempted hijacking by some media sources, which are fueling expectations that impossible changes will be made to Church doctrine, said the head of the Church’s highest court.

“I don’t think you have to be brilliant to see that the media has, for months, been trying to hijack this Synod,” said Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the office which, among other things, handles annulment cases in the Church.

In particular, he told CNA in a recent interview, the media has been presenting Pope Francis as being in favor of allowing Holy Communion to be distributed to those who are divorced and remarried, and other such propositions, even though this is not the case.

The danger, Cardinal Burke continued, is that “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.”

“That’s why it’s very important for those who are in charge to be very clear,” he said.

The Synod on the Family, set to take place from Oct. 5-19, has become the center of a debate over whether the Catholic Church ought to modify its pastoral practice to permit divorced and remarried persons to be readmitted to Holy Communion in cases where an annulment has not been obtained.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in Synod

On the Trip to Albania

“Peaceful and fruitful coexistence among persons and communities belonging to different religions is not only something to hope for but concretely possible and practicable”

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning during the general audience.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

Today I would like to speak about the Apostolic Journey I made to Albania last Sunday. I do so, first of all, as an act of thanksgiving to God, who enabled me to carry out this visit to show even visibly and tangibly, my closeness and that of the whole Church to this people. Then I wish to renew my fraternal gratitude to the Albanian episcopate, to the priests and to the men and women religious who work with such commitment. My grateful thoughts go also to the authorities, who received me with such courtesy, as well as to all those who cooperated in the realization of the visit.

The visit was born from my desire to go to a country that, after being long oppressed by an atheist and inhuman regime, is living an experience of peaceful coexistence among its diverse religious components. It seemed important to me to encourage them on this path, so that they continue it with tenacity and reflect more deeply on its implications for the advantage of the common good. Therefore, at the center of the trip was an inter-religious meeting where I was able to see, with great satisfaction, that the peaceful and fruitful coexistence among persons and communities belonging to different religions is not only something to hope for but concretely possible and practicable. They live it! It is a genuine and fruitful dialogue that flees from relativism and is aware of each one’s identity. In fact, what brings together the various religious expressions is the path of life, the good will to do good to one’s neighbour, not denying or diminishing their respective identities.

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English Summary of Today’s General Audience

“My apostolic journey to Albania this past Sunday was meant to be a sign of my closeness, and that of the universal Church, to the Albanian people”

Here is the summary given in English of today’s general audience.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters: My apostolic journey to Albania this past Sunday was meant to be a sign of my closeness, and that of the universal Church, to the Albanian people, who suffered for years under a godless and inhuman regime, but are now working to build a peaceful society marked by mutual respect and cooperation in the service of the common good. Particularly significant in this regard is the spirit of coexistence and dialogue between Albania’s different religious communities, all of whom endured bitter persecution for their belief in God. In my meeting with the followers of the various religions, I encouraged this important witness, which respects and builds upon the identity of each. With our Catholic brothers and sisters I honoured the heroic testimony of the many martyrs whose sufferings have brought forth fruits of spiritual rebirth and I invited Christians to be a leaven of goodness, charity and reconciliation in Albanian society. Through the prayers of Our Lady of Good Counsel, may God continue to inspire the Albanian people to build a society of justice, peace and solidarity.

I greet the new students of the Venerable English College in Rome and I assure them of my closeness in prayer as they begin their studies for the priesthood. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, India, China, Japan, Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord Jesus. God bless you!