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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING BANQUET

THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING BANQUET 

(A biblical reflection on the 28th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 15 October 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:1-14 

First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10a; Psalms: Psalm 23:1-6; Second Reading: Philippians 4:12-14,19-20 

The Scripture Text

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were in invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ But they made light of it and sent off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find. And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14 RSV) 

To understand the parable in today’s Gospel, we have to remember that Jesus addressed it to people who had no modern conveniences like gas or electric stoves, refrigerators, and supermarkets. Preparing a huge banquet was a difficult and time consuming task because the host could not possibly plan everything so the food would be ready exactly when the guests arrived.

Because of the work involved, the host usually sent two invitations. The first informed the guests they were being invited to a banquet, but it did not include a specific time for the feast because the host could not be sure when the food would be done. This advance notice gave the guests time to wash up and change into appropriate clothing so they would be prepared for the second invitation when all the food was ready.

The Jewish rabbis often used the image of a wedding banquet to symbolize the reign of God. Some of them believed that God would invite only the Jews to this banquet and that the leaders of the Jewish people would occupy the places of honor because of their holiness.

In this parable, Jesus is the king’s son for whom the banquet is given, and the invited guests are the Jews. The servants are the prophets of the Old Testament and those gathered from the byroads and the alleys are the Gentiles. The meaning of the parable should now be clear.

Through the prophets, God told the Jewish people to prepare for the coming of the reign of God, but because their leaders refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, God extended the invitation to the Gentiles. With this parable, Jesus infuriated the Jewish chief priest and elders because the Jews despised the Gentiles and believed the Gentiles would not share in the reign of God.

In the parable, the king sends his servants to burn the city of the guests who did not come. This was probably not part of the original story but a detail Matthew added years later. In 70 A.D., the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, the center of Jewish worship. Because Matthew wrote the Gospel after this event took place, biblical scholars believe he added the detail about the burning of the city as an explanation that God allowed Jerusalem’s destruction because the Jewish authorities refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 100-101.) 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love and mercy, which know no bounds. Thank You for the sacrifice of Your beloved Son, Jesus, on the cross, which makes me clean and whole. Help me to come to You wherever I need to repent so that I can be cleansed and renewed. Amen.

Jakarta, 14 October 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

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THE PARABLE OF THE TENANTS

THE PARABLE OF THE TENANTS   

(A biblical reflection on the 27th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 8 October 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:33-43 

First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalms: Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20; Second Reading: Philippians 4:6-9 

The Scripture Text

“Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to Him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:33-43 RSV)

Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a vineyard and put a hedge around it and then dug a vat and erected a tower. The owner built the hedge out of prickly plants and rocks to keep wild animals out of the vineyard. He also erected a vat for crushing the grapes and he hired a watchman to stay in the tower to guard against enemies who might steal or damage the crop.

The owner then leased the vineyard to tenant farmers, men who cared for and harvested the grapes before making the wine. Because they did not own the land, the tenant farmers agreed to give the vineyard owner a certain percentage of their crop. According to the law at that time, if a vineyard owner died without having any sons, the vineyard would become the property of the tenant farmers.

When harvest time came, the vineyard owner sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. The tenant farmers bat one of the servants, stoned another, and killed a third. The owner sent more slaves, but the same thing happened. The owner finally sent his only son, thinking that the tenant farmers would respect his flesh and blood. Alas, they killed his son too. Furious, the vineyard owner drove out all the tenant farmers and leased the land to others.

This parable is really a summary of how the leaders of the Jewish people treated Jesus. The vineyard is the Kingdom (reign) of God. The owner is God Himself. The original tenant farmers are the Jewish leaders. The servants are the prophets of the Old Testament. The new tenant farmers are the Gentiles (a Gentile is anyone who is not Jewish).

God sent the prophets to the Jewish people but their leaders mistreated and even killed them. God finally sent His Son, Jesus, but they killed Him too. Because the Jewish authorities rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God then offered the reign of God to the Gentiles. The despised Gentiles became the new heirs to God’s Kingdom.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 98-99.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, from the above parable we learn that the Jewish leaders believed they were assured a special place in the Kingdom of God because they were God’s chosen ones. Your parable shows that wasn’t the case. We are sorry, Lord Jesus, because so many times we did act and/or think the same way simply because we are Christians. Please forgive us, Lord. Amen.

Jakarta, 6 October 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
 

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THE TAX COLLECTORS AND THE HARLOTS GO INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD BEFORE YOU

THE TAX COLLECTORS AND THE HARLOTS GO INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD BEFORE YOU

(A biblical reflection on the 26th ORDINARY SUNDAY [Year A], 1 October 2017)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:28-32 

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalms: Psalm 25:4-9; Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-11 

The Scripture Text

“What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32 RSV) 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter God’s Kingdom before the chief priest and elders. As you can imagine, the chief priest and elders were probably not very happy when they heard this.

As the spiritual leader of the Jewish people, the chief priest officiated at worship services on Jewish holy days, was the main religious teacher, and had the responsibility of protecting the Jewish law. Because the chief priest represented the entire community, the Jews believed he should be holier then anyone else.

The elders were older Jewish men respected for their wisdom. They usually made up the town council, the city’s main governing body. Also known as the Sanhedrin, the town council passed laws, enforced these laws, and even tried those who were accused of breaking the laws. The Jerusalem Sanhedrin is the group that arrested Jesus and determined He should die.

So, it appears Jesus was aiming His comments at the Jewish people’s religious leaders, who were regarded as very holy men and were supposed to be an example to the ordinary Jew. Because of their holiness, most people believed the chief priest and elders would occupy the places of honor in God’s Kingdom.

The prostitutes and the tax collectors were the exact opposite. As public sinners, despised by their fellow Jews, they were to occupy the lowliest spots if they ever made it to the Kingdom of Heaven. They certainly weren’t in the same league as the chief priest and the elders.

We are now ready to understand the meaning of Jesus’ comments. The chief priest and the elders said they were holy, but like the first son in the parable, they did not back up  their words with action. They refused to repent when John the Baptist urged them to do so.

The tax collectors and the prostitutes who accepted John’s teaching and reformed their lives are like the second son who ended up doing his father’s will. Because of this, Jesus says they (not the chief priest and the elders) will have a prominent place in the Kingdom of Heaven, implying that the tax collectors and prostitutes are holier than the chief priest and elders. As you can imagine, Jesus angered the Jewish leaders so much they began to look for a way to put Him to death.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 96-97.)

Short Prayer: Holy Spirit, lead all people everywhere back to our merciful Father, who is waiting to pour the fullness of life into their hearts. Amen.

Jakarta, 29 September 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR ALL PEOPLE

GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR ALL PEOPLE 

(A biblical reflection on the 25th ORDINARY SUNDAY [Year A], 24 September 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:1-16 

First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalms: Psalm 145:2-3,8-9,17-18; Second Reading: Philippians 1:20-24,27 

The Scripture Text

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:1-16 RSV)

Because people in biblical times built walls around their city for protection from hostile invaders, the only way anyone could get in or out was through the city gate. The area just inside the gate was a busy place because that was where the elders met to settle the disputes of the city’s residents, traders sold their goods, and men gathered looking for work.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a vineyard owner who went to the city gate at daybreak, midmorning, noon, mid afternoon, and late afternoon to hire men to help with the harvest. The younger and stronger workers undoubtedly got jobs first. Those who were still around later in the day were the men who could not work as fast or do as much because of old age or poor health. These men were unemployed simply because no one hired them.

When it was time for the vineyard owner to pay the workers, he gave each of them a full day’s wage; those hired first felt cheated because they worked longer and harder than those hired later in the day. Naturally, the laborers who worked all day thought the vineyard owner should have paid them more than the ones who did less work. We can sympathize with these men, but we should also consider the predicament of the others.

A man needed at least a full day’s wage to feed himself and his family for one day. If a man did not find a job, his wife and children would have to go without food and his neighbors would ridicule him because he wasn’t able to provide for his household. Therefore, the owners of the vineyard showed compassion for those he hired last by paying them more than they deserved.

The moral of the parable is clear. The owner of the vineyard is God and we are the workers. Because our God is compassionate, we can expect Him to give us our daily bread. He will provide for all people, even for those who are lowly and not wanted. All we need to do is put our trust in Him.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 94-95.)

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, remind us constantly that our calls and rewards are totally the grace and generosity of our heavenly Father, and we cannot apply human standards and limits to His generosity. We do not ask to be treated fairly, but for our hearts that treat others as He has treated us. Amen.

Jakarta, 23 September 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN TIMES

SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN TIMES   

(A biblical reflection on the 24th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 17 September 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 18:21-35 

First Reading: Sirach 27:30-28:9; Psalms: Psalm 103:1-4,9-12; Second Reading: Romans 14:7-9 

The Scripture Text

Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, “ I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same  servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servants fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debat because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 RSV) 

In the first two chapters of the book of the Prophet Amos, we find God choosing not to punish various nations until they commit their fourth offense. God patiently forgives them on the first three occasions but his wrath flares up after that. Since we cannot expect a human being to be more patient and merciful than God, the rabbis of Jesus’ day concluded that no one had an obligation to forgive anyone more than three times.

Peter came out of last week’s Gospel looking pretty bad, but in today’s reading he tries to repair his tattered image by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother. Being a good Jew, Peter knew he could not be expected to forgive anyone more than three times.

Without waiting for Jesus’ response, Peter asks if seven times is enough. He probably was looking for a pat on the back for being very merciful, and he undoubtedly wanted Jesus to praise him for his willingness to go beyond what was expected of him. Instead, Jesus goes one step further and tells him to be ready to forgive seventy times seven times.

Jesus did not literally mean we should forgive others 490 times (70×7=490). The phrase “seventy times seven” was symbolic of a great number, meaning we should always be ready to forgive. There must be no limit to our mercy.

Notice that the rabbis reasoned that the number of times a person should forgive is dependent on the number of times they believed God forgives us. Since God supposedly forgives three times, humans also should forgive three times. In the parables in today’s Gospel, Jesus’ reverses this logic by teaching that God’s forgiveness depends on our willingness to forgive others. If we forgive those who have offended us, God also will forgive us. However, if we hold a grudge or seek revenge, we cannot expect God to show us mercy. We have to forgive before being forgiven.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 92-93.)

Short Prayer:  Our Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for Your death, which has brought me life. May all sinners know Your mercy and forgiveness. May our voices be one in praising You forever! Amen.

Jakarta, 16 September 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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THE THREE STEPS IN HOW TO LOVINGLY CORRECT ANOTHER PERSON

THE THREE STEPS IN HOW TO LOVINGLY CORRECT ANOTHER PERSON

(A biblical reflection on the 23rd ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 10 September 2017)

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 18:15-20 

First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalms: Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Second Reading: Romans 13:8-10 

The Scripture Text

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:15-20 RSV)

We have never found the original manuscripts of the four Gospels, but some very old copies do exist. In our oldest copies of the Gospel according to Matthew, today’s reading is a little different from what we heard proclaimed in Church. In the sentence that talks about what to do if your brother commits some wrong against you, the words “against you” are not there. This indicates that someone other than the original author added these words. How and why did this happen?

Since printing presses and copying machines were not available in the first century, a scribe copied an important document by hand. He would sit down with a quill pen and a scroll of papyrus and copy the document letter by letter. Occasionally, the scribe would make a mistake and leave out a letter or phrase, but sometimes he tried to make a passage clearer by adding his own words. That’s what may have happened with today’s reading: a Christian scribe added the words “against you” to clarify what Jesus said.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus outlines a three-point plan we should follow to lovingly correct a fellow Christian we observe doing something wrong. If, however, the guilty party still refuses to repent, Jesus tells us to treat that person like a Gentile or a tax collector.

A Gentile is anyone who is not Jewish. Many of the Jews did not associate with Gentiles, and some of the rabbis even taught that a Jew travelling through Gentile territory should shake the dirt from his sandals before stepping on Jewish soil so as not contaminate Jewish land.

Tax collectors were even worse than Gentiles. Because the Jews considered God their King, they thought their tax money should be used for the upkeep of God’s house (the Temple). Because the tax collector gave the tax money to the emperor, the Jews believed he was stealing from God. Therefore, the Jews had nothing to do with tax collectors. A Jew who touched a tax collector was ritually unclean and could not offer sacrifices in the Temple.

Treating an errant person like a Gentile or a tax collector is a last resort. The reading clearly stresses that we should give the sinner every opportunity to repent.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 90-91.)

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I pray for unity in my Christian communities where I am a member, my family, with my friends, and among all people. Make me an assertive person, Lord, and may the world know that we are Christians by our love for one another. Amen.

Jakarta, 8 September 2017 [Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary] 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2017 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

 

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JESUS IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF MESSIAH

JESUS IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF MESSIAH

(A biblical reflection on the 22nd ORDINARY SUNDAY, 3 September 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:21-27 

First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalms: Psalm 63:32-6,8-9; Second Reading: Romans 12:1-2 

The Scripture Text

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me, For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done. (Matthew 16:21-27 RSV) 

Today’s Gospel reading begins with Jesus explaining that He is about to suffer and die. Peter responds much as any of us would in that situation and tells Jesus not even to think that would happen. Peter was probably surprised when Jesus reacted angrily. Why did Jesus object so strongly to Peter’s words? What was wrong with Peter’s response? These are questions we must answer before we can begin to understand today’s Gospel reading.

In last week’s Gospel, Peter was the first to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus praised him for this insight and said Peter was the rock on which He would build His Church. Now, suddenly, Peter goes from hero to goat. The reason for Peter’s quick fall probably lies in what he meant when he called Jesus the Messiah.

Being a typical Jew, Peter probably thought much like many of the other Jews of his day who were expecting a military and political Messiah who would led them in battle against their enemies and eventually conquer the world. Peter thought it was only a matter of time before Jesus began forming an army to achieve this objective.

Jesus’ talk about suffering and dying did not fit in with the popular beliefs about a triumphant Messiah. Therefore, Peter took Jesus aside and tried to straighten Him out by saying something like, “Teacher, You’ve got it all wrong. You’re the Messiah and the Messiah is a winner. What You’re describing is a loser. So, stop talking about such nonsense.”

It’s obvious that Peter and Jesus had different ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to be. Jesus was the type of Messiah who would not look for success on the battlefield but rather would be triumphant in another way. Instead of defeating human enemies, Jesus was going to conquer both death and the father of death (the devil). This spiritual victory would be more important than any earthly triumph Peter or any of the other Jews could imagine.

Even though the apostles were with Jesus every day and knew Him better that anyone else, they still took time to grasp what He was saying. Their privileged position was not enough to guarantee immediate understanding of who Jesus was and what He was about.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, page 88-89.)

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I bring to you today the situations in which I find it hard to reflect Your will. Put to death any resistance in me to Your ways. I want Your resurrected life in me. Amen. 

Jakarta, 2 September 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2017 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2017

 

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