Author Archive

Mt 16:21-27 You Make Us Brave

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  The…

Mt:25:14-30 Share Your Master’s Joy

Saturday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time


Jesus told his disciples this parable:“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability….”
In my high school Physics class, a major part of our grade included completing an egg drop assignment.  The premise involved designing a protective barrier between an egg and the ground so when dropped from a two story roof the egg remained intact.  We were given a few weeks to create a suitable design fulfilling dimension and size requirements.  A prize went to the successful student who’s egg didn’t break.  I remember driving over to Michaels craft store to look for materials.  I decided on a fairly simple design:  Wrap the egg inside a round Styrofoam container used for fake flowers. The day of the egg drop I was terribly nervous.  It was my senior year and my top-ten GPA meant everything.  I simply could not afford a bad grade in Physics because of a broken egg.
What a cold February morning when our Physics class walked up to the school’s roof to start the egg drop challenge.  I remember seeing splat after splat.  Everybody’s egg broke.  When it came my turn, I carefully dropped my Styrofoam ball from the roof.  After the egg fell we inspected it  to find not one crack!  In fact, my egg was the only one in the class that didn’t break.  I won a movie gift certificate as the prize.  Everybody was surprised, including the teacher, that a simple Styrofoam ball was insulating enough to protect the egg.
Just think:  Simply trusting in Jesus and following his Way, Truth and Life protects our souls from breakage.  The Lord acts as a protective shell around our fragile and vulnerable hearts.  We can entrust our darkest secrets, intimate desires, and worries with Him.  He will not allow us to completely crack and fall apart.  In fact, God blesses us with gifts each and every day.  It’s up to us to use them wisely.
Five, Two, One….According to Ability  Instead of three, two, one like a typical countdown  it’s five, two, one;  the number of talents the Master gives to his servants.  I find it interesting  the wicked servant is only given the one talent according to his ability. The Master must have not expected a whole lot from him to begin with. Why does the master get so upset then? Why bother giving the third servant any talents?
 The Master of the talents desires to entrust his possessions with all of his servants equally and according to their individual abilities.  He hoped his servants would listen to his request, protecting and properly investing the talents.  However, the wicked servant allowed fear to take over. Burying his one solid gift  is like burying his head in the sand.  He doesn’t have to think about it or realize it’s value.  He can simply walk away – out of sight and out of mind.  It’s not his money anyway.  Why take the risk of possibly upsetting the demanding Master if he loses the one talent?  It’s easier just to bury it away than to trade it up for something more profitable.
God does not want us to bury our gifts in the sand!  He wants us to use them to the fullest, evangelizing and spreading the good news . Desire to share in His eternal joy!
Share Your Master’s Joy  We may not realize this, but God gives us gifts on a daily basis.  They may appear small and insubstantial; however, all we need to do is take the time to notice and cherish them.  For me, a smile is one such beautiful gift.  I think of the smile of a child playing with a toy, the smile of someone laughing, or the smile when a friend greets another friend.  When I’m having a rough day, a smile brings warmth back into my heart.  When I’m feeling down, a smile brings happiness back to mind.  Some people are blessed with a positive attitude and a habitual smile that’s infectious!  It’s almost as if God sends such persons to continuously spread joy to others. Joy is what makes life worth living. Sharing our joy keeps fear at bay and helps us recognize our gifts and talents, using them for the benefit of all of God’s Kingdom.
‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality

Mk 6:17-29 St. John’s Heart

Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist(Click here for readings)Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. …Herodias harbored a grudge a…

Mt 23:27-32 The Allure of Hypocrisy

Wednesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary time
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.”
Oscar Wilde once said, among many other things, “In all unimportant matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential. In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential.” He left this epigram for young people entering adulthood in his day, stating the unpleasant truth about respectability in Victorian England. In our own day, this statement rings just as true, if not more so. In a world where people adore exterior beauty, material wealth, and physical pleasure, hypocrisy is necessarily rampant. Why cultivate an inner life, when people only observe and respond to the outer life?
Modern people of all ages feel the strong temptation of hypocrisy; like the Pharisees and scribes, they desire to “appear beautiful on the outside” while “filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.” Students want to attain a high score they never earned and then brag about it to their family and friends. Young activists want to change the world and help those in need while they indulge in every kind of luxury themselves and live off their parents. People who work in offices or in the fields proclaim their efficiency and intelligence to anyone who can hear, and harangue those whom they deem lazy, while they themselves fail miserably at their duties. Even the elderly love to criticize the younger generations, excoriating their choices and decadence, despite their pivotal role as parents in forming these young people into who they are today. 
The Pharisees and scribes receive the worst kind of criticism from Jesus because of their hypocrisy. We should hesitate to join in the condemnation before searching our own hearts. After all, the Pharisees and the scribes only did what every politician, celebrity, intellectual, and businessmen does today: they assume their roles as moral and cultural authorities and proceed to tell others how to live. Has their behavior warranted this authority? Not at all. They sin like anyone else, often much more so. Does their power, fame, knowledge, or money really give them the authority to preach? Quite the opposite. It actually makes them less credible as moral teachers since they sought worldly goods in place of heavenly ones and frequently have a much hazier perception of reality. The Pharisees and scribes, having more power, fame, knowledge, and money than most commoners, only did what was normal by most people’s standards.
For the sake of His people, Jesus had to condemn them with supreme righteous anger. No behavior does greater damage to the Church, to people’s relationship with God, than hypocrisy. Many believers fall away from the Church because of the hypocrisy of clergy and laity, who make lofty proclamations only to act like every other sinner outside the Church. The hypocrite, more than the terrorist or serial killer, will convince people that there is no God, no reason to pray, and that morality is simply a tool of the crafty to oppress the naïve. Moreover, the hypocrite will create a whole new generation of hypocrites. If a person can preach one thing, practice something else, and gain everyone’s admiration, saint and sinner alike, then everyone will want to be a hypocrite. Why be a priest or teacher and suffer poverty and disrespect for taking care of people’s souls, like Paul, when a person can be a doctor or financial consultant and earn a high salary and the enjoy the greatest respect for caring for people’s bodies and possessions?
Perhaps the only thing more tempting than hypocrisy is tolerating others’ hypocrisy. We listen and praise hypocrites because we would have a much easier time following their example than the example of a virtuous person. Quite often, those who earn their reputation for goodness through actual virtue seem more like chumps fighting a futile battle than heroes improving society. At the time of her death, Princess Diana, a glamorous divorcee aristocrat, had many more mourners, and television specials, than Blessed Mother Theresa though they both died in the same week. The death of any celebrity who overindulges easily overshadow the death of a good person who sacrifices. Instead of jumping on this superficial bandwagon, we should acknowledge people’s merits as well as their faults, and give praise to the good man or woman instead of the powerful man or attractive woman. Let us honor the saints and imitate their example.
Today would be a great day to start since it is the Feast Day of St. Monica. Unlike most parents who desire world success from their children, Monica desired spiritual success for her son Augustine, only to see him ardently pursue worldly success for the first three decades of his life. Seeing past Augustine’s facade of happiness and wisdom, she encouraged him to put away his heresies and concubines and live a true life in Christ. Her prayers, her patience, her tears, effected the conversion and sanctity of one the greatest spiritual minds in history. Only her saintliness, her sincere love for God and her son, could have inspired such a miracle. Had she relied on style, our Church, and our world, would be much poorer as a result.
Let us ask for her intercession and give thank for God’s work in her and her son. We could certainly use more mothers like her.

Mt 23:23-26 We Are All Cups

Tuesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

We are all cups. This analogy is what strikes me most in today’s Gospel reading. It seems like a fitting comparison, since we so often “fill ourselves up” with both the good and the bad. Similarly, we take what we have filled ourselves up with and pour it out, leaving a legacy that impacts all around us.
Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” We are God’s personally crafted clay cups.
But, like us, a clay cup is fragile. It can’t get through life unscathed. It undoubtedly picks up chips and cracks along the way.
The Pharisees were chipped and cracked like the rest of us, but their problem was that they tried to hide it. They boasted perfection and righteousness, but all the while, they were falling apart under their masks.
Despite their best attempts to fill themselves up with God’s Word, their cracks—and their pride—were so immense that anything of God that filled their cup quickly seeped out.
So preoccupied with achieving the most and being the best, they failed to attend to the state of their cups. Inside, theywere dirty and scarred.
Nobody is perfect. The insides of our cups are all dirty and scarred. Why, then, do we feel so much pressure to cleanse the outside? Why do we paint over the chips and fill in the cracks? Are we trying to act like we don’t struggle? Are we all just pretending?
Christ didn’t pretend. The ONLY perfect person to walk this earth let His wounds show. So why don’t we?
Christ’s resurrected body bore the marks of His nails. He didn’t erase them when He rose from the dead. Rather, they served as a reminder of the trial He faced—and overcame.He boasted in His wounds, inviting the nonbelievers to see and touch the proof of His suffering.
Cracks don’t have to be a bad thing. Christ’s cup was cracked by sin and death, but with His ultimate victory, He allowed light to pierce through this darkness. This is, after all, why we should boast not in our perfection, but in our cracks. There is something holy and profound about admitting we are cracked.
In fact, cracks in a clay cup are beautifu.When your soul is illuminated, it’s the cracks that allow your light to shine through.
Those that shine the most often possess the most cracked cups. Despite their battle scars, they emanate God’s luminous joy. This is what it means to clean the inside ofthe cup: to admit imperfection…and shine anyway.
Being clean inside and out does not mean being without fault. Rather, it necessitates inviting God into these faults.
It’s okay not to be okay. We shouldn’t spend so much time attempting to achieve perfection on the outside while our cups falls apart inside. Rather, we should model Christ, being both broken and beautiful.
We don’t have to be perfect to clean our inner cups. All we have to do is accept these cracks, and let God turn them into passages through which His light can shine.

Faith Noah graduated from Ursuline Academy way back in 2014 and was valedictorian of her class.  She is currently a student at Vanderbilt University and contributes to this blog whenever she can.  She is an outstanding young lady with amazing grace and faith.

Mt 16:13-20 Who Do You Say That I Am?

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The answer to this question makes all the difference in your life.

You are Peter.  Apparently, Simon Peter knew the right answer:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  With these words, Jesus said to him, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”

This morning I had breakfast with a wonderful soul and a beautiful person who happens to be a bit of a fallen away Catholic.  Although she has had many problems and struggles throughout her young life, this angel always manages to have a smile on her face.  Every time she comes to town she calls me and invites me out for breakfast.  During our morning conversation, I asked her what she thought of Pope Francis.  She told me she didn’t know anything about him.  I couldn’t believe it.  Regardless of what faith or no faith you have, it’s hard not to hear his name mentioned in the national media.  Pope Francis is important.  Who and What He represents is important.  After all, if someone were to ask you the question “How do you know the Catholic church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ?” and you only had a minute to answer it, how would you do it?  What would you say?  ANSWER:  Because the Catholic Church is the only Church that can trace itself all the way back to St. Peter, the rock of the Church.

That’s it…especially if you only had one minute to answer their question.    

Of course, how we see Jesus will determine how we see His Church.  So, who do you say Jesus is?

Who do people say that I am?  Forget about what other people think; what do you think about Jesus?  Who is Jesus to you?  Is He the Lord, the Savior of the world?  Is He the Son of the Living God?  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this question, for what you think of Him will say a lot about what you think of others. 

Who do people say that I am?  This question is often applied to others, especially the disadvantaged.  A lot of children may be struggling with your answer.

Who do people say that…

A fetus or a Down Syndrome baby is?  Am I a mistake to you?  

Pope Richard Dawkins recently came out of his lab, the zoo, to announce to the whole world that it was a moral imperative to abort children conceived with Down Syndrome.  That’s right!  The amateur zoologist and premiere atheist went way out of his field of expertise to tweet:  “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”   

Read slowly his message.  Abort “it”…  Try again…  [If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.]  It would be “immoral” to bring “it” into the world.

Richard Dawkins believes that if a woman had the choice to abort a Down Syndrome baby, and failed to do so, she would be acting immorally.  Now, it’s one thing for a scientist to advocate terminating a pregnancy.  It’s an entirely different thing for him to claim it’s a universal moral imperative.

How you see Jesus Christ will determine how you see others, especially the most defenseless.

Dawkins tweet has more to do with his entrenched atheism (ideology) than with his knowledge of Down syndrome babies.  No reputable scientist would come out with such a dehumanizing statement.  In fact, not too long ago, Dawkins actually took a neutral stance on the morality surrounding abortions.  But now he has come out of his limited box to say and do what few would have imagined:  make a dogmatic declaration!  How unbecoming of someone who hates dogma!

Immoral?  Based on who’s morals?  His own, of course, which is as far as most non-believers can get.

J.D. Flynn, for First Things, wrote a beautiful open letter to Richard Dawkins.  He wrote:

“You’ve often said that people who disagree with you should “go away, and learn how to think.”  I’ve tried to learn to think, over the years, but perhaps I am naïve in some says.  But one of things I’ve concluded is that ethical philosophy can’t be done in a sterile environment – that our humanity, our intuition, our empathy, in fact, must be recognized as a source of ethical insight if we want to think well.  Perhaps you believe that your position on abortion and down syndrome is logically valid.  But I wonder if you’re kept awake at night by the revulsion that  comes with being the champion of killing.”

“I have two children with Down syndrome.  They’re adopted.  Their birth parents faced the choice to abort them, and didn’t.  Instead the children came to live with us.  They’re delightful children.  They’re beautiful.  They’re happy.  One is a cancer survivor, twice over.  I found that in the hospital, as she underwent chemotherapy and we suffered through agony and exhaustion, our daughter Pia was more focused on befriending nurses and stealing stethoscopes.  They suffer, my children, but in the context of irrepressible joy. 

I wonder, if you spent some time with them, whether you’d feel the same way about suffering, about happiness, about personal dignity.  I wonder, if you danced with them in the kitchen, whether you’d think abortion was in their best interest.  I wonder, if you plated games with them, or shared a joke with them, whether you’d find some worth in the existence.

And so, Dr. Dawkins, I’d like to invite you to dinner.  Come spend time with my children.  Share a meal with them.  Before you advocate their deaths, come find out what’s worthwhile in their lives. 

I don’t want you to come over for a debate.  I don’t want to condemn you.  I want you to experience the joy of children with Down syndrome.  I want your heart to be moved to joy as well.

Any day next week is good for us except for Wednesday.”

Good Luck J.D.  I will keep your intention in my prayers.  But I must say I doubt Dawkins will ever step foot in your home, and it won’t be because you live in Nebraska.  I just think he feels more comfortable in a classroom and sterile lab.

Bringing everyone together.  Jesus said to his disciples:  “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  This is not a threat.  It isn’t even a warning.  It is a concern.  The Church is on earth to bring all people together:  Africans, Asians, Europeans, Muslims, Jews, Christians, rich, poor, big, small, powerful, defenseless, strong, weak, etc…

The Lord is reminding His disciples of the seriousness of their mission, a mission that is extremely delicate and important for the well being of the world.  He wants His followers to go throughout the world and bring everyone together.  Everyone is welcomed.  Everyone.  No one is excluded from God’s love or family.  All are invited.  All are welcomed.  Hence, no one should be advocating the death of others, especially the defenseless and those who are genetically disabled. 

The human race is not an exclusive club.  All are welcomed:  fetuses, the elderly, the mentally ill and challenged, the physically disadvantaged. All are welcomed.  This is the Church’s message.  This is our mission.  This is why the Church exists on earth. 

Mt 23:13-22 Getting Through By Being Touch

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.

You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

When I first read this Gospel, I was struck by its similarity to a novel I am currently reading for school called Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is an American classic that fueled the anti-slavery movement and is thought to be a catalyst for the Civil War.
First, though—who were the Pharisees? Why did Jesus seem to be so bitter towards them? In the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were the most active and outspoken of the political groups. They became so caught up in small teachings that their ideology became extremism. In fact, their name in Hebrew means “separatists.” They chased after very strict ideals and allowed very few to become a part of their group—not that many wanted to.
In the same way, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a slave owner named St. Clare argues that his actions are not much worse than those of northern abolitionists: “I know the feeling among some of you northerners well enough … you would not have [slaves] abused; but you don’t want to have anything to do with them yourselves. You would send them to Africa, out of your sight and smell, and then send a missionary or two to do up all the self-denial of elevating them compendiously.”
How very Pharisee-like! From Jesus’ time, to the Civil War era, to today, there are always groups of people that are all talk and no walk. All rhetoric and no substance. All catchy-Twitter-hashtag and no real action.If we want to be Christians, we have to steer clear of such things.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.” Are we hypocrites? That is to ask: are we all talk and no walk? Do we really mean what we say? The Pharisees loved to act holy but in truth were concerned about wealth and external appearances. They were so concerned about appearing to be righteous that they entirely forgot what righteousness was. Abolitionists were so concerned about seeming upright that many forgot to actually aid the people they fought for, opting to throw money and political nonsense at the situation instead. Like them, we can be tempted as Christians to want to appear holy. We want to be known as the most moral, the most dignified, the most caring. But at what consequence?
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. How many times has our own self-righteousness prevented us from reaching out to someone who was really striving after holiness? I am so guilty. After all, if we spend all of our time trying to appear holy, what time is left over to actually build the Kingdom?  How many times have we shut ourselves out from the outside world because it frustrated us? How many people have we not ministered to as a consequence?
Self-righteousness is a plague. It is the master of false appearances. It is like dangling a carrot in front of a horse. The horse really wants to get to that carrot, but the farther it runs, the farther away the carrot gets. In the same way, by chasing after self-righteousness, real righteousness only gets farther out of reach. We lock the Kingdom of heaven before ourselves and before others.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert…” It is a blessing, then, that empty rhetoric attracts very few people. There is a song that always plays on my way to cross country in the morning that says it better than I could: “I’ve never seen a soul set free from an argument, and I’ve never seen a hurt get healed from a protest.” Pharisees and empty preachers traversed sea and land and only a few people were actually converted to their ways. I could listen to a million pompous State of the Union addresses from both parties and still not have my mind be changed. And news flash, radical feminists: when #YesAllWomen or #NotMyBossBusiness clog my Twitter feed, I gain nothing but a tad of irritation and a few cents back on my cell phone bill from avoiding Twitter.  “…and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. Yikes!
How then, are we supposed to break our hypocritical tendencies? How do we not make “children of Gehenna”? For starters, we actually have to start caring about what we talk about. We have to start putting a little walk to our talk. It is great to preach about issues we are passionate about, but if we cannot back up our words with actions, we are no more credible than the next guy on the street. In no way is this as true as when we preach the Gospel. We cannot tell others to love their enemies if we do not love our own. We cannot ask people to defend every human life if we do not take care of the vulnerable that are already born. Defending truth is a hard but necessary task! As St. Clare says around the time of his conversion, “My view of Christianity is such… that I think no man can consistently profess it without throwing the whole weight of his being against this monstrous system of injustice that lies at the foundation of all our society; and, if need be, sacrificing himself in the battle.”
Wow! That is what we need to aspire to.
As a side note, please pray that I finish Uncle Tom’s Cabin by 9 tomorrow morning…. Yikes.

Mt 23:1-12 Rock Star Status

Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe al things whatso…

Mt 22:34-40 Love of God

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary(Click here for readings)When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the gr…

Mt 22:1-14 Binding their Hands and Feet

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests…  Some ignored the invitation and went away…The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.”

James Foley.  On Tuesday, August 19th, 2014, the Roman Catholic photojournalist James Foley was savagely executed by Islamic State barbarians.  He was only forty-years-old.  His parents, both devout Roman Catholics, paid tribute to her son.

“We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us.  He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person… “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people… 

“We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”     

The Foleys’ pastor, Father Paul Gousse, was at the family’s house the evening of the 19th.  He left without speaking to reporters.  The parish posted a notice that the church would be open to all who wished to pray for Jim, his family, friends and colleagues.
This wasn’t James’ first run in with militants.  Back in 2011, he and two other reporters were kidnapped in Libya.  After his release, he wrote an article for Marquette magazine on how prayer, especially the rosary, got him through his captivity. 

“It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused,” he wrote. “Clare [another reporter kidnapped] and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.”

Foley was educated and trained at Marquette University, a Jesuit school.  He said Marquette “has always been a friend to me. The kind who challenges you to do more and be better and ultimately shapes who you become.”

A few decades ago, it was popular for people to say something along the lines like “all religions are the same.”  Not only is this as ridiculous and practically useless as saying all armies are alike or all people are alike, but it discloses ignorance.  All religions are as much alike as all fingerprints and DNA, enough alike to be able to identify one from the other.

Let’s keep James, his family, and all hostages in the hands of terrorists in our prayers.  These innocent men and women will need them, for ISIS is an organization that has little to no regard for human life, especially non-Sunni Muslim life.

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