Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hungering for Justice

“Why are person’s different in disposition?  Why is one healthy and another an invalid?  Why does one come from a harmonious family and another from a broken one?  And so one through all the inequalities which press upon us everywhere.  We cannot grasp their roots.  Let us rather consider what would be possible in daily life.

“There is, for example, the elementary question of whether we actually grant to the other the right to be as he is.  If we consider the matter, we shall soon see that we usually do not do this at all, but, by aversion, ungraciousness, or bias, we reproach him for his own nature.  But his existence gives him the right to be as he is; so we should grant it to him, and not only in theory, but also in our disposition and in our thoughts, in our daily attitude and actions.  This we should do especially in our immediate environment, in our family, among our friends, associates, and colleagues.  It would be justice to seek to understand the other person from his own point of view and to act accordingly.  Instead we emphasize the injustice of existence by sharpening and poisoning the differences through our judgment and actions.

“But if things are so in the small circle which we can influence, how can they be otherwise in world affairs?  Everyone should say to himself:  ‘The history of nations moves in the same way as the affairs in my home.  The state mirrors the way in which I order my small sphere of action.’  All criticism should begin with ourselves, and with the intention of improving things.  Then we would soon see how much goes wrong because we do not permit the other person to be who he is and do not give him the room which we requires.

“But will things never be properly ordered?  If we put aside wishful thinking, we must reply evidently not in the course of history.  Of what avail are all the attempts to bring about justice on earth if we look not at ideologies and party politics but at reality – the whole reality?

“Let us consider the present situation.  Let us presume that those who live and fight today are really concerned about the establishment of justice; that is, a proper order of society, sufficient food for all, suitable working conditions for everyone, the possibility of education without privileges, and so on.  Then much would have been accomplished.  But how much all this is intermingled with striving for power and self-will!  How much injustice enters into it, how much falsehood, and even how much crime!  Millions of persons are crushed in order that the supposedly correct form of economic conditions of the social order, of government – even of justice – may be established.  And let us assume that in all this, a forward step is taken.  Does this take away and nullify all the terrible things which brought it about?  Or is the evil still there, in the context of life, poisoning what has been attained?....

“Only by God will true and complete justice be established, and only through His judgment.  We should try to let the revelation that this judgment will be passed upon all mankind affect us deeply.  The first thing that everyone who thinks of the judgment should say to himself is, ‘Judgment will be passed upon me!’  But there will also be a judgment upon all the human institutions and powers about which we are so likely to feel that they are sovereign and subject to no examination:  the state, civilization, history.

“The judgment must be taken into account in all being and action.  It is God’s verdict upon every finite reality.  Without it everything is half-balanced in space.  Only God determines it.   He it is who sees through all, fearing nothing, bound by nothing, just in eternal truth.  If a man does not believe in Him, his hunger and thirst shall never be satisfied.”


(Romano Guardini, Learning the Virtues That Lead You to God, p. 53-55)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Waiting for God - Last Week of Lent 2014

Tomb of Lazarus in Bethany
Waiting For God 
If one were to conduct an informal survey on the street where we ask people where food comes from, what would we likely hear from people?  Very likely a great many people would say that food comes from the grocery store.  If we need something, we right away go to the store and there it is whenever we need it, in whatever quantities we want, and in whatever variety we like.  In reality, however, food takes a long time to produce.  Crops must be planted and grown; animals must mature to a certain age before being prepared for market; cheese and other such items take time to prepare.  Food is not instant, and yet for most people their experience is otherwise and we have come to demand instantly whatever it is we want in the world of food.

Has this demand for instant gratification also come to dominate our relationship with God?  Today’s Gospel text challenges us to consider this question for ourselves, for everyone in the story expects Jesus to come when they want and they want him to do what they want.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  The story also tells us quite explicitly that Jesus deliberately delayed in coming to Bethany, even though he knew that Lazarus was ill to the point of death.  Had the people come to expect Jesus to act on command performance?  As in so many other instances, Jesus shatters our expectations and preconceived ideas of who he is and what he can do.

We might do well to step back from this story and put it in context of the stories we have heard over the past two weeks prior to today.  Two weeks ago we met the Samaritan woman, an outcast in the eyes of Jesus’ race and an outcast among her own people.  And yet Jesus talks with her about living water and she comes to understand the identity of Jesus, so much so that she becomes the first missionary who leads her entire village to accept Jesus as “savior of the world.”  Last week we read the story of the man born blind – a Jewish man who becomes an outcast by accepting Jesus as Messiah and Lord.  The man came to see the identity of Jesus, while the religious authorities of Jesus’ day could not get past their own expectations and preconceived ideas.  They could not accept the miracle because it took place on the Sabbath. 

In the story of Lazarus we see Jesus care for one he loved, and it is at this sign that Jesus becomes a complete outcast in the eyes of the religious leaders of the day.  This sign is the last of Jesus’s signs to be performed before his passion, death, and resurrection.  In the raising of Lazarus we receive a glimpse of the great Sign Jesus will perform in rising from the dead.  Lazarus was raised, but he will die again.  Jesus was raised and lives forever with the Father.  All of the previous signs Jesus performed pointed to and led up to his resurrection.  By the same token, it is only in the light of Jesus’ resurrection that we come to understand his earlier signs and what they meant. 

The identity of Jesus was and is not something that can be recognized all at once.  We must wait for his identity to unfold in the Gospel drama.  Different events in the life of Jesus cannot be taken in isolation from the others in order to establish his identity or be used in some hollow apologetic for tangential purposes.  The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus must be taken as a whole.  They must be lived and experienced over time in order for us to understand the full meaning of Jesus’ identity and mission.  And so, like the characters in our Gospel text today, we must wait.  We must wait, put aside all our expectations and preconceived ideas, and allow God to reveal himself to us in the person of Jesus in his time.  When we allow God to do this, we experience more than our expectations and preconceived ideas could have ever imagined.  Only by this patient waiting and self-emptying can we arrive at resurrection and eternal life.


We need one another in order to wait in patience and to overcome these expectations and preconceived ideas.  And so we gather again to pray for the help we need as we draw closer to the Great Feast of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.  “Let us pray for the courage to embrace the world in the name of Jesus.  Father in heaven, the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross that his brothers might glory in new life.  Change our selfishness into self-giving.  Help us to embrace the world you have given us, that we might transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.  Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Gift of God - 3rd Sunday of Lent Year A

The Gift of God – 3rd Sunday of Lent Year A

The first rule of being a new husband is never to ask this question:  “Dear, what do you want for Christmas/birthday/anniversary/Valentine’s Day?”  Invariably, the answer to the question will be, “Oh, you don’t have to get me anything.”  It takes years of experience to realize that wives really are usually sincere in their answer – they really don’t want anything.  What they really want is someone.  They want to be with their beloved, for that time in the presence of the one they love is truly greater than any material object a husband can buy for his wife.  The readings for today lead us to discover the gift of God that satisfies all our desires.

In the Hebrew Scriptures the gift of God refers to the Law God gave to Moses and the people of Israel at Sinai.  The Law represented for them the greatest love God could express – His will and plan for them in being His chosen people, His choice bride.  All the other gifts God gives to His people in the desert – manna, water (as in the first reading today) – are all intrinsically connected to the fundamental gift of God that is the Law.  The Law, as well as manna and water, represent God’s presence among His people.  These objects are for the people of Israel signs of God’s love for them, and the great liturgical feasts of Judaism celebrate the gift of God and its corresponding symbols – Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles being the most prominent.

However, the people longed for more, a longing that grew into a hope for the presence of God to be manifest not in an object but in a person, the Messiah of God.  Paul expresses this hope in the second reading, a hope that comes to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus the Lord.  Torah as the gift of God obliged the people to love their neighbor, and yet Jesus shows us by example the love to which we are called by God through the giving of one’s life for the sake of others.  Though chosen by God, we made ourselves enemies of God through sin.  While human love expresses itself quite naturally to those who like us and are likable in our eyes, it is rare to be found in us for those who are our enemies.  And yet God shows His loving kindness to His enemies in the person of Jesus in dying for us. 

Coming to understand the identity of Jesus as the presence of God on earth is the challenge presented to the Samaritan woman in the Gospel text for today.  Her immediate response to Jesus request for water is visceral and natural – How can a Jew ask a Samaritan for water, for these two groups are longstanding enemies.  And yet Jesus continues the conversation and makes a startling revelation – “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  The gift of God is not a something, but a someone – Jesus himself.  And Jesus indeed gives the woman living water, for as the story progresses she comes to deeper realizations of Jesus’ identity, first calling him ‘sir’, then moving to the title ‘prophet’, and proceeding on to ‘Messiah’.  At that point the woman leaves behind her water jar, i.e. leaving behind the material object as God’s presence and moving to the true reality of the gift of God as the person of Jesus.  She then becomes the first evangelist, leading the entire village to know Jesus as ‘savior of the world.’

Lent is a time to challenge our love and our understandings.  We have a tendency to relapse into ideas of material objects as our point of focus for God’s presence on earth.  We struggle to love as God calls us to love others in the person and example of Jesus.  Lent is our time to rediscover the gift of God and to receive the life giving water of Jesus the Lord.  Only then can we overcome our natural hatreds and to love our enemies.  Love is the only solution to human conflicts, both personal and collective.  Only the love of Jesus incarnate in our actions can transform the world from cultures of death, violence, and hatred into a civilization of love.


As we progress along our Lenten journey together, we continue to discern the ways in which we can know better the gift of God and how we might love more authentically as followers of Jesus.  We pray together:  “Let us pray to the Father and ask him to form a new heart within us.  God of all compassion, Father of all goodness, to heal the wounds our sins and selfishness bring upon us you bid us turn to fasting, prayer, and sharing with our brothers and sisters.  We acknowledge our sinfulness, our guilt is ever before us.  When our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion full us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy.  Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Geography of Temptation

The Geography of Temptation – 1st Sunday of Lent Year A
Everyone has their favorite place, whether imaginative or real.  It makes no difference whether we have actually been to this place or not.  The place in question may for us be the most beautiful place on earth.  A significant event in our lives may have occurred there and hence it becomes our favorite place.  It may be a place where God is more present to us than in any other place.  Wherever it may be for each of us, this place evokes images of happiness, security, peace, and joy.  We cannot imagine a negative thought or experience associated with this place, and we often delude ourselves into thinking that we could not possibly fall from grace in such a place.  The readings today invite us to reorient our lives in relation to these places, and challenge us to begin the Lenten journey from an unexpected place.

The Garden of Eden is often referred to as Paradise, a primeval place of the fullness of God’s presence and love.  Here, our first parents lacked nothing and enjoyed a beauty of a pristine place that defies any just description.  Given such a place of peace, security, and beauty, we might think that nothing at all could come between them and God.  And yet Paradise becomes the very place where sin enters the world.  Even in a place of such tranquility, temptation exists and the possibility of a great fall enters our world.  Still, with all the beauty and goodness God had given them, our first parents had every advantage in the struggle with the serpent from both a human and divine point of view.  And they failed. 

St. Augustine reminds us that we would have fared no better in their place, and if we return to our favorite place above we would find ourselves confronted with the same temptation as Adam and Eve.  We can construct whatever ideal place and situation for ourselves in order to do battle with the devil, and we will lose if we trust that ideal place to help us in the moment.  For the point of the story is that if we fail to remember God’s presence in our lives, we will fail no matter how great the surroundings around us.

By contrast, the Gospel text takes us to a very different place of battle in the realm of temptation.  Jesus is taken to the desert by the Spirit after his baptism, and there he fasts for forty days while encountering the devil and his temptations.  The desert is the furthest place geographically from a lush garden we can imagine.  The harsh terrain and weather of the desert would beat anyone into failure and despair.  And yet, the devil, who had been successful in his wiles with just one attempt in Paradise, fails in three attempts with Jesus.  The appeal to the appetites was enough for Adam and Eve to fail, and yet Jesus overcomes this trial as well as that of fame, riches, and power.  Why was Jesus successful in such harsh conditions while Adam and Eve failed in seemingly better ground?

In the desert we can rely on no material advantage for long.  The desert brings us to rely on God alone, for in the desert we dispossess ourselves of all worldly attachments and illusions.  It is always the place of trial, but it is also the place of refuge – the place God prepared for Israel in Exodus and for the Church in the Book of Revelation that becomes the pathway to the Promised Land and eternal life.  The desert is the ideal place for a showdown with Satan, for there we must abandon material goods and cling to God alone.  It is in God alone that we can succeed in overcoming temptation.

Lent, then, is the time for us to abandon our favorite place and to go into the desert.  Lent is the place for us to abandon our material goods in acts of fasting, mortification, and charity in order to cling to God alone.  Lent must be for us the time to engage in the struggle against temptation and to overcome not through our own efforts or reliance on any worldly thing, but solely through reliance on God alone. 


As we shed the false gods of our illusory favorite places in beginning the discipline of Lent, we come together to be nourished by the Word of God and the Bread from Heaven.  We pray together:  “Let us pray at the beginning of Lent for the spirit of repentance.  Lord our God, you formed man from the clay of the earth and breathed into him the spirit of life, but he turned from your face and sinned.  In this time of repentance we call out for your mercy.  Bring us back to you and to the life your Son won for us by his death on the cross, for he lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Love Beyond Measure – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Love Beyond Measure – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Is something ethical because God commands it, or does God command it because it is ethical?  This question gets at the very heart of Christian morality, for we often go astray in our answer.  We are inclined to focus our attention on the commandments of God and obedience to the law that God has set for us, forgetting the fact that law became the stumbling block to holiness in the tradition of Israel.  However, the readings today correct this tendency within us and enable us to see that the source of Christian morality lies within the very heart of God Himself.

Within the core of the Old Law we find our first reading we find this striking comment:  “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”  The fundamental command to Israel is to imitate God Himself in His very being which consists in holiness.  But how are we to be holy in our lives?  The text indicates that our path to holiness is found primarily in how we treat others.  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

However, the text also makes clear that our love is directed to our brother and sister, our fellow citizen, and our own people.  On the surface these descriptors seem to limit our love to our own kind and no further.  A deeper reflection might also lead us to recall that we are all children of the one God and that we have a common ancestry from our first parents of Eden.  We are all brothers and sisters as human beings; we are all citizens of the same planet; we are all one people.  Unfortunately, this text was not often regarded in this way. 

Consequently, the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel text today stands in stark contrast to the customary interpretation of the first reading’s text.  Jesus commands us to love our enemies, and in so doing he extends the interpretation of “neighbor” well beyond the measure we customarily provide.  But in so doing Jesus also leads us to consider whether we actually love those within our circle for whom it is easy to love.

Do we love our brother and sister, or are our families a place of discord and strife?  Domestic violence, child abuse, and the staggering divorce rates would indicate we have a long way to go in our love for brother and sister.

Do we love our fellow citizen, or just those who agree with our political views, or those who obey our laws?  The practice of the death penalty in no way conforms to love on any measure.  The rabid insistence of its continued practice in our nation is based solely on revenge and hatred, not on protection of society.  The polarization of our electorate with its hateful speech against one another also bears no recognition of our duties to love one another, let alone our enemies. 

Do we love our own people, or only those with papers?  Too often we find a reason to hate the immigrant among us, limiting our care and love for those who are most vulnerable in our land as well as in their own native place.
 
Do we love our enemy, or are we always looking for new wars to start and new weapon systems to develop?  These wars may be military wars, culture wars, ideological wars, or any other form of warfare.  The command and example of Jesus would seem to indicate a different path from the one in which the human race is currently engaged.  And somehow we continue to justify the slaughter of any and every war, physical or verbal.

Each and every human being is a temple of God, a dwelling place for the Most High, as Paul reminds us.  And rather than have reverence for each and every person, each and every temple of God, we seek to be Romans who would tear down and ravage the dwelling place of the Most High.  But we have the example of the Lord Jesus, who provides for us the way to follow.  For the Lord Jesus loves all, and loved His enemies, even kissing Judas and calling him friend at the moment of betrayal. 


As we discern how we might be holy as God is holy in our personal and communal lives, we gather in prayer at the altar of God, drawing nourishment and inspiration at the example of Jesus before us in the sacrifice of Calvary.  And we pray:  “Let us pray to the God of power and might, for his mercy is our hope.  Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth.  Open our eyes to your deeds, our ears to the sound of your call, so that our every act may increase our sharing in the life you have offered us.  Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Wonder Twin Powers

Wonder Twin Powers – 5th Sunday In Ordinary Time Year A

One of my favorite cartoons to watch as a child was The Superfriends, a collection of heroes who fought for justice against the forces of evil in the world.  Two of the characters, Zan and Jane, were twins who had the special power of fist bumping and changing into whatever object might prove useful to them in a given situation – an eagle, waterfall, elephant, ice bridge.  The struggle for justice and the importance of material objects forms the basis of our readings this week.

In the first reading we find our fundamental mission as children of God is to provide food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, to drive out oppression and malice.  This mission had always been part of the call of God for His people.  However, the people of Israel rejected this mission, and as a result her enemies were able to conquer her, lead her people into captivity, and treat the Israelites in the same manner as they had treated others.  Isaiah reminds the nation of this call, and he looks forward to the day when a leader of the people would come forth to demonstrate in his own life the perfect following of God’s mission of justice.

The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of this desire of Isaiah.  In providing food for the hungry on many occasions, in curing the sick and those possessed by demons, and in driving out oppression and malice from the Temple area, Jesus in His life and death provides for us the light by which we must orient our lives in order to fulfill the mission of justice entrusted to us.

In the Gospel text Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, both material items being images used in baptism.  Salt has two functions – to be a preservative for keeping meat from spoiling, and to be a seasoning for making things more flavorful.  Christians are called to be both preservers of justice, peace, and mercy in the world, as well as to be seasoning to make these more attractive to the world.  We seek to preserve the faith and tradition of the Church in every age, preserve hope in people gripped by despair, and always to find new ways to put our fundamental mission into action in every age, place, and circumstance. 

Salt had been used in the first part of the baptismal liturgy, still being retained in the Extraordinary Form.  The priest or deacon places the salt on the lips of the person to be baptized and says, “Take this salt in sign of wisdom. May it be for you likewise a token that foreshadows everlasting life.”  The minister then prays, “God of our fathers, God, source of all truth, we humbly ask you to be well disposed to your servant, N. After this first taste of salt, let his (her) hunger for heavenly nourishment not be prolonged but soon be satisfied. For then he (she) will always pay homage to your holy name with fervor, joy, and trust.”  As we hunger for justice and righteousness, we then seek to live such lives that preserve such in our world and to bring it to places where it is lacking.

The image of light similarly has two important functions:  to dispel darkness, providing direction and hope for those in darkness; and to point out that which deserves the attention of others.  We are called to dispel darkness in our mission of justice, peace, and mercy.  In so doing, we shine light upon these three ideals so that people may be drawn to them.  Our light is not our own.  It is the light of Christ shining through us, for He alone is the light of the world.

The symbol of light is used in the baptismal liturgy after the baptism proper has been completed.  The priest or deacon offers a lit candle to the baptized person and says, “Receive the light of Christ.”  Then, the minister says, “Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart. When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”  Our light is not our own; it has been entrusted to us to fulfill our fundamental mission of justice, peace, and mercy.

As we seek to live our mission more faithfully in our lives, we come together to be nourished by the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus the Lord.  We pray for the grace we need in every moment of our lives:  “In faith and love we ask you, Father, to watch over your family gathered here.  In your mercy and loving kindness no thought of ours is left unguarded, no tear unheeded, no joy unnoticed.  Through the prayer of Jesus may the blessings promised to the poor in spirit lead us to the treasures of your heavenly kingdom.  We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.  Amen.”


Saturday, January 25, 2014

That They May Be One

That They May Be One – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
At first glance we might be tempted to yawn at our Gospel reading for today.  After all, the story is merely about Jesus calling his first four disciples to his ministry.  On top of all that, Matthew makes the story even more bizarre by quoting this obscure text from our first reading regarding Zebulon and Naphtali.  What could all of this possibly mean?  And what does it have to do with my life here and now?

The reading from Isaiah and the reference to Zebulon and Naphtali is about the civil war that took place between Israel and Judah, a civil war among the brothers of the nation God called together to be His people of the covenant.  As a result of this civil war – this family feud among brothers – they all became weakened, making it possible for Babylon to invade and conquer the region more easily.  When brothers fail to live in harmony and unity, eventually the entire house falls to the forces of darkness.  And yet Isaiah looks forward to a time when a future leader would once again call together God’s people to a life of unity and service to God. 

That promise comes to reality in the person of Jesus the Lord, and the Gospel text provides us with concrete, poignant examples of this call to unity.  First, Jesus calls two brothers, Peter and Andrew, to join with him in ministry.  Then, Jesus calls a second set of brothers, James and John, to accompany him in ministry.  Now, in calling together brothers Jesus reverses the dynamic of division among brothers that we saw in the first reading, and that we find in many stories of the Old Testament.  The feuds of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and the tribes of Israel in civil war are all swept away when two sets of brothers are called together and accept this call to live in harmony.  Familial relationships are thus called to be harmonious ministries of service to one another united in the love of Jesus the Lord.

What is more, both sets of brothers were fishermen, meaning that in all likelihood they were economic rivals with one another:  Peter and Andrew would have been in economic competition with James and John.  The fact that Jesus calls together economic rivals into one brotherhood of ministry provides yet another example of overcoming division and calling to unity that which naturally and historically have been competitive and hostile.  Economic divisions cease when we enter into cooperation with one another and use economic tools to serve others rather than seek our own advantage in a ruthless pursuit of profit.  When we come together to serve one another in the spirit of Jesus we put an end to class warfare and economic strife that leads to poverty and injustice.

This call to unity also has an ecclesiological dimension that Paul highlights in his first letter to the Corinthians.  Even in the early church people were setting up rival camps that competed with one another, and people rallied around banners highlighting their allegiances.  All of this ecclesial competition clearly is not part of the fundamental call of Jesus that we saw in the Gospel text.  And yet throughout the Church’s history we have seen these rivalries and camps.  In our own day the banners of “traditional Catholic” and “progressive Catholic” find equal play with “John Paul II priest” and “Vatican II priest” in declaring allegiances that echo the text of the second reading.  Jesus, however, calls us all to serve one another.  Paul reminds us to put aside these rivalries and strive for unity.

Pope Francis has made this call to unity and the putting aside of status and allegiances a fundamental piece of his mission of unity that is at the heart of the Papal ministry.  Still, we continue to cling to our rivalries and divisions, for a great many have used the person of Francis as yet another flashpoint in the ecclesial wars that serve only to propagate cottage industries of partisan negativity as pawns of larger forces in political and culture wars.

In the depths of our hearts we hear the call of Jesus, just as Peter, Andrew, James, and John heard it.  In the depths of our hearts we long for an end to these divisions and we desire the unity and harmony to which the Lord Jesus calls us.  And so we gather together in order to find the grace and strength to overcome our weakness and to respond ever more faithfully to the call of the Lord Jesus.  And so we pray:  “Let us pray, pleading that our vision may overcome our weakness.  Almighty Father, the love you offer always exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing, for you are greater than the human heart.  Direct each thought, each effort of our life, so that the limits of our faults and weaknesses may not obscure the vision of your glory or keep us from the peace you have promised.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”