Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Holy Family: The Archetype of the Genuine Family

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family - Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The family is the basic unit of society. It is no wonder why God chose to use it in His plan for the redemption of all men, women, and children.

Joseph is often labeled "the forgotten saint." This is unfortunate because he is the patron saint of the Church, and rightfully so. Just as he protected Christ, he protects Christ's mystical body the Catholic Church.  Pope Francis named this year the Year of St. Joseph. Let us take this year to focus more on this important man in history.  

Joseph was a carpenter by trade and taught Jesus carpentry.  One can take years just meditating on this. Joseph, a mere human male teaching the Word which created the universe how to work and make things out of wood!  This is just amazing to think about.   

At first, Joseph was concerned that Mary had an affair due to her pregnancy. He wanted to secretly dissolve their union. If it wasn't for an angel appearing to him in his dreams, he would have carried through with that plan. This showed that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1: 19-24) in that he did not want Mary to face any harsh punishment as Jewish laws called for at the time. 

Mary as we know, was a virgin prior to bearing Jesus and remained a virgin afterward. She was preserved from original sin making her the Immaculate Conception Mary followed Jesus all throughout His years on Earth. She would be assumed into heaven and prior to this would also help spread the good news of her Son. Mary is the only human being to be free from sin. She is the model of what every human person must aspire to become - holy. Mary is given special veneration because of this which is called hyperdulia.

Jesus is the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity. God the Son took on flesh and became a human in all things except sin (Hebrews 4:15). As a child, Jesus was obedient to His parents. However, He always put His Father in heaven first. We see this in the account of Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2:41-52) Jesus wanders off from His parent's sight and enters the temple. In the temple, He begins speaking to the teachers, asking questions, and answering questions as well. The teachers and others were surprised at His knowledge and ability to speak as a teacher Himself (Luke 2:41-52).

Mary and Joseph found Him there and were upset that He wandered off. Jesus simply replied that He was doing His Father's business and asked why did they search for Him as if they were supposed to know what He would be up to.  I recommend reading the Holy Father's Pope Benedict the XVI's new book, Jesus of Nazareth - the Infancy Narratives (ISBN: 978038534605. The Pope goes more in deal in his scholarly style. It is very informative if you want to know more about Jesus' boyhood.

This feast day not only highlights the Holy Family but reminds us what a family should be. In today's world where the family is under attack by those who wish to create it in their image; we must look at the Holy Family and renew family life. Mothers should imitate Mary, Fathers should imitate Joseph. Children should imitate Jesus who despite being God was always obedient to His parents. What an image is that right? The Creator is obedient to the created.

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/123117.cfm

In today's first reading, we have a choice to read from Sirach or Genesis. The reading from Sirach tells us that God is the one who preordains families. He "sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons."  The reading elaborates that children must honor their parents as the Commandments state (Exodus 20:12Ephesians 6:2). Doing so will atone for sin and store up riches in heaven. Respect and obedience to parents is extremely important (Colossians 3:20). We must care for our parents even when they grow older.  Sometimes people like to dump their parents in nursing homes and forget about them.  This is not what God wants (in regards to forgetting them).  He wants us to care for our parents and never forget them (1 Timothy 5:8). In our parents is the image of our Father in heaven (Leviticus 19:32). The reading from Genesis tells us the story of Abram who God made a covenant with him. His name would become "Abraham" which means "father of many nations." He also promised Abraham that his wife Sarah would become pregnant in her sterile state and the son would be named Isaac which means "God laughs." This reading tells us the importance of being a parent.  It is a mandate from God.  God gives men and women this ministry of love, which is how I call it. He blesses couples with children (Psalm 127:3). 

As with the first reading, there are two options. In the first option for the responsorial psalm, we are reminded that those who walk in God's ways will be blessed.  Those of us who follow God's will enjoy the fruit of our hard labor.  Our families will be blessed and our lives will be filled with prosperity.  The second option reminds us that God remembers His promise forever.  God has never broken a promise to man. When He says He is going to do something, He will do it.  Sometimes it may not be right away because our time is not the same for God (2 Peter 3:8). This Psalms tells us how God kept His covenant with Abraham and his descendants

In the second reading, we have three options. Two from Colossians and one from Hebrews. In the first option, we are reminded to be humble and to forgive one another.  We must also admonish one another when we go astray. As Catholics, we must be and live in peace with one another. This fulfills the second great commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  The reading also reminds wives and husbands to give each other of themselves fully in love, mutual respect, and subordination.  They must not be bitter with one another and must remember what is proper with God. Children must also respect their parents. This pleases God.  The reading also warns parents not to provoke children so as to discourage them or make them rebellious.  Communication is necessary for family life. The second option for the second reading is the same as the first but leaves out the instructions for married couples and children.  The third option reminds us of the story of Abraham and how he was faithful. His faith was so great that he suspended the ethical as philosopher Kierkegaard put it in his work "Fear and Trembling."  Abraham put himself over human ethics in order to serve God after God commands him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. How many of us are willing to go that far for God? Abraham is called the "Father of Faith" because of this. This ties in with the Holy Family in that Mary too obeyed in faith and took on the role of being the Theotokos, or God-bearer without knowing what she was getting herself into since many would have suspected her of being unfaithful to Joseph, and we know what happened to women back then who commit adultery (Leviticus 20:10).

Finally, in the Gospel, we also have two options from Luke.  One reading is simply just shorter than the other.  However, both tell the story of the Presentation of the Lord.  Jesus is presented in the Temple as it was customary in the Hebrew faith. While there, the righteous Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that Jesus is the savior who will save the world but will cause the rise and downfall of many. He will be a sign of contradiction and promised Mary that her heart would be pierced with a sword. He did not mean a literal sword but was prophesying the sorrow Mary would feel as she would watch her Son suffer the passion (John 19:26-27). This Gospel tells us of the role the Holy Family played. Both Joseph and Mary prepared Jesus for His ministry by teaching Him the Jewish faith, the dignity of work as a carpenter, and the importance of family life. They are a model for all families. 

Today the family is under attack. Certain agendas want to remodel the family in their own image and this must be stopped. The Holy Family is who we are to look at in order to keep our own families stable and holy.  The family today is under attack. These attacks are demonic in nature. Some believe that Satan is some caricature the Church invented to scare believers or to represent the evil of man. This is not so. We can see in the world today an evil that can only come from outside of the human experience. Ideas such as so-called gay marriage and gender theory which pushes the idea that we can be whatever gender we feel are Satanic in nature. Satan is the father of lies. He wants nothing more than to cause confusion, doubt, and for more people to fall.  We must resist at all cost this ancient enemy. He is attacking the family now more than ever.  We see his tactic is not new. From the very beginning, he attacked the first family Adam and Eve. He fed them lies that were convincing. Today nothing has changed other than the timeline. Satan uses ideas such as gender theory to bring parents to believe a child may not be in his or her "right sex." They go to the extreme of even getting these kids surgically altered. It is disgusting and child abuse!  The family is where the battle is.  We must ask the Holy Family to help protect the family as we are about to start a new year in 2021 in a few days. 2020 has been a tough year for all of us with Covid 19 Coronavirus. We have seen the demonic attack on the Church with the closings that took place.  The Holy Eucharist was attacked. Many of us were denied the Sacraments, even at the death bed. Our faith was labeled as "non-essential." I can go on and on, but you get the point.  This is the spirit of the antichrist in the world exhausting its limited time to attack what threatens its power and goals.  In the Holy Family, we can defeat this spirit by spreading the love of Christ within our family and outwards to the world.  We must push back. At times, we may feel defeated, but remember, Christ already won!  We are already the victors in Christ Jesus.  We have Mary and Joseph pointing us to their son Jesus the Lord.      

Let us pray to the Holy Family to help all families of today rediscover family life. Divorce has to disappear. Children must not suffer from having access to only one parent. So-called "same-sex" unions must be dissolved and the family must be respected as naturally composed of one man, one woman, and child(ren). Children must not be avoided or treated as a commodity. They should also respect their parents and elders.  The Holy Family is the archetype of the genuine human family. They are the model which we must follow.  

O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


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Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas: The Word of God and Righteous Sun Becomes One of Us to Save Us

 MASS AT DAWN

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122517-dawn.cfm

We rejoice! Christ is born!  The first reading reminds us that the savior has come. He has come to redeem His people and open the doors of heaven to them through His person. Christ was promised to mankind. He came as a baby boy today and continues to come to us in the Holy Eucharist. We respond to this reading with the words: A light will shine on us this day: the lord is born for us.  How true are these words!  Christ is the light that shines for us. It is He who is born unto us today on Christmas day. Christmas is an ongoing celebration that does not end after the 25th of December. We continue to rejoice as the Psalm says we should do. The earth rejoices! The savior has come. God, the savior has appeared as the second reading tells us. Christ is God in the flesh. He is the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity. He is our door to eternal life. We must continue to allow Christ to be born in our hearts each day. In the Gospel, we read about the shepherds going to Bethlehem to see the Christ infant lying in the manger with Mary and Joseph present. We are also told that Mary kept all of these events in her heart. These words give us a clue as to where Luke got his information from to write this Gospel. 

It was Mary herself who gave the details. Only Mary would have known what happened during the birth of Christ. By this time, we believe Joseph may have passed away. Mary would have been the only one available to Luke to supply the information necessary for the nativity narrative. This is why Luke wrote that Mary kept this all in her heart. It is clear that Mary herself was his source. This is awesome just thinking about it.  Another awesome thing is that Bethlehem means "House of Bread" in Hebrew. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Bethlehem in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, means "House of Flesh." Jesus is the Bread From Heaven whose flesh is bread.  See the link to the Eucharist?  We see how God has planned everything since the beginning. Every detail of even the geography of the nativity points to Christ. Bethlehem is the House of Bread. Jesus was born there who is the Bread of Life.  Mary was the tabernacle God chose. Everything is all connected.  God had a detailed plan. The Eucharist is like Christmas every day when we receive the Lord. We need the Eucharist today more than ever during these trying times with Covid-19 Coronavirus. Satan has managed to target the Eucharist in a unique way using a global alleged pandemic to force governments to target Churches.  We were forced to closed even against our own Constitution and human rights.  We know why.  Those who are wise know what battle is really going on. Major chain stores, liquor stores, and even protests and riots were allowed to take hold while religious services were deemed "non-essential" and a haven for the spread of viruses.  This is the spirit of the antichrist already in the world working.  Do not be deceived!  Fight for the Eucharist.  He is with us always. 



MASS DURING THE DAY
Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122517-day.cfm

The first reading shows the joy we have upon the birth of Christ.  How beautiful are the feet upon the mountains of Him who brings glad tidings and bears good news!  This is, of course, referring to Christ. All the ends of the earth will see God's salvation because the savior is born. We respond in the responsorial Psalm that All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God. God has made known His salvation in Christ Jesus born of Mary. We rejoice and sing praises. The day of salvation has come. Christmas is not just a birthday. It is a way of life, a new beginning. God has prepared all things for His Son Jesus Christ. We read in the second reading how God spoke to us via the ancestors and prophets.  They prepared the way of the Lord. All was created for Christ and through Christ. Christ is the savior who sits at the right hand of the Father.  He is the Majesty on high.  He is the one we waited for 2,000 years ago and awaits Him again in the second coming. The Gospel puts this all well using Greek philosophical axioms such as the Logos. In the beginning, was the Word, the Word was with God and was God. This Word is Jesus Christ, the Logos. 

Jehovah's Witnesses alter this verse by saying that the Word was "a god." This is wrong and blasphemous. They are altering God's word to fit their heresy. The Word is Christ. Christ is God, not a god. Christ is part of the Holy Trinity. Christ the Word came to us via the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He came to bring us the light and open the doors of salvation to us all. We make the choice as to whether we want to be saved or not by following His teachings in the Catholic Church. Jesus the Word became flesh. He was one of us in all things except sin. John the Baptist was sent before Him to prepare His way. Jesus is the true light and the way. There is no other person who can save us. Saints do not save, not even Mary saves. Buddha does not save. Mohammad does not save. Moses and the prophets of Israel do not save. Only Jesus Christ the Lord saves. He is the Word made flesh. We receive Him in the Holy Eucharist at every Mass. He is truly present there. Every time we receive, it is like Christmas replaying in our souls. Christ is born in our hearts via the consecrated bread and wine. Remember, Jesus was born in Bethlehem which means House of Bread in Hebrew, and House of Flesh in Aramaic the language Jesus spoke. The Eucharist is key. Christ is truly present. 

The Word is made flesh and truly dwells among us even today in 2020 in the Holy Eucharist. This is why the spirit of the antichrist in the world today has targeted our Churches during this alleged Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Our Masses were suspended, our Sacraments and Churches deemed "non-essential" by governments while Target, liquor stores, and even protests and riots were allowed to run as usual.  We see the clear target: The Eucharist.  Like in the time of Christmas, the Holy Innocents were collateral damage due to a plot to rid the world of the King of Kings, the presence of Jesus, Son of God.  Today, Christ was targeted again.  We must not let this happen ever again and fight on.  

On this Christmas day, let us thank God for coming to us. Let us thank Our Lady and St. Joseph for opening their hearts and lives to Christ. Let us spread the joy and love of Christ to one another. Christmas is not just on December 25th. Its message must live in us each day. Some atheists love to claim that we celebrate a Pagan holiday. While the Romans did celebrate the day of Sol Invictus on the 25th of December, this came way after Christians associated the 25th with Christ's birth. Moreover, Christ is the Sun of righteousness as we read in Malachi 4:2. Christ is not an amalgamation of Pagan gods. Christ is God. This is why the memory of Christ lives on while that of Pagan Roman gods lives only in history books. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh is the one true God. May He be praised.

I want to wish you all a very blessed and Merry Christmas!  This is Christ's birthday. Let us celebrate with love and holiness. 


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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve: The Baby Lord Comes To Us

 

Today is Christmas Eve. We commemorate the birth of the Lord, We had the Mass of the 4th Sunday of Advent this morning and have the Vigil Mass and Midnight Mass as well. I will offer brief reflections for each in this post. I understand this is a busy time both at your parish and home.


VIGIL MASS
Readings: The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) - At the Vigil Mass | USCCB

The first reading tells us the excitement that is present. We will not be silent. The Lord has chosen us as His people.  He comes as a  bridegroom ready to meet His bride. This reading is referring to Christ who is coming to His people to bring redemption and salvation. God has not forgotten His people. He has promised to send a savior, His own Son.  We respond to this reading by singing about the goodness of the Lord. God has not forgotten us. He made a covenant and has kept it. On David, He set up a kingdom which Christ would be heir to. God is our rock, our father, and our savior. He is always there for us.

The second reading reminds us that God chose the Jews first. He made a covenant with the Hebrews of Israel. God set up His kingdom on David. Christ would stem from David's lineage and will rule both the tribes of Israel and the flock of sheep from all over the world, the Catholic or Universal Church. Christ is the center and link to it all. He links both the old and new. He is the center of both. This is why in the Gospel for the vigil we read of the lineage that links Christ to David. The Gospel of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience. Its wording and references are meant to help the Jewish people understand who Jesus is and why He is the Messiah they have been waiting for.  This is why we cannot be condescending or dismissive of the Jews; particularly, those Jews who continue to deny Christ as the Messiah.  There seems to be a form of antisemitism from those who call themselves "traditionalists" in the Catholic Church.  This is wrong.  Attacking the Jews is not what God wants.  This is why Scripture reminds us that God chose the Jews first and wanted His salvific plan to work via the lineage of a Jew, King David.  Today's readings remind us of this fact. 


MIDNIGHT MASS
Readings: The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) - Mass During the Night | USCCB

We the people have been walking in the darkness. This year 2020 seems to be the personification of this walking in darkness.  Covid 19 Coronavirus has done so much to the world.  We lost so many people.  However, we now see a bright light during this Christmas eve. This light is Christ the Lord. God has not forgotten His people. He has not forgotten the human race.  Despite the suffering in the world due to coronavirus, God is still with us. He has sent His only begotten Son to be Wonder-Counselor who helps us, God-Hero who protects us, Father-Forever who loves us, and Prince of Peace who bring serenity to our minds and hearts. We respond to this reading the Psalm saying Today is born our Savior.  We sing to God and we rejoice. God has come to us. He became one of us. Our savior has been born, Christ the Lord! Our joy must not be contained. We must celebrate!  God has appeared to us. The second reading reminds us of this. The grace of God has truly appeared! This grace brings salvation and teaches us to reject all falsehoods that the world offers. It teaches us to live holy lives and reject sin.  Christ came to us to make us a part of Himself. He delivers us from the chains of sin and lawlessness.

The Gospel tells us the story of what happened. We are introduced to Joseph and Mary who are about to witness the most important history ever. They are to give witness to the birth of the Savior Christ the Lord. Mary was with child, the Holy Child. Joseph cared for them as a father and husband should care for his family. Mary gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in a manger. There was no room for Him anywhere else.  Christ showed His humility. To imagine that the creator would come in poverty is a reflection of itself. This is why we can see that this story is not just any story or myth. Myths are embellished, historical events are not. Other myths that atheists love to cite in their claims that Christ is an amalgamation of other gods present their gods as all-powerful. These gods are born rich and powerful. They have honor and glory.  The story of Christ is way different. God is not born rich and powerful. There is no mansion or expensive castle where He is born at. Christ is born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. This tells us that this story really happened. It is not a myth. A myth pays close attention to details and embellishes the narrative. The Gospel of Luke does not do this. It keeps it real, so to speak. The God we read about here is unlike the gods of Pagans and other faiths. This God is humble and prefers to be poor. God comes as a servant to us; as a brother and friend.  He contradicts the idea Pagans and others had of the divine. This is because He is the one and only true God. 

The Gospel continues to tell us how the shepherds saw the angel of the Lord singing Glory to God. The angel told them not to fear. We must never fear God. We must respect Him but never fear Him as if God were some dictator. God is love. Midnight Mass is an awesome event. It is one that spoke to me loudly as an atheist years ago. I remember my first Midnight Mass. It was surreal. I could close my eyes and picture the Christmas scene in my head as the readings were read. This is for real. It spoke to me deeply. To think that God would become a baby boy born in poverty is mind-boggling. On this night, atheism was destroyed, Empirical evidence for God became flesh and walked among us. God became one of us in all things except sin!  I invite you to take time to meditate on this. God, the creator of the cosmos became a little baby boy. God became one of us opening Himself to feeling all things we do; experiencing everything we do. This speaks volumes about how awesome and loving God is.  A child is born unto us, Christ the Lord!


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Sunday, December 20, 2020

4th Sunday of Advent: Jesus the Messiah & Mary Links Us to Him

 What is Advent?

We are now in the holy season of Advent where we prepare for both the coming of Christ at Christmas and the second coming at the end of time.  It is a spiritual period in which to meditate on these two mysteries and prepare for them.  We use the wreath and 4 candles to mark down the 4 weeks before Christmas.  

Three of the candles are purple and one is pink.  The purple symbolizes preparation through penance and prayer.  Purple is also used during Lent.  Another way to see it is that purple is a physical sign of healing. When we get hurt, the injury becomes purple.  During the time of healing, it remains purple until it clears up.  Sin hurts us and we need time to heal from it by using the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, Prayer, Fasting, Indulgences, and a genuine Spiritual life.  

The pink is for the third Sunday or Gaudete Sunday which means "Sunday of Joy."   We are joyous because we are getting closer to Christ's birth.  As each week goes, we light the candle that corresponds to that week.  

Today's readings:  Fourth Sunday of Advent | USCCB

Here we are in the fourth and last week of Advent.  Jesus is almost here.  The day of His birth is just around the corner. Since it is so near, the Church reminds us of how it all started. Let us pay close attention to today's readings, especially during this difficult 2020 year where covid 19 coronavirus has hit all of us hard.  This year is interesting indeed. We have been witnessing many "signs" in the sky.  

In the first reading from Samuel, we read how King David is bothered that he is living in a house of cedar while the Ark of the Covenant where God was is in a tent. He finds that troubling because: 'how can he (David) be living in a palace while the Lord God who did everything for him is out there in a tent as if He were camping in the woods?' The prophet Nathan replies to David that he can do whatever he wants because God is with him.  However, God spoke to Nathan.  Knowing that David wanted to build a house for God, the Lord reminded Nathan who is the real builder. He reminds Nathan and tells him to also remind David that it was He who "took you from the pasture.. cared from the flock; was commander of the people of Israel; went before them, destroyed their enemies.." and so forth.  In other words, God is saying, "you want to build a house for me?? I was the one who did everything and I can do it myself."  Now God is not being an ingrate here.  He is simply reminding David, Nathan, Israel, and all of us today that He is the one who does it all. 

There is nothing we can offer to God that is truly our own, for all comes from Him (James 1:17John 1:3). Think about it.  Would a gift of an iPhone to the late Steve Jobs be truly a gift?  No, it would not because he was the one who invented them and had those devices made. So, how can one build a house for God if all in this universe belongs to God and He allows things to be built or destroyed? Moreover, God states that He will establish a house for David and that when the time is right, an heir will come who will be His Son and He will be His Father.  Sounds familiar?  Who do you think this guy God is talking about is?  If you guessed Jesus, then you are correct!  Jesus is this heir who will be this descendant of King David (Matthew 1).  This is why the Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ.  The Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews Per Se.  Its audience was meant for those of Jewish descent so that they could understand who Jesus was and why He is important. We will also read about the importance of Mary. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant who will house the Lord Himself. She is the living tabernacle!  Mary is the most important human (after Christ) in all of human history.  Christ, of course, was both divine and human, but Mary is different in that she is totally and only human.   This is why the Church has always had a special veneration to Mary. We call this hyperdulia.  

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading saying that "forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord."  What is this goodness?  Well, the Psalm tells us.  It is about God being faithful to us.  Just think about this for a moment.  The God of the universe is faithful to these little creatures made of carbon, water, iron, proteins, calcium, and other compounds - human beings.  Why?  Because He loves His creation (John 3:16).  The Psalm reminds us that God made a covenant with David and swore that his throne will be established and will last for all generations.  

In the second reading from Romans, St. Paul reminds us that our faith is manifesting.  The prophetic writings and faith that has been passed on were fulfilled in Jesus Christ so that all nations of the world will come to the obedience of faith in God. God kept His promise. Jesus Christ was born over 2,000 years ago and established the new covenant in His blood which is the Catholic Church. This Church is spread throughout the nations.  It is universal and excludes no one. From the Tree of Jesse sprung the branch that would capture the entire world.  The Catholic Church is the only religion that can truly claim to be universal.  We must continue to evangelize so as to bring more people into the fold. This evangelization must not only be intellectual, but also familial. We must always be welcoming of others in the Church and those outside of her. This is how we win people over to Christ. Catholic parishes can be huge, but we must make every effort to make others feel welcome and be friendly.  

Finally, in the Gospel, we read how the first reading from Samuel is fulfilled.  The archangel Gabriel is sent from God to Mary who lived in a town called Nazareth. She is a virgin and betrothed to Joseph of the house of David.  Notice the Gospel emphasizes this link between David and Joseph and in doing so, connects this to King David and the promise made to Him by God.  This Virgin is named Mary and the archangel greets her with powerful words, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!"  Sound familiar? It is the beginning of the "Hail Mary" prayer.   The word here in Koine Greek is "kecharitomene" which means "full of God's grace." It is the passive participle of "charitoos" which means "to pour on or fill with grace." This means that Mary was literally "full of God." There was no room for sin or anything evil because God took its place.  If I tell you that a glass is full of water, then that means there is no more room for anything else. This is why the Catholic Church teaches that Mary was the Immaculate Conception. She was conceived without original sin. 

Moreover, Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive an important child who she is to name Jesus.  This child will be called the Son of the Most High and will be given the throne of David His father. Notice how this is connected to the first reading in Samuel.  God told Nathan that He will build a house and rise up an heir of David who will be His Son.  Now since Mary's Son is an heir, then this means that He is King since He is inheriting the throne of King David. Mary in her innocence asks how this is possible since she is a virgin and has had no relations with a man.  The angel responds that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High will overshadow her resulting in the child being the literal Son of God.  The Gospel ends with the angel telling Mary that her relative Elizabeth will bear a son in her old age. This will happen because with God nothing is impossible. These are powerful words indeed! God can do all things. Nothing is above Him. God can do the possible and impossible.  

Mary shows her faith in God by accepting and saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  These are also familiar words found in the Angelus prayer.  The Virgin birth was foretold in Isaiah 7:14.  Many atheists have a problem understanding this "Virgin birth" thing.  However, it is not impossible, naturally, and biologically speaking.  We have seen "virgin births" in nature via Parthenogenesis.  Since God created this world including Mary's body, then what is to prevent Him from allowing Mary to conceive a child in a virginal state?   The answer is nothing for with God nothing is impossible as Gabriel stated to Mary.  Mary is an example to all of us.  She shows her confusion at first which is normal but trusts that God is good and allows Him to do His will. God respects our free will and does not force Himself on us.  Mary is the model Christian. She points to Christ.  Her last recorded words in the Gospel were "Do whatever He tells you (John 2:5)."  Unfortunately, some of our separated friends in Protestantism believe that Catholics put Mary above Christ. This is extremely far from the truth. We value Mary greatly via hyperdulia or a special veneration given to Mary alone.  Christ, His Father, and Holy Spirit receive latria from us or supreme worship reserved only for God alone.    

So in today's readings, we are reminded of the promise of this "Son" who would inherit King David's throne. This Son would be the Savior of the world. The Catholic liturgy beautifully links salvation history via Sacred Scripture. This is a holy time for all of us. I recommend families to watch the film "The Star" which is an animation of the story of the Nativity. This movie is great for the little ones and big ones as well.  Advent and the upcoming Christmas season are vital to our faith.  This is especially true as many of us are under lockdown due to this alleged pandemic that has taken hold in the world.  I use the word alleged because we still do not have all the data to put everything into perspective.  In no way am I underplaying the effects of this virus or its existence.  Covid 19 coronavirus is real and is dangerous.  We must all be safe and care for one another.  Prayer is part of this care.  Take this time to gather with your families and pray.  We do not know what comes ahead and must be prepared.  

Let us all gather now and pray "Maranatha," asking the Lord to come as we celebrate His first coming 2,000 years ago which we commemorate on Christmas.  Together with King David, the prophet Nathan, St. John the Baptist, the Blessed Mother Mary, and St. Joseph let us shout: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam! 



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Sunday, December 13, 2020

3rd Sunday of Advent: Christ Is Our Joy

 

What is Advent?
We are now in the holy season of Advent where we prepare for both the coming of Christ at Christmas and the second coming at the end of time.  It is a spiritual period in which to meditate on these two mysteries and prepare for them.  We use the wreath and 4 candles to mark down the 4 weeks before Christmas.  

Three of the candles are purple and one is pink.  The purple symbolizes preparation through penance and prayer.  Purple is also used during Lent.  Another way to see it is purple is a physical sign of healing. When we get hurt, the injury becomes purple.  During the time of healing, it remains purple until it clears up.  Sin hurts us and we need time to heal from it by using the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, Prayer, Fasting, Indulgences, and a genuine Spiritual life.  

The pink is for the third Sunday or Gaudete Sunday which means "Sunday of Joy."   We are joyous because we are getting closer to Christ's birth.  As each week goes, we light the candle that corresponds to that week.  

Today's readings: Daily Bible Reading - December 13, 2020 | USCCB

2020 has been a rough year. Today we focus on the joy of Jesus Christ.  With Covid 19 coronavirus, it may be hard to sense this joy, but it is there.  Christmas is almost here!  We are joyous as we light the pink candle on this Gaudete Sunday or Sunday of Joy!  Christ is almost here!  But who is Christ? Today's readings tell us.  In the first reading from Isaiah, we read about the Spirit of God being part of someone.  This someone is anointed and will bring glad tidings to those in poverty.  This someone will be there for those who are heartbroken; will free those in captivity and minister to all.  So who is this, someone?  Well this "someone" is none other than Jesus Himself. As a matter of fact, Jesus took this very text and read it at the synagogue.  It got Him into trouble as the religious teachers of His day became upset when He said that the words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Him (Luke 4:17-21).  They thought He was blaspheming and were about to beat Him up, so to speak. This is understandable.  How many of us would raise an eyebrow if someone reads Scripture and claims it was referring to him or her? We would think of this person as insane. Today there are many crazy ideas running around about resets, the antichrist, the pandemic as a conspiracy, and so on. It is unfortunate that many have caught onto these ideas and are actually taking them seriously.  For some reason, humans love conspiracies. It activates the imagination to a point that the brain starts linking things and making conclusions where there is no rational reason to do so.  We must resist these things and focus on Christ who is our joy.  Yesterday, we celebrated His mother under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe and we learned from Pope Francis about the year of St. Joseph and the indulgences being given for this occasion and the occasion of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  What a wonderful time to be Catholic and show our joy!  

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with joy. We rejoice in God! Today's Psalm is unique because it is not from the book of Psalms, but from Our Lady's Magnificat found in Luke. The word "Psalm" comes from Hebrew "Tehillim" which means "praises or songs of praise."  Mary's "Magnificat" is her song of praise to God while showing her joy for having been chosen to bear Christ the Son of God. She echoes Isaiah's words of God who comes to "fill the hungry with good things" and the one who is the help of Israel.  This "Psalm of Mary" is prayed/sung at Vespers (Evening prayer) every day by clergy, religious and those lay faithful who pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  It is a powerful expression of faith.

In the second reading from Thessalonians, we read about the need to rejoice and pray at all times. We must give thanks in ALL circumstances.  This means even in circumstances that are "bad." Many times we only pray and get joyous when things go well for us.  When they get rotten, we get upset at God. Sometimes we even try to barter with God: "Lord, if you do this or make this better, I will go to daily Mass or pray more."  This is not how a prayer life should be like. We must be with God and trust in God always, even when things go bad (Job 13:15). Life will not always be "puppies and kittens," so to speak. Things can get "hairy" really fast during the day. We can wake up cheerful and walk with a "skip" during the day and at night come home gnashing our teeth after facing long schedules, uncontrollable events, and all kinds of personalities that give our facial muscles a good work out as we make different faces to each emotion we feel.  This year is a reminder of how bad things can get. We lost so many people due to Covid 19 coronavirus that it is just hard to process. The virus does not seem to go away.  Governments have been failing us by not providing aid that is constant and immediate. Even our Church has failed us by denying the Mass and Sacraments despite lack of evidence that they spread contagion. It has been rough.  Despite this, God will never allow us to deal with something we cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  So in light of this, we must thank God even for the bad things that happen in life (James 1:2-3).  I know it sounds crazy, but it makes sense and demonstrates that God gives us power and freedom over all scenarios. They do not control us. Furthermore, the second reading continues to tell us not to "quench the Spirit" or set aside the fire in us from the Holy Spirit.  Our Christianity must be our lives, not something we do on Sundays. We must not reject things that will lead us to God and must always test everything. Many times, atheists claim that Christians believe things by blind"faith" and never question. This is not true. We are called to question everything. The reading then ends with a blessing to keep us in God's peace, holy, and ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, in the Gospel, we read more about Jesus' cousin John the Baptist.  The reading tells us that John came to prepare the way for Christ.  He cries out in the desert preparing the way for Jesus. During this preparation, he offered a symbolic form of Baptism using water ( Ezekiel 36:24-27). Today we are also in preparation for the coming of Christ, not only on Christmas but also at the end of time.  However, we are joyous. We cry out "Maranatha" and hope for the return of the Savior of the world. The return of Christ is a joyous occasion even though it entails judgment. If we follow what needs to be done, then there is no need to panic or be fearful of this day. Christianity is about joy!  Nothing gets us down not even the pressures of this world. Not even this alleged pandemic which has taken many lives and has caused many economic and academic hardships.  We are an "alleluia" people who proclaim Christ as the light and hope of this broken world. Gaudete Sunday reminds us of this joy. We are to take this joy and share it with the world. 

Like St. John the Baptist, we must prepare the way of the Lord once again though we have not seen Him ourselves as John did (1 Peter 1:8-9). People will think of us as crazy, but that is okay.  This world will never like Catholics or anyone who claims to believe in Christ.  We are seeing this more and more in the world.  Many governments are restricting religious freedom.  Others, like Australia, want to seal of confession to be opened allowing for priests to "snitch" on people who confessed crimes to them.  It will only get worse I am afraid to say.  But fear not!  Christ is with us!  We will suffer, but it is all for the good.  We must remain holy and joyful.  They will see the joy in us and it will become contagious.  God is all about joy, happiness, mercy, and peace (Romans 14:17).  This is why Pope Francis has stressed the fact that we must not have "funeral faces." We must smile and be happy. We must show visibly our joy in Christ Jesus. Whenever we see someone come out from a show or movie, we can get a sense of how good that show or movie was based on the face of those exiting. The same with our faith. Outsiders will get an idea of how our Christian faith is based on how we present it outwardly. If we come out of Mass with gloomy faces or pray as if we were doing it out of obligation, then outsiders will see us as miserable sheep. This will not attract them. Our faith must be joyous and welcoming so as to prepare the world for Christ.  We are an Advent people who prepare; we are a Lenten people who suffer, we are an Ordinary people who live by extraordinary faith, but we are an Easter people who live in the joy of Jesus.




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Friday, December 11, 2020

Vatican: No Communion on Hand During Pandemic


It is no shock to anyone that 2020 has been an interesting year.  The alleged Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has been the main headline in the news for months with the vaccine and elections in American trailing second. As expected, the Church was not left out. Since the closing of parishes and suspension of the Mass, Catholics have become divided. Some agreed with the suspension of the Mass and Sacraments while others protested.  When some churches were allowed to reopen prior to the recent Supreme Court decision, many bishops mandated that Holy Communion could only be received on the hand.  This, of course, angered those Catholics who label themselves as "traditionalists."

Bishop Richard F. Sika of the Diocese of Knoxville was one who early on made it clear that he would not allow Communion on the tongue. This prompted many replies to his social media accounts attacking him, calling him a heretic, modernist, and every name out there. Immediately, dissidents, such as Dr. Taylor Marshall and Steve Skojec of One Peter Five took to their social media to post videos and blog posts condemning the decisions by bishops to only allow reception via the hand. 

Being the self-proclaimed experts of Catholicism and the liturgy, they fiercely condemned the bishops, Pope Francis, and tied this all to some conspiracy entailing "Pachamama" and now the "great reset." They and their ilk also posted around a letter from 2009 from the Benedict XVI pontificate using it as a sort of validation that their view is correct. The letter was even used as a sort of PBA card or get out of jail card for Mass. Proponents of it claimed the letter would force a priest to give them Communion on the tongue. 


While the letter does state that Communion on the tongue is a "right," this letter was written in a normal time. Also, note that it says "who are not impeded by law.." this wording is important because it links it to Canon Law. Yes, Catholics have a right to receive on the tongue, but the law can change that.  As we know, the bishop or the ordinary is the one in charge of a diocese. He is the one who is the chief liturgist and canonist.  Canon Law is clear, it says:

Can.  838 §1. The direction of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, according to the norm of law, the diocesan bishop.

§4. Within the limits of his competence, it pertains to the diocesan bishop in the Church entrusted to him to issue liturgical norms which bind everyone.

So as you can see, the bishop has the authority and power to dictate liturgical norms which bind everyone.  These are the words of Canon Law, not mine or anyone else's. In light of this, it is absurd for some Catholics to claim they have a say over the bishop.  Being Catholic also means being obedient. 

Now Bishop Stika tweeted earlier that Cardinal Sarah sent him a letter vindicating him. Apparently, without his knowledge, someone in his diocese sent a letter to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The petitioner apparently complained about Bishop Stika and his mandate prohibiting Communion on the tongue.   


The Congregation for Divine Worship replied to the petition rejecting his or her appeal against Bishop Stika's mandate that Communion on the tongue is banned temporarily due to the alleged coronavirus pandemic. Bishop Stika posted the letter on his diocese's website for all to see. The signer, Archbishop Roche cited Cardinal Sarah's letter from August which reads: “in times of difficulty (e.g. wars, pandemics), Bishops and Episcopal Conferences can give provisional norms which must be obeyed … These measures given by the Bishops and Episcopal Conferences expire when the situation returns to normal.” Note that these mandates expire. This is important to understand. The banning of Communion on the tongue is not a permanent thing. The 2004 instruction Redemptionis sacramentum clearly states that Communion on the tongue is a right. 

So why the ban? Well, the decision is obvious. There is an alleged pandemic going on with a virus that is very contagious. Despite the absence of science indicating Holy Communion is a conduit for the spread of viruses or disease, the bishops feel that Communion on the tongue is not the right form to receive during this time. Some may wonder why Communion on the tongue dangerous and not on the hand. 

Well, let us see the facts. It is true that hands are known to spread viruses and diseases. This is why handshakes were eventually replaced with elbow taps and namaste salutes. It takes about 20 seconds or more of washing with soap to really remove bacteria and viruses or break them apart to the point that they cannot infect. Unfortunately, not everyone is keen on washing for this long. Some do not wash at all! From personal experience witnessing mankind, I can tell you that humans are very nasty creatures! Some touch everything and never wash. They put their fingers up noses, in mouths to pick food out of their teeth, in other crevices to adjust clothing and many men adjust other things. Let us not go into bathroom use. I think you get the point. Humans are disgusting. In light of this, it makes sense that Communion on the hand would be worse than on the tongue. 

 However, we must remember this fact. Hand sanitizers are being enforced at Mass. Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist have to use it before handing out Holy Communion. Moreover, before entering into a parish, parishioners have to have their temperature taken and are given hand sanitizer. So if all goes well, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to get an infection from Communion on the hands. Let me make this clear: Holy Communion as an object does not transmit viruses. Jesus would never do this! What do spread viruses are the hands. So one will not get a virus from the Sacred Host. However, one can get the virus if the fingers touch a communicant by mistake and have a virus on them. This is where Communion on the tongue is a problem. This virus loves moisture and spreads via the air more than from surfaces. When we breathe, we release carbon dioxide and vapor. These contain whatever viruses may be living in our respiratory tract. This is why mask use is highly recommended and the suggestion to wear gloves has pretty much died down. So think about it. 

When a priest gives someone Communion on the tongue, as his hand approaches the mouth, the communicant's breath is coming onto his hand. Once that happens, the fingers (index, middle, and thumb) of the priest, deacon, or an extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist become contaminated. So imagine what happens to the next person receiving on the tongue. He or she will get contaminated. As you may know, sometimes fingers touch the lips or tip of the tongue as some communicate sometimes move too forward messing up the timing and ultimately leading to contact between the fingers and mouth. This is a recipe for disaster. Remember, just because someone gets their temperature taken or hand sanitizer does not mean he or she does not have the virus. People can be asymptomatic and pass on the virus. So at Mass, there may be people with Covid 19 Coronavirus and you may never know. What is protecting you is the social distancing and mask. Hopefully, this will put into perspective why Communion on the tongue is cautioned against. This is not because Communion transmits viruses or the bishops are out to destroy Communion on the hand. Rather, it is to keep everyone safe. Better safe than sorry right!? Now I have made it clear that I would never deny Communion to those who want on the tongue unless ordered to. Here is my tweet from July 2020:

I love to receive on the tongue myself but have been receiving on the hand for obvious reasons. We have to be prudent and care for one another. We all are still subject to the rules of this universe. Also remember, Communion on the hand is the traditional form of reception. This is a fact. You can read this post: https://www.sacerdotus.com/2019/09/holy-communion-hand-vs-tongue-discussion.html. One is not more "worthy" than the other. Those who suggest Communion on the tongue is more worthy do not understand Catholicism or our history. They also do not understand that reception of Communion is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. The Church can and has altered these disciplines. 


Sunday, December 6, 2020

2nd Sunday of Advent: Prepare For the Lord

 

What is Advent?
We are now in the holy season of Advent where we prepare for both the coming of Christ at Christmas and the second coming at the end of time.  It is a spiritual period in which to meditate on these two mysteries and prepare for them.  We use the wreath and 4 candles to mark down the 4 weeks before Christmas.  

Three of the candles are purple and one is pink.  The purple symbolizes preparation through penance and prayer.  Purple is also used during Lent.  Another way to see it is purple is a physical sign of healing. When we get hurt, the injury becomes purple.  During the time of healing, it remains purple until it clears up.  Sin hurts us and we need time to heal from it by using the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, Prayer, Fasting, Indulgences, and by living a genuine Spiritual life.  

The pink is for the third Sunday or Gaudete Sunday which means "Sunday of Joy."   We are joyous because we are getting closer to Christ's birth.  As each week goes, we light the candle that corresponds to that week.  

Readings: Second Sunday of Advent | USCCB

In the first reading, we see the foreshadowing of the last prophet, St. John the Baptist.  We read of the voice in the wilderness that cries out to prepare the way of the Lord.  It presents a moment of anticipation. All must stop and prepare for the coming of God. This reading was signaling to Israel that Christ would come. This reading should also remind us today that Christ will return again.  We must prepare the way for the Lord once again.  This can only be done via the living of a holy life via the sacraments, the Mass, prayer, strong faith, good works, and promoting the faith.  We must each become a brick on the road of the Lord.  Jesus will come again.  However, this time He will come as the judge (Romans 2:16).  This will be a scary time for some but for others, it will be a joyous time.  We will see God as He truly is.  We will say "fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah:  Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by His strong arm; here is His reward with Him, His recompense before Him."   

The responsorial Psalm replies to the first reading saying "Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation." As we await Christ to return, we must ask God to give us kindness and mercy.  Also, we implore God to grant us salvation.  Only God can save us, no one else.  God is the one who cares for us and shall bring to us, who remain faithful, peace, justice, joy, and salvation.  So many things are happening in the world that some are speculating that we may be in the end times.  Who knows?  This year is certainly one that makes us wonder about a lot of things.  In any event, we must ask God to show us His kindness and grant us His salvation.

In the second reading from Peter the first Pope, we are reminded that there is no time with God.  A day for God is a thousand years and vice versa. God is not bound by the laws of physics that He has written into our realm of existence.  These laws govern our physical existence and the properties of existence as we know it.  This is why when atheists ask "Who made God," the question itself shows their ignorance of God.  Someone who is timeless cannot have a beginning or an end. This is elementary logic.  Time is a strange concept for us to understand. According to Einstein, time and space are pretty much intertwined and are the same.  They are connected.  To us here on Earth, it may seem as if Christ is taking forever to come. Like, little children, we perceive time differently. How many times do children get impatient after just 10 minutes have passed?  To them, a short time seems eternal.  

However, as we age, we sense time as "going too fast." There seems to be no time for anything anymore.  We are God's children and we can be very impatient at times (Galatians 3:26). St. Peter tells us that God does not delay His promise and that it seems like He is taking a long time to return because He does not want us to perish. God in His awesome mercy wishes all to be saved. He gives us time to fix ourselves by supplying us with His grace which is free (James 4:6).  Peter reminds us that God will come like a thief in the night.  The universe as we know it will dissolve and we will be before God who will judge each one of us.  We must take advantage of God's patience and use this time to repent and try our best to live by His will which will make us complete.  

After President Trump decided to move the embassy of the United States to Jerusalem, some of our Evangelical separated brethren thought this would usher in the second coming.  This is completely unfounded.   No one knows the day or time when Christ will return.  Our job is to be ready for it, not to predict it!  With the alleged pandemic going on and the election chaos with President Trump and presumed president-elect Joe Biden, even some Catholics are starting to believing in so-called "great resets" that are supposedly taking place.  Some are even equating the "Build Back Better" slogans as satanic or containing the 666 number.  These things are all nonsense and part of the heresy of millenarianism.  Those who study scripture know that the 666 number is the mark of Emperor Nero.  He is the only one that fits the number.  To attach meaning to the numbers in the 21st century is bad scholarship.  Again, no one knows what Christ will return or anything surrounding the end times.  Ignore any alleged Catholic on YouTube, Twitter, or any social media platform who spews nonsense that is contrary to the Catholic Church. 

Finally, in the Gospel, we read of St. John the Baptist who was the cousin of Jesus Christ. The fact that God has a cousin is just mind-boggling and awesome at the same time.  This reminds us that we are part of God's family. Despite God being the creator, He wants us to be part of Him and became part of us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:8).  The prophecy in the first reading was fulfilled here with St. John the Baptist, 


"Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert:“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”  

John the Baptist brought comfort to Jerusalem as the first reading stated.  He spoke to the people of the coming Messiah, baptized them with water preparing them for the Messiah Christ. He did so in a humble way living an ascetic lifestyle wearing camel-hair clothing and a leather belt connecting him to the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).  He ate locusts and wild honey showing that the Word of God while sweet may be extremely difficult to follow (Ezekiel 3:3Matthew 19:24).  This Word of God would be the one who is greater than he and would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:1).  Many times we get excited about Jesus.  We want to do it all in the Church.  Then when the crosses start showing up, we start to rethink this Jesus guy.  Some of us stop believing altogether.  We must be like John the Baptist bearing discomfort while at the same time preparing the world for the coming of Christ again. 

People in the time of John the Baptist probably thought of him as a lunatic. He went about claiming to be the messenger of the Lord. In today's world, someone would be sent to a mental hospital if he or she made such a claim.  However, this is how it is. Those who believe in God are counter-cultural. We are seen as the lunatics of the world.  They mock us and try to silence us. This is because we bear Jesus Christ who is the light that scatters the darkness (John 8:12).  The world sees us as a threat.  Nevertheless, we must not become fearful. We must prepare the world for Christ's second coming just as John the Baptist prepared it. God is with us and no one can stop us (Romans 8:31).     

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra or Bari, aka "Santa Claus" or "St. Nick."  St. Nicholas was a very holy bishop who focused on helping the poor.  He took toys, food, and money to the children in the area.  We should imitate this holy man in today's world that has so many in need.  Here in The Bronx, many people are putting out refrigerators with free food for those who need it.  At homes and apartment buildings, some have set up small wooden shelves to place food, books, and other items for those to take freely.  You can learn more about St. Nicholas here Sacerdotus: Santa is Real: St. Nicholas of Myra. In light of this great saint, let us prepare the world for the Lord's coming by living out our faith by doing good, helping others, and spreading the faith.  




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You can also purchase our new products at our Sacerdotus Store: Sacerdotus' Store | Teespring.  For this Advent season, get our Maranatha products. Wear these masks and shirts for Mass or your parish activities to show you are waiting for the Lord's return, visit: Advent Products from Sacerdotus' Store | Teespring


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