Archive for June 2013

Devotion for December 2 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

candle-stump

Above:  A Candle Stump

Image Source = J. Samuel Burner

Light in the Darkness

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2017

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 8:9-9:6/7 (depending on versification)

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

1 Peter 4:1-9

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There will be grave trouble for Judah one day, Isaiah said.  It might not happen soon, but that day will come.  And it did.  Yet, in the midst of that gloomy prediction, there was a second, happy one:  There will be a ruler through whom God will deliver the people.  Scholars debate what the vague references meant, and the reading assumes a certain character if one reads it outside of Christological interpretations, but none of that is germane to my purpose here, today.  My point is this:  There is hope in the darkest darkness, thanks to God.

Speaking of difficult times, the audience of 1 Peter knew suffering for the faith (4:12-19).  Yet God was with them, not only spiritually via the Holy Spirit, but also through each other.  We human beings ought to help each other to, in the words of 1 Peter 4:8,

preserve an intense love for each other (The New Jerusalem Bible)

and use our gifts from God for the common good.  What does Jesus look like?  Hopefully, he looks like you, O reader, like me, and like many other people.  As we prepare, to celebrate the arrival of Christ nearly two thousand years ago, may we first recognize those through whom Christ is present with us today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Devotion for December 1 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

harrowing-of-hades

Above:  The Harrowing of Hades

Image in the Public Domain

Hope and Fear

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2017

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 7:10-8:8

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

1 Peter 3:1-22

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He [Jesus Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

–The Apostles’s Creed

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Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God.  In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison.  They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them…..

–1 Peter 3:18-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The reading from Isaiah tells of the births of two boys.  Immanuel’s arrival marked hope that the Syro-Ephraimite threat to Judah would end soon.  It also contained a promise of divine judgment; read 7:17.  The arrival of Maher-shalal-hash-baz marked the doom of the Syro-Ephraimite thread at Assyria’s hands.  Hope and judgment, bound together, were part of the same message.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew read a different meaning into Isaiah 7, relating it to Jesus.  The combination of hope and judgment is also present there.  That is sound New Testament-based theology.

As much as judgment is potent, so is mercy.  1 Peter 3:19 is one basis (see also 1 Peter 4:6) for the line (from the Apostles’ Creed) about Jesus descending to the dead.  This passage indicates that Hell, at one time at least, had an exit.  And it might have one again.  There is always hope in God.  If God does not give up on us–as I suspect is true–may we extend each other the same courtesy.  Final judgment belongs to God, and I do not presume to a station higher than the one I occupy.  But I do propose that certain ideas we might have heard and internalized relative to divine judgment might be mistaken.  With God all things are possible; may we embrace that mystery.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Devotion for Saturday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Saint John on Patmos, by the Limbourg Brothers (1385-1416)

Risks of Discipleship

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2016

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:11-22

Psalm 122

Matthew 24:1-22

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Matthew 24:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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For there are thrones of judgment,

the thrones the house of David.

–Psalm 122:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Matthew 24 contains much apocalyptic content which need not be bad news for everyone because, even in dark times, there is deliverance for some.  Genesis 6:22, at the end of technical instructions regarding the ark, says:

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

The New Revised Standard Version

Thus Noah and those with him survived.

Faithfulness to God is not always a recipe for temporal survival, of course, for the roll of Christian saints includes many martyrs.

They they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.

–Matthew 24:9, The New Revised Standard Version

The baptism of many martyrs is solely of blood.  Yet, despite numerous difficulties,

the one who endure to the end will be saved.

–Matthew 24:13, The New Revised Standard Version

I am writing this devotion in late Spring, a time which feels much like early Summer.  Yet this is, of course, a devotion for late November and the eve of Advent.  So now I pretend that today is at the tail end of the Season after Pentecost, immediately before Advent.  We Western Christians are about to begin a time of preparation for Christmas.  May we recall that Jesus of Nazareth, born into a world in which a tyrant wanted him dead immediately, died by order of a Roman imperial official.  Our Lord and Savior died under the banner of the Pax Romana, a peace based on violence.  We make a desert, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote, and call it peace.  If we Christians follow Jesus, human violence might befall us also.  It continues to befall many of my coreligionists around the world.  Even when such violence does befall us, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Nevertheless, I quote the martyrs in Heaven from the Revelation to John:

How long?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Next in the Sequence:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/risks-of-discipleship/

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Devotion for November 30 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

christ-with-beard

Above:  Christ with Beard

Image in the Public Domain

Subversive Compassion

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2017

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 6:1-7:9

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:13-25

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I have covered the reading from Isaiah already, so I refer you, O reader, to the labeled links for them.  At this time and place I choose to say the following:  A pressing question for many Christians in the latter portion of the first century C.E. was whether one could be both a good Christian and a good Roman.  Also, the author of 1 Peter assumed that Jesus would be back quite soon to sort out the world order.  As I write these words, our Lord has not returned. The world order is what we have made it; may we exercise our agency responsibly to improve it.  This does involve resisting authority sometimes, as in the case of tyrannical governments.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer plotted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Many faithful Christians–Protestants and Roman Catholics–sheltered Jews and resisted the Third Reich.  And, throughout church history, bishops have called monarchs to account.

We who read and interpret the Bible must be careful to read it as a whole, not to fixate so much on certain passages that we ignore inconvenient ones and distort the composite meaning of the texts.  There is something called confirmation bias, which means that we tend to pay attention to evidence which supports our opinions and ignore or dismiss that which does not.  I look for this in myself and try to safeguard against prooftexting, the confirmation bias method of misreading the Bible.

I keep returning to the example Jesus set.  (I am a professing Christian, literally a “partisan of Christ.”)  He violated many religious customs, some of them from the Law of Moses itself.  He seems to have favored compassion over any other factor when they came into conflict.  And he taught this ethic with his words.  So we have in our Lord the union of words and deeds favoring compassion above all else in guiding our actions toward others.  Compassion trumps all else.

As much as I disagree with those aspects of Christian traditions which deal favorably with tyrants and dictators, justify servitude, and smile upon gender inequality, I find Jesus to be the strong counterpoint to them.  Somewhere–very soon after our Lord’s time on the planet ended–the church began to accommodate itself–frequently in ways inconsistent with Christ–to the Roman Empire.  Jesus was a subversive.  I mean this as a compliment.  I follow the subversive, or at least I try to do so.  If I am to be an honest Christian, this is what I must do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Devotion for Friday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

The Proof in the Pudding

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2016

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-10

Psalm 122

Hebrews 11:1-7

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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I was glad when they said to me:

“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

And now our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.”

–Psalm 122:1-2, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The Priestly Source tells us in Genesis 6:9 that:

Noah walked with God.

The New Revised Standard Version

One definition of faith in the New Testament comes from Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version

Thus, by faith Noah, a subsequent verse tells us, respected and acted on the divine warning of the Great Flood.  In so doing he not only saved his extended family but

he condemned the world….

The New Revised Standard Version

When we set out merely to do the right thing and succeed, one side effect of our action(s) is the condemnation of those who have done otherwise, for the contrast becomes so stark as to be unmistakable.  Acting based not on what has occurred but on what will happen sets one apart from others, many of whom might become contemptuous.  Yet stepping out on the Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith does empower one to please God, to walk with God.

Sometimes God acts in ways that are new in human experience.  For example, the Incarnation fit that description.  Responding favorably to it pleased God; rejecting it did not.  In our contemporary timeframe the previous statement, altered only to become present tense, continues to apply.  By the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth God did something new, something which made the Kingdom of God–already extant–more

manifestly and effectively true.

–C. H. Dodd, The Founder of Christianity (New York:  Macmillan, 1970, page 57)

Thus the reality of Jesus in words and deeds challenged people to respond positively.

But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection.

–page 58

It is easier to recognize God’s new (to us, anyway) tactics after the fact than beforehand.  Indeed, many people have acted on allegedly divine instructions which turned out to be delusions.  (They were probably talking to themselves.)  The proof, an old saying tells us, is in the pudding.  Jesus has the pudding.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/the-proof-in-the-pudding/

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Devotion for November 29 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

vineyard

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

Against Carping Criticism and Social Injustice

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2017

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-25

Psalm 85 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:1-12

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Rid yourselves, then, of all spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and carping criticism….Always behave honourably among gentiles so that they can see for themselves what moral lives you lead, and when the day of reckoning comes, give thanks to God for the things which now make them denounce you as criminals.

–1 Peter 2:1, 11-12, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Put your trust in him [God] always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Isaiah 5 speaks in allegorical terms of God as a farmer and Israel as a vineyard.  The farmer has done his best, yet the vineyard has yielded wild grapes.  In this allegory we read condemnations of wealthy landowners who have expanded their holdings at the expense of people of modest means, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The Bible speaks frequently about how much God condemns economic exploitation, a topic which deserves more attention than many Christians, lay or ordained, give it.  We also read in this allegory a condemnation of impious partying, such as the kind fueled by alcohol.  The common thread is misplaced priorities:  greed and dissipation distract one from what matters in Isaiah 5:  social justice as lived holiness.

Certainly we cannot work toward social justice as lived holiness if we engage in

spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and carping criticism,

can we?  Honorable behavior builds up society and the body of Christ.  It might also get us into trouble and even cost us as much as our lives.  That is not fair, obviously.  But, if we are to suffer, may we do so for the sake of righteousness.  May we also refrain from causing or permitting anyone to suffer for the sake of righteousness.

And may we check ourselves daily for bad behaviors, such as those 1 Peter 2:1 lists.  The New Jerusalem Bible translators for 1 Peter did a wonderful job with 2:1;

carping criticism

stood out in my mind the first time I read that verse in this translation.  Alternative renderings include

slander

and

malicious talk

and

unkind words,

but I prefer

carping criticism.

Unfortunately, congregations are frequently hotbeds of

carping criticism.

I grew up in a series of congregations I did not choose.  Their characters varied greatly, but I recall some mainly for the

carping criticism

which took place there.  I am ashamed that I have engaged in

carping criticism

of others, not that all criticism is out-of-bounds; the canonical gospels record critical words of Jesus.  But I have carped.  In so doing I have sinned.  And I am not alone in that reality.

May both social injustice and

carping criticism

decrease exponentially, by grace and human cooperation with it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

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Devotion for Thursday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

04128v

Above:  Jerusalem, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-04128

Intangible Possessions

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2016

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 9:15-19

Psalm 122

James 4:1-10

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Some Related Posts:

James 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/week-of-7-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/week-of-proper-2-tuesday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/proper-20-year-b/

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O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls

and tranquility within your palaces.”

–Psalm 122:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Persians had liberated the Jews from the Chaldeans. So now the Jews lived within the bounds of the Persian Empire.  The prayer attributed to Daniel reflects a major theological strand in the Hebrew Bible:  rampant long-term sin had led to the division of the united monarchy and the demise of both successor kingdoms.  Thus, in Daniel 9, Jerusalem was in ruins.

The two main readings for today insist upon the necessity of humility before God specifically, and, more broadly speaking, of having proper priorities.  Humility is having a realistic self-image–one neither too high nor too low.  It entails knowing that one is, in the context of God, lesser yet not pond scum.  We humans bear the Image of God, who made us slightly lower than the angels.  Yet we are like the transient grass.

The greatest possessions are intangible.  We might have more of them than we know.  So there is no need for us to covet, commit violence, and to engage in fraud and/or conflicts to acquire that which is of lesser value.  Our “stuff,” for lack of a better word, cannot fill the God-shaped hole, but it can bring about a plethora of woes if we approach  it (our “stuff”) with improper priorities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/intangible-possessions/

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